Review Summary: In 2012 and over 25 years since their inception it's nice to see that the underdogs still haven't lost their metallic bite
Prong (or rather frontman Tommy Victor, Prong is his baby) are survivors and eternal underdogs. Since forming an embryonic Prong in New York in 1986 when still a soundman at the famous CBGB's club in Manhattan, Tommy Victor has taken this band on many twists and turns over the years. From the clinical metal of major label debut Beg to Differ (1990), the forward thinking monolith Cleansing (1994) to their fourth (and final) release for EPIC records, the much overlooked but hugely influential industrial/metal sounds of Rude Awakening (1996).
Since then Prong has been on the back burner, playing second fiddle to Tommy's stints with Danzig and Ministry, despite this fact Prong did release a couple of fairly average discs (Scorpio rising (2003) and Power of the damager (2007)). Fast forward to 2012 and after more work with those other bands Victor returns with renewed vigor and a new line-up of Prong featuring bassist Tony Campos (ex Static X, Soulfly & Ministry) and Alexei Rodriguez (ex Walls of Jericho & 3 inches of blood). A real three-Pronged attack on the senses.
From the second opening track 'Eternal heat' kicks in with all the subtlety of a size 12 steel toe-capped boot in the face, it is immediately apparent that with Carved Into Stone that Prong mean business. Surrounded by a more than capable rhythm section and having a good producer (Steve Evetts) on board has arguably given Prong the best sound they've had since Cleansing.
The opening track as well as 'Ammunition', 'State of rebellion' and 'List of grievances' are fast paced thrashing numbers packed full of fury, some great lead guitar squeals from Victor and intense drumming from Rodriguez, the latter song even features some gang vocals. Victor is angry and seems to relate the realities of his (and Prong's) struggles over the years, always striving forward to little acclaim with lines like “For what I do this everyday? Without potential for success? Keep hoping I will persist, to apathy I will admit” on the second song 'Keep on living in pain' and on the furious aforementioned 'List of grievances' seems to take a stab at the industry (or individuals?) that he (Victor) has had to deal with in the past with lyrics such as “When its time for you to pay, you abstain, feed your ego, that's your aim.” Calling to mind Prong's unceremonious ousting from Sony records in 1997, on the back of an album that had little or no support from the label (Rude Awakening) and just when there was a real buzz arounds the bands superb live shows.
Prong have had a few popular metal anthems over the years namely 'Beg to differ' 'Rude awakening' and the most well known of course being 'Snap your fingers snap your neck' and this album offers up another potential hit in 'Revenge...best served cold' (for which they've done an official video). The song has the danceable groove and metal menace of the their older anthems and its catchy, the kind of song that gets stuck in your head (for the right reasons) only marred by a fade out ending (why?) and if justice was done this track would catapult Prong back to the top of the metal tree or at least get them the recognition they deserve.
Things are slowed down (a little) on the fantastic sludgy title track and more so on 'Path of least resistance' these are two superb songs which bring to mind Killing Joke at times particularly in the Victor's vocals which haven't sounded this good in a long time. Final track 'Reinvestigate' closes the album with a lyrically positive vibe and hopefully for us all it underlines Tommy's and Prong's determination to pull many surprisingly strong albums like Carved Into Stone out of the bag in the years ahead.
Whilst it may not live up to past albums such as 'Cleansing' or Rude Awakening' and whereas those albums always heralded in a new Prong sound, 'Carved into Stone' is happy to hold back on the avant-garde and forward thinking and play to their strengths. The new album is a less varied beast occasionally lacking the subtle programming/industrial noises of those mid 90's releases, instead going for the jugular with a more stripped-down thrash edged sword as in their formative years. But that doesn't mean it's completely one dimensional, Prong have always found ways to weave subtleties into their hard-edged attack.
In 2012 and over 25 years since their inception it's nice to see that the underdogs still haven't lost their metallic bite.
Highlights: Revenge...best served cold, Carved into stone, Eternal heat, Path of least resistance