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Saturday, June 18, 2011

REVIEW: Prowler (UK) - Alcatraz (1985, single)

This is a short two-track 7" single from unknown UK band Prowler, from Leicestershire, named either by coincidence or by purpose similarly to the early hit track by Iron Maiden. Prowler, who were active during 1981-1987, but never got to release a full-length album or EP (not to be confused with Prowler from Essex, who were featured on 'Brute Force' compilation and released 'Heartbreaker' single). They have couple of demos and two singles in their discography, of which 'Alcatraz' is the latter second single. Shortly after the release of Alcatraz single, the band were lured into more commercial waters, drifting towards 'melodic rock' genre with a new demo and few more band name changes, losing their initial heaviness. That never really took off, and they disbanded few years later in 1987. (The n.w.o.b.h.m. Encyclopedia 3rd Ed. Malc Macmillan, p. 455-456).

Coming out in 1985, Alcatraz-single places in the late-era of NWOBHM wave. In the single, the band plays quite nice NWOBHM style heavy metal with very melodic mid-range vocals by Ian Morrison (who had just previously taken over vocal duties from Rob Philpotts, and replaced Dave Challis on bass, as well), accompanied with occasional very high-pitched screams, which he pulls out well enough without sounding awkward. Vocals remind me of Angel Witch's Dave Tattum at times, being equally melodic with mid-range focus, although Morrison doesn't sound quite as gloomy. Morrison does have sort of a deep soaring middle-range vocals that are well more powerful, than what an average singer of unknown band would have. Morrison sounds actually highlight of this single proving that he can sound very professional when he tries his best.

This record is very bass-heavy, in typical style of many NWOBHM bands, with pounding bass-lines (also by Morrison) and tasty crisp lead guitars showing some promising quality by the band members. Overall sound mix yet isn't very heavy, but rather bit more bluesy and mellow (in a melodic way), but also containing enough of that NWOBHM-style sharpness to be labeled as pure heavy metal. Chris Vye and Rob Philpotts seem to be playing quite enthusiastic on the single, probably stretching their skills to the max, with surprisingly shiny vivid guitar solos and very melodic leads. Guitars on the single feature some very tasty shredding/solos here and there by, which bring the songs more alive, accompanying more generic rhythm guitar riffs, with rather bluesy guitar tone. Actually, melody and lead guitars are more dominant part of the record, while rhythm guitars are bit more on the supporting role, although, lead guitars do focus hugely on shredding and hooks, rather than supporting core melody of the songs. Don't expect to find quite Iron Maiden style melodic twin lead-guitar attack on this single. The two songs themselves as compositions are quite standard material from what you would expect from lesser known NWOBHM band, but with more flavor added on top of rather generic core song structure, thanks to the guitarists.

Especially, the slower jam-along "title track" Alcatraz is very good song, with rather generic rhythm section, but featuring flashy melodic lead guitar, dominating pounding bass-line, and very strong melodic vocal delivery by Morrison. It features some damn fine tasty shredding, showing that this band did have talent for greater things, too, just if they would had chance to compose, record, and release a full-length album, with slightly more varying and fleshed out songs. Playing skills were definitely there. I really do like Steve Philpotts accurate and powerful drumming, as well, but sadly production values do not let instruments shine on their fullest. The title track is very enjoyable, and a small surprise from an unknown band. "So Lonely" is not as memorable effort, but rather mediocre rock'n'roll flavored middle-paced NWOBHM track, featuring once again melodic chorus by Morrison, who at the places don't as focused as on the title track, and his higher pitched "yeah! yeah! yeah!" screams sound a bit filler, and aren't quite working. Guitar shredding and solo parts are, however once again, professional sounding, with some speedy tremolo picking. I have feeling that the band put most of their effort and creativity in the title track, and then thought, "well, lets just make something easily approachable out of the second one with more radio friendly lyrics". Well, So Lonely is rather generic and average, but with some highlights. has only one user-review given for Prowler's Alcatraz single, where reviewer gives the single a score of 52/100, and claims its average in every possible way. I must totally disagree that statement. "Title track" itself is quite memorable and definitely above average eighties material, quite surprisingly good from a obscure band with only single and demo releases under their belt. "So Lonely" is average but enjoyable, though, not as strong as the title track, a one to forget quickly. This small single shows off some definite talent and promise, though, but it's too bad Prowler didn't survive long enough to record a full length album with better production and more material. While composing skills of the band seemed to be rather average, their playing skills were professional at best. They had technically quite skillful guitarists, fine drummer, and a solid frontman capable of playing bass, yet being even memorable as a powerful melodic NWOBHM singer when trying his best, though Morrison is a bit of unstable between the two songs. Alcatraz is a nice little single out there, worth checking out for NWOBHM fanatics who seek for new bands. It has two songs lacking some creativity but showing fine playing skills. Fans of Virtue's 'We Stand To Fight,' 'Frontal-era' Angel Witch, 'Dominator-era' Cloven Hoof... and yes, why not early Iron Maiden, too, should check this one out. Just don't expect quite similar amount of heaviness and level of creativity in terms of song construction.

75 | reviewer: dungeoncrawler

  • Steve Philpotts - Drums
  • Chris Vye - Guitars
  • Rob Philpotts - Guitars
  • Ian Morrison - Vocals, bass

  • 1. Alcatraz 04:22
  • 2. So Lonely 03:47
    • Total running time: 08:09


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