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Headline: crappy cover kills shredder's hopes - 78%

Gutterscream, June 15th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1986, 12" vinyl, Enigma

“…the men would come and one by one they’d use and abuse her. Her love she gave but no one stayed it seemed she was born to lose…”

Predator’s one and only lp roared headlong into the running for worst cover at the cusp of ‘85/’86; no real art, but one of the most pitiful live-action jackets to ever stalk into record stores (and very irregularly stalk out). It’s one of those embarrassing covers that fatefully undermines the ‘seriousness’ of metal, inflicting that original cringe each time you see it like it were the first time, and is one of the only reasons Easy Prey has become as mildly remembered as it has in mighty Metal Blade’s battalion.

Behind this dreadful mask are ten leniently thrashed-up tracks revolving mostly around a Mr. Jeff Prentice, the culprit with the stocking on his noggin and his admittedly exceptional guitar gymnastics. Gleaning luggage from a few worlds, he nimbly salutes the speed-driven traditional, broadens his back hefting a few fugitive power metal bars, and works off some fat by firing up some virgin-courteous thrash. Above all that, songs like “Siberia”, wordless “Hawk Mistress”, fretbender “Over the Edge”, and Maiden-twitched shriller “Demon Witch” pack some very tolerable white collar shredding, rhythmically quite straightforward until Prentice’s lightning solos jolt the songs’ heart meters. Even though his name is gone like the wind, I’m not sure if ‘unsung’ is the proper word I’d etch across his pedestal, but there’s little doubt in my mind that he could’ve planted himself with the likes of Testament, Megadeth, Heathen, or even King Diamond and made a few more kids throw Gibsons over their shoulders. Vocally, he’s bleeding ears somewhere between the banshee wails of John Gallagher and Dan Beehler, Raven and Exciter, but lacks the spontaneous energy of the former and the leaking battery of the latter between yelps, though in the pinch he suits the bill.

The title cut grimes it up as “Masters of the Night” vibrates the quicker pick riffage ala debut-era Anthrax, something shady like “Metal Thrashing Mad”, then showers a layer or two off for more skill-wrought, high-end dashes of guitarmanship Ian and Spitz would’ve paid attention to if they were there. But things start to smell when the lousy “Road to Glory” and its life-dissenting mimic of “Bang Your Head”/Quiet Riot stumbles into earshot rolled soft and put away moldy, meanwhile ham-handed, soft-corked finale “Tortured” unravels like a storybook penned for the Hermosa Beach Middle School read-off (see the top). Unfortunately, it’s these two whizbangers that tend to annoyingly rattle around my head more than the better songs, and it’s not because I like them, but for the regrettable reason that despite the adequate hookiness of the stronger tunes, they’re just not all that memorable. Hence, we’ve come full circle back to the cover.

Put together by someone of talent, but the talent survived in only one dimension. I’m just glad Jeff didn’t call this something like No Ones ApPrentice, though any cover, even a sorry gaggle of guitar-wielding shagheads kneeling before him, would’ve been an upgrade.