Quite the cover, eh? And if that doesn’t tip you off that things are heading straight for Tongue-in-Cheek Town, perhaps it’s time for new trifocals. And the artwork accurately reflects what you get from Prowler – a lunkheaded troupe of retro metallers with a disturbing fetish for 80s metal and cheesy horror (also from the 80s). Yes, we have a band trapped in the past in both their musical and cinematic tastes, and their long-awaited full-length debut, From the Shadows aims to drag you back to the days of Critters, Gremlins, Goonies and Corey Feldman. Oh, and Metallica. The latter is notable because as they regale you with plot synopses and numerous sound bites from 80s camp classics, they do so with a kinda sorta Master of Puppets-esque delivery, but with about 66.6% less talent and 1/3 the speed. And that folks, is a recipe for big trouble in Little Cheek Town.
Long time readers know Steel Druhm loves his 80s style cheddar metal as much as the next 42-48 year old, but it takes more than an exhaustive knowledge of bad horror movies to make a slamming metal platter, and that’s where Prowler get left alone in the dark. Opener “R.O.T.L.D.” is a silly retelling of the events surrounded Return of the Living Dead, but without the BRAINS! It rocks a mid-tempo, chugging riff that’s as simple as any you’ve ever heard, but it’s effective enough in small doses. However, the über goofy lyrics and Hetfield-styled delivery camp things up to tolerance testing heights. It’s clear they aren’t taking themselves seriously, which I admire, but the chanting of “ROTLD” makes me cringe instead of chuckle. There also isn’t much going on musically and things quickly feel dull and flat, which is a recurring issue throughout the album.
Better is “Out of the Fog,” but that’s largely due to the inclusion of John Carpenter’s killer keyboard lines from the original version of The Fog. The rest of the music is painfully simplistic and uninteresting. Aside from this cut, only their cover of The Ramones “Pet Cemetery” leaves much of a positive impression (it’s also the album’s first single, which isn’t a good sign). The rest of the tunes end up either somewhat interesting (“I Am Wolf”) or flat-out boring (“Return to the Lot,” “Death on Wheels”).
A huge issue are the constant mid-tempo song tempos. All the songs feel like a slow segment on an 80s thrash tune where you’re just waiting for things to speed back up again, but here, they never, ever do. Call it near-thrash or blue balls thrash, but the band seems content to exist right on the precipice of energetic music without ever venturing over the summit. And the lyrics are a whole other beast, frequently coming across like those cult movie reviews Daniel Tosh does where he has to explain everything in 30 seconds or less. While Tosh can make it funny, Prowler just makes it painful and corny, and though that’s likely the point, I still don’t find it entertaining.
Musically speaking, Patrick Best is an adequate guitarist, but his riffs are exceptionally simple and fail to hold the listener’s attention. Sometimes the overall sound reminds me of a very slowed down Wehrmacht – exceedingly simple, generic and a bit punky. But Wehrmacht relied on mind-boggling speed to make the rudimentary riffs effective, while Prowler never speeds things up to offset the clumsy leads. Best’s raspy, Hetfieldian vocals are also adequate, but like the riffs, they get monotonous and do little to raise the profile of the songs themselves.
While From the Shadows is a short album at 35 minutes (another not so great sign for a band’s debut), it still feels long, and by the time it ended, I was more than ready to move on to something more interesting. Prowler seems like a band destined for third-rate cult status, which is probably just fine by them. Their concept is fine, the cover art is amusing, but as far as the band’s execution…I’m in favor it.