Prong – X – No Absolutes


Release date: 5 February 2016

Review by Gary Cordwell

You just know with some bands, some artists, that they are in it for life. They’ll just keep pushing forward – onto the next gig, the next studio. Everyone in the community will kind of know who they are but they never quite get the recognition they deserve. There will be lulls and periods of increased activity, albums that almost break them into a wider audience and others that end up in bargain buckets but the band (and its loyal followers) will always be there.

An almost perfect case in point is Prong. Tommy Victor (who, let’s face it, is Prong) was a sound engineer for the legendary CBGB’s club, he formed the band in 1986 and here they are, still going strong. Sure, they disbanded in 1996 with Victor beginning his tenure in Ministry, but they were bound to be back. They were wholly original, a brutal fusing of metal, hardcore punk, industrial and, more recently, thrash, and were cited as an influence by bands as diverse as Korn and Nine Inch Nails. And sure enough, after a patchy hiatus, they reappeared in 2012, signing with SPV and hitting arguably their most creative, prolific streak.

And so we come to ‘X – No Absolutes’, the bands 10th studio album, following hot on the heels of 2014’s ‘Ruining Lives’ and last years covers album. And their energised current momentum continues unabated from the moment you press ‘play’. ‘Ultimate Authority’ tears from the speakers in a blaze of glory. Everything we know and love about Prong is present and correct. It’s a storming, fearsome noise – metal with a hardcore discipline. Clean, precise, unforgiving.

The album is almost a Prong overview, a celebration of who and what they are. You get a little of everything. There’s unrelenting thrash, with a hint of Exodus in its wild yet controlled abandon. There’s two-fisted NYC hardcore thuggery. The title track is a nod to their industrial leanings, low key electronic squalls and a huge, mechanised bass add to Victor’s military strength bludgeon. Riff upon riff is dropped on us relentlessly.

The musicianship is also first class. There is an almost continual underpinning of floor shaking double kick drumming and Tommy has rarely, if ever, played better. Riffs are whiplash sharp – snapping our necks indeed, while he solos with fire, creativity and angular abandon. His vocals are also on point – the Killing Joke style ‘Ice Runs Through My Veins’ has a hauntingly sinister vibe, Victor growling tenderly in our ear that he’s “inclined to create some damage” – well, what did you expect? A song with that title was never going to be about fluffy bunnies and daisy chains.

But (and perhaps this is why Prong aren’t quite up there in the pantheon) there are missteps. A couple of songs take their foot off the gas, Victor unwraps the bandages from his knuckles and, y’know…sings. With, like, melody and stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for variety and changes of style and tempo, and this album has lots of both – it’s sequenced brilliantly. But these two just don’t convince. They edge a tad too closely to the murky waters of nu-metal and smack somewhat of corporate intrusion…of attempts to gain mainstream airplay. Something about them doesn’t quite sit right.

But, on the whole, Tommy can, as he sings at one point, “walk away with dignity”. The bands recent run of quality releases continues. It’s not their best but it’s a long way from being their worst. It’s another Prong album and I’m sure there will be many more to follow. It manages to be an unstoppable force and an immoveable object. A band this urm…sophisticated, shouldn’t be this pissed off and vital. Kudos Mr. Victor.

7 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Ultimate Authority
  2. Sense Of Ease
  3. Without Words
  4. Cut And Dry
  5. No Absolutes
  6. Do Nothing
  7. Belief System
  8. Soul Sickness
  9. In Spite Of Hindrances
  10. Ice Runs Through My Veins
  11. Worth Pusuing
  12. With Dignity
  13. Universal Law (Bonus Track)