NYC crossover kings Prong have been ploughing their own furrow for well over three decades and show no signs of retiring to their pipe and slippers. The merging of a Pantera-esque swagger with an industrial edge forged through their links with Ministry and Killing Joke helped to thrust them into the limelight during the 1990s. It was the release of Cleansing in 1994 that truly put them on the alt metal map, almost making them a household name. Groove by the bucket load, pulverizing bass, riffs galore and a sprinkling of samples helped to set them apart from the thrash and grunge which was prevalent at the time. The quality of output plateaued at the end of the last century and although a considerable twelve albums have been released thus far, the countless line-up changes (founding member/vocalist/guitarist Tommy Victor the only constant) and a succession of patchy albums has seen their star diminish.
Can this EP, Age of Defiance help change that? In short, no, but it’s an intriguing pitch. Offering up two new songs and three live tracks (two taken from the aforementioned Cleansing and ‘Rude Awakening’ culled from the album of the same name), recorded in Berlin at Huxley’s Neue Welt venue during their European tour of 2015. The first track shares the title of the EP, featuring clean vocal harmonies and a disturbingly poppy chorus that wouldn’t seem out of place filed under Nu Metal (think Linkin Park mixed with latter Machine Head). It’s rather bland and inoffensive; an unwise departure from their usual sound, feeling like a sub-standard off cut that wasn’t good enough to make the grade anywhere else, including Machine Head’s Catharsis. The second track ‘End of Sanity’ is better, with a guitar riff that sounds more like the Prong of old; it could happily have been shoehorned in their recent full length Zero Days.
After wading through the two largely disappointing new tracks I was hoping to find solace in the live recordings, but even these proved unsatisfying. ‘Another Worldly Device’ and ‘Cut Rate’ are Prong classics, but as with most live recordings, unless you were there it all seems fairly pointless, only providing mild curiosity. Bizarrely the featured live tracks have been shorn of the audience; either that or absolutely nobody attended the gig. Without any applause or crowd noise it makes these tracks sound like very raw studio recordings. All are played well enough and ‘Another Worldly Device’ is one of Prong’s finest tracks, its central riff is a joy to behold. Dimebag’s influence can be heard during the guitar solo even if it isn’t perfectly executed, while ‘Cut Rate’ is fast and punky with the guitars on full crunch before the bass and drums slow things down for the extended conclusion.
Age of Defiance has been released to bridge the gap between albums, but unfortunately if the new tracks are anything to go by they shouldn’t rush into releasing anything yet. The older cuts highlight how good Prong were (and still are in a live setting) but the omission of the crowd means the tracks do lose a little appeal, not much for anyone who attended to identify with, they could’ve been recorded anywhere. The EP could be treated as a bit of fun, but overall it’s disappointing and inconsequential. With Prong touring Europe during early 2020, in support of Cleansing’s twenty fifth anniversary, it would be wiser to see them in the flesh, rather than listening to anything on here. Age of Defiance is certainly stubborn; it’s the sound of a band defying quality control, a cobbled together lacklustre offering, for Prong completists only.
(4/10 James Jackson)