Time can fall heavily on most of us: as I type this the press is sadly full of stories of musical icons succumbing to the ravages of age; my hair is getting grayer by the day; and once vibrant bands are now plodding metallic dinosaurs (naming no names) who seem to take forever to produce one bloated retirement fund padding yawnfest of an album after another, if they ever appear at all that is. One person, however, who seems to be getting more energetic and prolific than ever is Tommy Victor, founder and sole constant member of Prong, and with ‘X – No Absolutes’, the follow up to 2014’s stunning ‘Ruining Lives’, he has produced in the 30th year of the band another raging slab of biting invective.
‘Ultimate Authority’ barges out of the speakers, Mr Victor railing against the corrupt right whilst battering his guitar with a vigour that I’d happily apply to slapping some sense into Donald Trump, set to a thudding bass that will have metallers everywhere head-banging with a vigour. The energy level then manages to go up another notch with the blistering assault of ‘Sense of Ease’, riffs that were the soundtrack of my teenage thrash metal youth blasting forth and making me yearn for a pit to crash around in, the solo being a demonstration to the likes of Kerry King as to how it’s meant to be done.
The musical sprint continues with ‘Cut and Dry’, the shredding guitars being amply matched by the rhythm section of Art Cruz and Jason Christopher gelling as if they had been with the band from day one rather than being the latest incarnation of the band. I was fortunate to see this line up live in 2014 when they toured in support of ‘Ruining Lives’, and amazingly they have bound even tighter together; this might well be the winning formula that sticks and drives the band to the level of recognition and success they deserve. The title track continues with Mr Victor snarling against the world, but on a more personal level than railing against the machine, an industrial feel coming through in the dominant bass and drums that harkens back to some of the earlier releases of the band, whilst by comparison ‘Do Nothing’ combines gentle verses with a huge anthemic chorus that in days of yore would have had lighters waving in the air, or in the modern idiom, smart phones flashing. Whilst a chunk under the four minute mark, it really does sound so much fuller that you could swear it was so much longer.
Just in case there was any worry that the band had calmed down, ‘Belief System’ follows with a thunderous groove, whilst ‘Soul Sickness’ growls out a challenge to the likes of Marilyn Manson to dare to match. That may make it sound like Prong is being derivative of other bands, but it must be remembered that they came first, and if they sound like any more commercially successful band shares a sound, it was probably borrowed from the creative wellspring of Mr Victor. It’s not meant to be an insult to the him, but ‘With Dignity’ sounds the way Linkin Park wished they did, and could if they ditched the shitty rapping, DJ’s squeals, oh, and learnt to write and play better too! Prong have been going so long, and had so many elements of their myriad sounds taken by so many other bands that they have practically become the parent to the unwanted step child that is “nu-metal”. Closing my copy of the album in a more than suitably fist in your face fashion is the bonus track of ‘Universal Law’, a crusher of a number with a shouted refrain that could well challenge the band’s classic “snap your fingers, snap your neck” to become their signature mosh pit chant.
For many years now, my personal taste in music has tended more towards the slower stoner doom edge of the spectrum, with plenty of blues rock thrown in, as my creaking joints told me it was time to slow down. However, if anything could get my old bones in the pit again, it would be Prong; Tommy Victor may well be celebrating his 50th year in 2016, but he seems to be drawing from some bottomless well of energy and ire, playing faster and writing and singing more angrily with each release. Time to strap up my knees and seek out a pit!