Back to the Grindstone: Pig Destroyer – Prowler in the Yard

Back to the Grindstone is a love letter feature dedicated to the appreciation of all things grindcore. This most extreme of extreme niche genres has been kicking since the late ’80s, growing in underground stature as the years march on. The rule of thumb to this feature is simple; spotlight will be on grind albums old and new, though will not include releases from the past five years, or albums previously covered on this website. Genre classics, underappreciated gems, old school and nu school will be covered, highlighting albums aimed at established fans and curious listeners interested in diving into the cesspool of the grind scene. 

After missing my opportunity to celebrate 20 years since its release, when I began drafting a Yer Metal is Olde piece in 2021, I have shamelessly exploited a loophole and figured what better way to kick off a new grind feature than to celebrate the mastery of Pig Destroyer‘s seminal Prowler in the Yard platter. Virginia’s grindcore legends Pig Destroyer had already established a strong foothold in the underground grind scene before the trio released their landmark Prowler in the Yard LP in 2001. Featuring the niche genre trademarks of abrasive extremity, frantic speed, sick blasts, and short, riff-fueled songs, Pig Destroyer set themselves apart from the grind pack, creating a particularly deranged, unsettling atmosphere and twisted concept that differed from classic grind. J.R. Hayes (vocals, lyrics), Scott Hull (Agoraphobic Nosebleed – guitars, production) and Brian Harvey (drums) captured lightning in a bottle on a release rightfully considered an all-time classic, that holds up remarkably well after 20 plus years.

Right off the bat, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that Prowler in the Yard is indeed a concept album, a rarity in the grind genre. Hayes displayed his artful skills as a lyricist and storyteller, creating a grisly concept and perverse tale about a maniac on the edge, a fucked up story artfully composed and soundtracked with Pig Destroyer‘s uncompromising aural annihilation. Aside from the disturbed spoken word intro named after the protagonist’s ex-girlfriend “Jennifer” the story is incomprehensible during the actual listening sessions, due to Hayes’ insanely visceral, glass-shattering screams. However, to really get into the album’s twisted dimensions, I recommend reading Hayes’ disturbing tale. While the backbone of most grind is unrelenting extremity and rage, often accompanied by scathing socio-political commentary or gory imagery, Prowler in the Yard‘s demented vibe was truly unique, creepy and genuinely unsettling, fitting for the concept and grisly cover art.

Musically, Prowler in the Yard takes no prisoners. Pig Destroyer carve through 22 tracks in 36 minutes, the trio creating an incredibly full sound, despite the bass-less set-up, consisting of Hull’s gripping guitar work and a compelling drumming performance by Harvey. Like most grind albums, especially considering the conceptual arc, Prowler is best absorbed in one gut-wrenching listen. Yeah, this is extreme shit, but I would argue there is an accessible element to the album, at least in grind terms. Hear me out. Face peeling noise, tension and abrasiveness befitting of the dark subject matter and uneasy atmosphere solidifies the rotten core of the Pig Destroyer sound. However, Hull’s riffs deliver an abundance of headbangable, noteworthy riffs, gnarly grooves, and elements of thrash, sludge and hardcore into the equation. Harvey’s imaginative fills and groovier inclinations are a constant delight to the ears and the bulk of the material is both uncompromising and deceptively catchy and memorable.

The timeless “Cheerleader Corpses,” rifftastic “Trojan Whore,” pure violence and wicked grooves of “Naked Trees,” technical mindfuckery and noise laden heft of “Hyperviolet,” and beautifully unhinged “Piss Angel” highlight an album of highlights. Elsewhere, “Starbelly” demonstrates Pig Destroyer‘s strong ties with noise and sludge, featuring their trademark knack of hooky riffcraft, while “Junkyard God” is a nasty chunk of deathgrind and face stomping grooves. I can’t speak highly enough about the production. Recorded in Harvey’s basement on an 8-track, the album sounds incredible. The organic, chunky tones of the drums and guitars, raw, gritty garage vibe vitality, and brilliantly rendered mix make everything pop with palpable energy and DIY skill and authenticity. Whether you enjoy the barebones charms of the original production, or the respectably punchy remixed and remastered edition, you can’t go wrong.

Pig Destroyer are not capable of writing shit albums, yet they set the bar so damn high with Prowler it proved a hard act to follow, despite releasing a further string of top-shelf albums, led by menacing follow-up Terrifyer, and 2007’s Phantom Limb. However, Prowler remains the band’s definitive moment, a watershed grind album that sounds as fresh, creative and utterly fucked up today as it did way back in 2001. For the uninitiated, Prowler in the Yard is the ideal starting point for diving into the wickedly perverse career of one of modern grind’s indisputable legends.


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