I’ll admit it: I feel mostly inadequate when asked to use words to describe one of Pig Destroyer’s most confrontational and lauded albums. Anyone should. Wordsmithing anywhere near J.R. Hayes’s towering lyrical mastery should be banned, or at the very least advised strongly against. Obviously guitarist/songwriter Scott Hull and drummer Brian Harvey are indispensible shapers of the Prowler experience, but I’ll confess that I began this song ranking process by reading each song’s lyrics and comparing the relative stiffies that ensued.
For similar reasons, I have also excluded consideration of the “Jennifer” bits because they have an unfair advantage. Frankly, it is my opinion that PxDx could release a seven-minute Just Jennifer EP and it would sell more copies than Prowler has precisely because miscreants confused by skull-detonating grind wouldn’t ever have to deal with that loud gall-durned rock ‘n’ roll music.
Also, instead of intercutting my commentary with YouTube embeds, I have settled for presenting Relapse’s Bandcamp stream of the full album at the end of this post. Granted, that version has been updated since the grindsterpiece that Decibel fell in love with for our HOF piece in Issue #106 first dropped. The underlying power hasn't change a bit, though.
Keeping these things in mind, settle in for a completely unsatisfactory arrangement of Prowler’s tracks that is based entirely on my compulsive need for complete strangers to agree with my opinions. [P.S. – This job is literally impossible. The number of times I have listened to each song in an attempt to rank them all has driven me past acceptable drinking limits, even for members of Pig Destroyer.]
Second sub-minute screamer on an album full of red-lined grind is an unenviable position indeed. Great track, definitely keeps the momentum going, but hardly an attention grabber all on its own.
Strangled with a Halo
The lyrics are undeniably sick. The pumping rhythms are solid and the churning guitar is head-noddable, but there are at least a dozen songs on Prowler that are cooler than this one.
Intro’s cool, and the clanging guitar concussions that fill the song’s center make for an important late-middle groove to an album that mostly esteems scaring the living shit out of listeners rather than surprising them with musical acumen.
The ascending/descending guitar runs and moshable lead thrust this track beyond simple grind support into an appreciable spot all its own.
Okay, 18 seconds is hardly long enough for extraordinary musical statements to be made, but there’s the lyric, “Dyed red hair, a forest green dress and a pair of kitchen knives. It was the
last time I ever saw a rose,” which, frankly, turns this song into grind royalty.
Silence on a grind record is precious, and “Mapplethorpe Grey” spends this currency like it’s got an expiration date. The use of low-ass death growls improves this song’s standing as well.
Heart and Crossbones
Because unabashed chug should feature on every album heard by humans, “Heart and Crossbones” takes its place among the indispensible moments on Prowler.
Ghost of a Bullet
A dozen seconds of pure grind followed by effects-laden vocal anguish. There are skills at work here beyond the fast and the furious. Granted, not many, and not for very long, but…
Sitting at the album’s halfway mark, “Naked Trees” has the job of not letting the audience lose focus and maintaining the violence in manageable quantities. Mission accomplished. Tempos lurch sideways, riffs space out a little bit and Hayes spits a little tale of how “once colorful dreams now swing like dead paratroops from the naked trees.”
What a fucking ride. A total rip-fest from go, “Piss Angel” pummels with extreme prejudice, right up to and after the break for a quick phone call. The momentum of this track, assisted by the more deliberate paces set by other late-album cuts, sails it straight to PxDx greatness. It peaks at the squealing riff and hardcore shouts around the one-minute mark, but really, it pegs every last second to the floor.
Tickets to the Car Crash
In 39 seconds, this song turns in a one-guitar call-and-response to itself, ornery blast beats, a flurry of heavily processed vocals and the lyric, “Lovely body twisted into code, saying something profound I’m sure. She went off like a living firework. trauma is sexy.”
Sheet Metal Girl
Low growls at the beginning evaporate into Hayes’s familiar high-intensity yelling. Three-squeal riff kills it at the end of this song. And don’t miss: “My bionic sister teaches me inhumanity, parting her silver thighs and making love obsolete.”
Snuff Film at Eleven
When grind gives way to death at the hands of uber-competent practitioners, awesomeness ensues. Unrelenting extremity is fun for a while, but working out to a death jag with a nod to doomed chords spiced the dish well.
Hate-swarm perfection. This is what Portal would sound like if Portal decided to grind. Also, “Perhaps the son of god, aborted and tossed in a garbage bag.”
Soul-spanking drum intro leads to foul-as-fuck blasting and the line, “My knuckles are bleeding on your front door and these flowers… were for you and now they’re for no one.” Only thing this track is missing is more ironing board.
Welcome to the sludgy rear end of the album. Glad you could make it. What’s that smell? Clearly you’ve shit yourself and are too befuddled to recognize your own stink. “Starbelly” exemplifies the choices made on the back section of Prowler and clarifies why this album is so heartily enjoyed by so very many… uh, well, probably not all that many, but by us, certainly. Speed gets the boot, but intensity sticks around for all five minutes of this track. This is the sound of the Wild Things chasing you with torches and gnashing their terrible teeth. Or… well… I’m kind of drunk right now.
The title narrowly avoids merely being a goofy pun, but the margin is enough. The grooves that cut through this track immediately prove that Prowler has more in the tank than gut-busting speed and unchecked violence. And U.S. Poets Laureate have established their eminence with whole careers less interesting than, “Her index fingers drip mothers milk like hypodermic needles. She stumbles through my veins high on ash and dry semen fiending for love.”
This riff is the shit. So is that one. Dammit, nothing on this record makes me want to reenact the cover art more than this one song. That ramrod drone that takes the track through its back half starts out seeming annoying and ends up feeling completely necessary for the pace of the record. And who doesn’t love a badass drum solo with a siren winding behind it?
This song is complete auditory psychosis. Blasts decay into doomy half-time thumps while voices high and low crash against each other until everything falls away while Hayes incomprehensibly raves about “prostitutes of fire.” Also, “like a symphony of throats and piano wire.”
Launching with anything less energetic after “Jennifer” would have killed the album on impact. Guitars lacerate, drums violate, vocals lubricate. Uh, masticate. Whatever. The many implications of “Semen tastes like gunmetal she said smiling” are enough to win literary awards in an alternate universe where people actually write shit like that.
Fuck all y’all. I’m off to spend a week listening to nothing but Bohren & der Club of Gore.