Review Summary: The years go on, but these guys are still here. Fighting the good fight against this garbage world.
Formed three decades ago, in 1986, Prong to this day maintains itself as a lesser known yet powerful act, whose name might not be big, but their influence can be felt in many other acts. Led by guitarist/vocalist Tommy Victor the band is an ever morphing-changing beast of musical aggression that shows a new side of itself with nearly every release yet still carries a unique identity that roots heavily in the New York metal scene. Starting from the infusion of hardcore punk and thrash metal, elements of industrial metal, alternative metal and other elements got into the mix, resulting in some of the most defining metal albums of the mid 90’s.
Since then, many thing happened. The band split up in 1997 but reunited in 2002 with a more sporadic activity due to Victor’s other duties in band such as Danzig and Ministry. Their albums in the 2000’s however didn’t managed to live up the consistency of their previous track records and for my money remain the weakest released in the band’s history. However things got much better in 2012 with the release of “Carved Into Stone” which rejuvenated Prong with a much needed dosage of speed, intensity and raw grit resulting their best album since “Cleansing”. With the success of that record they became more prolific having now released three other albums in just four years. “Ruining Lives” maintained the high levels of energy but also toned down the industrial elements in the exchange of more melodic and catchy vibes, then we got a half-decent cover album and now arrives “X (No Absolutes)” their tenth studio record. And fortunately this one strikes just as hard as the last two.
From a musical perspective “X (No Absolutes)” makes its steps on two major fronts. On the one hand it bring back some of the speedy, groove-heavy, face-punching industrial-thrash which was the core of Prong’s music for many years, but also continues the melodic and more mainstream tendencies which we saw on “Ruining Lives”. Thus the album is a dynamic blend of both worlds and a clear representation of their musical past, present and future. It’s not among their strongest albums but manages to make a better balance heavy and less heavy songwriting as well showing of their genre-bending craft.
The more aggressive side gets quickly displayed in the opening trio of songs: “Ultimate Authority” with its jerky guitar accords, shouting-based choruses and industrial touches is classic Prong both in its structure and feel thus giving the fans a comforting welcome. But that’s not the only song that harkens back to Prong’s past, as “Sense of Ease” absolutely shreds with its furious pacing bringing pack the primal thrash metal force of “Beg to Differ”. “With Words” also proves itself memorable with its detuned, sludgy riffing, and songs like “Cut and Dry” and the title track pinpoints how well Tommy Victor can mix punkish and intense verse sections with a more mainstream sounding and singable choruses.
In fact most songs on the record follow this formula, however the band also branches out some uncharted territories which is of course something Prong never shied away from and I have to say the results are certainly unexpected and interesting. With “Belief System” we get a ballad, or a Prong-styled ballad with clean harmonies during the verses, before the distorted guitars (and even a piano) enters in the chorus and other parts creating a rather odd song. But that works out much better than the nu-metal influences, most prominently in the closer “With Dignity” which sounds a cheap retreads of early Linkin Park tropes.
While these are the clunkiest and least working efforts, fortunately the rest of the album delivers the punchy, gripping riffs and effective headbanging energy one can expect from this record. Tommy Victor’s voice gripping, the occasional guitar solos are delightfully chaotic, the bass and drum work is naturalistic and the production is balanced and powerful. In overall “X (No Absolutes)” proves itself to be a worthy and musically consistent powerhouse of a record that channels the downbeat feel of urban and worldwide decay as well as a Prong record should do in the 21st century.