Prong Carved Into Stone Review:
It’s been almost 6 years since we last heard from Prong. Guest duties in Ministry and Danzig have preoccupied frontman and lead guitarist Tommy Victor and sidelined his labor of love, but now they return with their new album ‘Carved Into Stone’ (out April 24th on Steamhammer/SPV Records).
I’m a bit obsessed with bands who in my view are underrated and criminally ignored. But even by my stringent standards, Prong are at the top of the heap. Victor’s razor-sharp guitar tone and excellent riff constructing skills have influenced a ton of bigger bands, including NIN, Pantera, White Zombie, many Nu-Metal era bands, and modern metal bands such as Demon Hunter.
Why did Prong slip through the cracks to larger mainstream success? Well they’ve always been a bit more introspective and intelligent and that always makes an artist harder to pigeonhole. And Victor’s musical and lyrical approach is a lot more abstract, and esoteric than most metal bands. Influenced by post punk bands like Bauhaus and Killing Joke in addition to more traditional metal, they have a very distinct flavor, which may be too strong for some.
A few years back Victor intimated that it was he in fact who devised and recorded the guitar riff on Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”. This seems completely believable given Reznor and Manson’s appreciation of the band, as well as the style and sound of the riff. Those kind of stories make me crazy. Prong should be huge.
Perhaps another reason for lack of mainstream appeal is that Prong fans tend to fall into 2 camps: those who were more into their earlier thrash incarnation, and the rest who discovered them when they integrated elements of industrial and Groove Metal into their sounds.
Earlier albums like “Force Fed”, “Beg To Differ”, and “Prove You Wrong” are different animals than “Cleansing” or “Rude Awakening”. While I was aware of their earlier stuff, it was ‘Cleansing’ that got me on the Prong bandwagon. I loved the powerful grooves. And ‘Rude Awakening’ in my view is an ignored masterpiece, an excellent marriage of heavy guitar with subtle electronic flourishes.
Their last release ‘Power of The Damager’ played more towards the earlier camp, and had some decent material, but it lacked the production punch that super producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera, White Zombie) brought to earlier releases.
So how does the new album stand up?
It seems with the newest release that Prong is touching on all their former elements, and it’s a winning combination. While there’s no electronic bells and whistles which makes me a tad disappointed, the groove metal aspect does rear its head on the album. And Victor’s unique serrated guitar tone remains wonderfully intact.
‘Eternal Heat’ the 1st single, is very representative of the earlier thrashier Prong sound. The follow-up track “Keep On Living In Pain” does that style even better and it has a killer chorus, in the same vein as older songs like “Prove You Wrong”.
‘Ammunition’ flows in the same vein, powered with solid and slamming double kick drums (courtesy of Alexi Rodriquez of ‘3 Inches of Blood’) and ends with an excellent melodic solo, one of Victor’s best.
‘Revenge…Served Cold’ is a badass groove, straight out of the ‘Cleansing’ playbook. Reminiscent of “Whose Fist Is It Anyways” with its disco drum beat, galloping riff and more exotic chordal passages ala Killing Joke. ‘State of Rebellion’ follows and it’s a perfect hybrid of both styles, with nice atmospheric chords and a very in your face groove. The drums are particularly excellent here.
‘List of Grievances’ is another brutal piece of work, and probably the heaviest, thrashiest thing here, shredding from start to finish in a very satisfying fashion.
But things take a new direction towards the tail end of the album, starting with the title track. It starts in a very Sabbathy vein. It’s pretty clear that Victor’s time in Danzig playing those simple yet effective bluesy minor key riffs has rubbed off on his style, and he integrates that here while still making it sound like Prong. And the drums are straight out of Mastodon with rollicking drum fills on top of the ultra heavy groove. It’s one of the best on the release.
‘Put Myself to Sleep’ with it’s ringing arpeggios and catchy chorus calls to mind the title track of ‘Rude Awakening’. I just love how Victor veers from meat and potatoes riffage to the more open atmospheric chords. That’s one of many reasons he’s such an original player.
‘Path of Least Resistance’ is another slower, sludgier, darker beast, and has a very nice textured sound.
‘Reinvestigate’ is the final track, and it also starts off with a very nice stoner rock riff which then moves into a pulsating tribal drummed chorus. It’s a great closer.
Victor’s vocals are solid throughout, sung in his inimitable style. No one else sounds like him, and another thing which makes Prong unique.
And like any great Prong record, the entire album is peppered with my favorite of Tommy’s bag of tricks, his unrestrained use of high-pitched “squealies” (pinch harmonics), which punctuate all his armor-plated riffs.
I also miss former drummer Ted Parsons, but Rodriguez is a very capable drummer and really gives it a satisfying visceral performance from start to finish. Prong’s new line up is solid and I hope they stay in it for the long haul.
The production by Steve Evetts (Dillinger Escape Plan) matches the quality of the songs. It’s clear that a lot of effort went into this, and overall it’s far more sonically satisfying than either ‘Scorpio Rising’ or ‘Damager’.
So my final verdict? If you’re a die-hard Prong fan who’s been into the band from start to finish, you’re gonna love this album. If you’re stuck on either side of the Prong fence, you should find enough to make you happy , and if you’re a metal fan unfamiliar with Prong, then it’s time to get on board.
In an era where most metal consists of endless double bass kickdrums and cookie monster vomiting vocals, Prong is a nice reminder that metal can still be intelligent, artistic, left of center, and composed of equal parts harmony and disharmony. It’s good to have them back.
Want to grab the new album?
You can preview and buy it on iTunes (with exclusive track ‘Freuer Frei’ here) below. (And you can buy on Amazon by clicking on the album image up top.
And Metal Underground, did a nice interview with Victor about the new album which you can read here.