Originally from New York and formed in 1986 with their first release (Force Fed EP) in 1989, Prong have had a chequered career (splitting up in 1996 and reforming in 2003). Currently the line-up is Tommy Victor (guitar, vocals), Mike Longworth (bass) and Art Cruz (drums). Zero Days is the group’s eleventh album.
Straight off the starting line the first six songs (However It May End, Zero Days, Off The Grid, Divide And Conquer, Forced Into Tolerance and Interbeing) make the necessary impact. Best thing to do is strap yourself down and take the audio beating you are going to receive. The mix of US Hardcore and Metal is uncompromising but that’s also down to the lyrical content – social, political and personal philosophy delivered with a heavyweight punch and instantly memorable and contagious melodic hooks. It relates well to the early days, Tommy Victor always had a keen ear for a tune and he’s still got it and with Mike Longworth and Art Cruz making mincemeat out of everything they do this sounds like a winner (no Prong fan will be able to stop themselves buying this). You get the occasional qualities of a classic Bay Area Thrash Metal group creeping into the mix and this adds some variety but with the addition of solos, where maybe they don’t need to be, sometimes it seems like the intent of a song is lessened but these are kept short as with the earlier releases on Steamhammer/SPV. Track seven, Blood Out Of A Stone, dramatically changes the atmosphere of the album: no US Hardcore, no Metal, this seems to rely on ideas snatched from the earlier days of Prong. The sullen, creeping character of the verse slows down everything (including the mood of the listener) but the melodic nature is there in the vocal delivery. The chorus detonates into a harsh and brooding assault (this is where the US Hardcore and shades of Killing Joke make their presence felt), in contrast to the verse it is an eruption of emotion: anger and desperation. The breakdown appears to go on a tangent, a softening and lightening of instrumentation before seamlessly returning to the chorus. This song seems like an anomaly but is essential part of the album as it creates a dividing line for the next two songs otherwise all you’d get is a continuous selection of what has occurred in the first six songs. Not a favourite song for me but I see the logic behind having a song like this to add variety. The next two songs, Operation Of The Moral Law and The Whispers, see a return to riff-led, impact driven tunes with big choruses. Operation Of The Moral Law is redolent of early Prong again but with a nicely scrappy solo, it also races along in a manner similar to some Metallica songs from their earlier days. The Whispers has more of that Killing Joke vibe coursing through its veins except when Tommy and co turn up the Metal and then it turns into an unstoppable but tuneful juggernaut. A strange but satisfying mixture which again highlights the song-writing capability and wide influences of this group. Self Righteous Indignation is a down-tuned gem. As with Blood Out Of A Stone it appears to be out of place on this album but again it causes a necessary disruption to the flow. It could have been written at the same time as the album Cleansing. It has a visceral energy that pulses and grinds and brings to mind Godflesh, although there is no electronic instrumentation, makes this a highlight. A dark and menacing spotlight is placed upon personal and societal values coupled with a constant musical personality and this is why it stands out from the other songs. There may appear little variation and lack of instant melodic appeal but it shows that Prong still regard their history as being important enough not to be forgotten. Rulers Of The Collective lightens the mood bringing with a return to the power-packed, sing-a-long style pervasive on the majority of the songs on this release. More use of studio post-production is used here and the last two songs although they don’t distract from these last songs. While the verse for this tune is all nice and calming there can only be one course of action in the chorus and solo: to make one helluva noise to let loose to. Compulsive Future Projection uses a messed up drum track to distinguish it, being used sparingly to as not to dominate the song. It is another melodic punch of a song but has a more epic tone to the progression giving it a commercial quality that, on paper, may not sound appealing but if you’ve made it this far you must be loving what you hear. Damn, another singable chorus and you feel like singing and shouting along with Mr Victor. And finally there is Wasting Of The Dawn with a touch more of the digitally semi-ruined drum-track and Killing Joke influence. It seems as if this is one more song which will have to be performed live from this album. It may not be convincing to those who are unfamiliar with Prong but listen to most songs (such as this last one) and the use of raw, unvarnished Metal / US Hardcore riffage for the verse, having a chorus which refuses to be forgotten and harmonised vocals, a sense of the awesome even in the dirt of society holds together this release making it compelling listening.
This was an eye-opener for me: after Rude Awakening Prong called it a day and they reformed in 2003 I didn’t take much notice (Scorpio Rising didn’t please many critics at the time). Hearing this latest album it seems as if Prong have moved on but they retain the voice they honed during their first era: these idiosyncrasies are part and parcel of the sound and have always been audible (the tangents in the progression of each song are something that fans of the group expect). With the addition of greater and effective song-writing as well as immense confidence it looks like Tommy Victor (along with Mike Longworth and Art Cruz) has found a steady platform from which to create music which will continue to attract new fans and keep them. Established fans will love this no matter what – this isn’t a group that relies on smooth rides – and Zero Days gives proof that Prong are anything but a spent force.
With a reputation and history filled with drama Prong are back with another album filled to the brim with their brand of ferocious yet tuneful Metal. This is not just another album for the trio but contains more than its fair of outstanding impact-driven music.