It feels strange to think that Prong have been going for over three decades now, but perhaps a further insight into the band's known penchant for exploring different musical territories will justify the fairly lengthy career period. After all, Prong are repeatedly referred to by their devotees as one of the more interesting underground metal acts. Having gone from the gritty, hardcore punk-inspired leanings of the band's early days to a more exciting proposition of fusing industrial, thrash and groove metal, Prong certainly deserve all the credit they've achieved over the years. Lately however, the band haven't really gained momentum so much as lost it. The last few years have seen Prong unveil quite a few releases (one of which is entirely compiled of covers), but none of those have quite surpassed the band's heyday, back when the likes of Cleansing
and Rude Awakening
propelled the band to a brief stint in the mainstream. Comparing these two records to, say, last year's rather forgettable X-No Absolutes
, and you can quickly understand the difference in quality.
This year sees the release of Prong's latest effort, Zero Days
, which unfortunately is very top-heavy and ends on some of the most uninspired material the band have come up with since forming in 1986. The first half is essentially the band laying out the groundwork for what was so successful for Prong in the 1990s, when the likes of "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" was sworn by some to be the anthem of an era. "However It May End" and the title track are speedy ragers, unveiling Victor's gritty snarl and the choppy albeit menacing riff work for which the band have become well-known over the years. As run-of-the-mill as these two tracks may be, they deem Prong as a band that haven't lost their touch. Lighter, more mainstream-reaching tunes such as forthcoming preview song "Divide and Conquer" and closer "Wasting of the Dawn" at times threaten to turn away those who prefer the band's grittier musical side, but they're written well enough to ensure that the balance between heaviness and restraint is just right.
However, as strong as the first half may be, quality swiftly goes downhill when "Interbeing" begins playing. At first glance it feels like a half-baked attempt at trying to sound atmospheric and, well, epic
, but to absolutely no avail. The chorus is inconsistently bland and why Tommy Victor chose to feature the most nasally-sounding aspect of his vocal delivery is beyond anyone's comprehension. Similarly, "Self Righteous Indignation", whilst it does attempt to regain the band's heavier approach, falls flat because of its bland linearity, and "Compulsive Future Projection" loses all inspiration merely from the way in which Victor choose to repeat the title over and over again. That said, there are some golden moments to find in the album's second half. "The Whispers" seems to follow the same path as "Interbeing" with its atmospheric nuances, but this time working a little better in displaying such a deviation from the usual Prong-led path. With its harmonic guitar work and Victor's clean vocal delivery, it manages to dodge the cheese and instead becomes one of the better examples of when Prong decide to go fully light in their delivery. As mentioned before, "Wasting of the Dawn" demonstrates a clearly capable balance of the light and the heavy, and although it doesn't seem to be placed right in the tracklisting, the bittersweet moods presented do go a long way into regaining interest from the listener.
could well be a clone of every other Prong album released after 2007's Power of the Damager
, but it does confidently sidestep mediocrity thanks to Tommy Victor's inescapable presence and the band's general well-balanced approach towards songwriting. Unfortunately, it reaches a barely above average quality in general because of the first half's dominance and the second half's mostly tame delivery (with the exception of "The Whispers" and the closer). That said, this latest effort should be delectable for the already baying fanbase, but certainly not those looking to find the best of what Prong have had to offer over the last few decades.