Tommy Victor’s Prong started out as echoey, hard-to-hear crossover thrash (ah! Those innocent pre-loudness war days), then hit their commercial and creative stride in the early nineties as dry, tight, Pantera-esque groove metal. The band dissolved in ‘96 or ’97, after Epic Records decided they weren’t selling a sufficiently epic number of records and released them from their contract (ah! Those innocent giant record company days). Victor went on to play guitar with Danzig, while Ted Parsons and Paul Raven crossed the pond to work with Godflesh. Despite touring with Mr. Misfit himself, Tommy Victor got the old Prong itch in 2000. He quickly installed revolving doors in the studio (for all the musicians) and got to work on some brand new material.
Nowadays Prong is more active than ever, with the awkwardly titled X – No Absolutes (Victor is either unaware of, or unconcerned with modern song/album-file naming convention) arriving as their fourth studio album since 2012. Today’s incarnation of Prong (also the fourth since 2012) no longer sound like Pantera (probably a good thing, given Phil Anselmo’s recent Vulgar Display of Power). However, the band have not escaped all the wormholes; while the rest of the universe aged by 25 years since 1991, Prong’s sound only aged by eight or nine, landing them right in one particular heyday…
California’s P.O.D. (Payable on Death – they are Christian) recorded a string of popular albums in the late 90s and early 2000s, including The Fundamental Elements of Southtown, Satellite and Payable on Death. Early versions of songs for a 2005 follow up to Payable on Death were misplaced during the aftermath of a studio fire and accidentally ended up in Tommy Victor’s guitar case, as he swept through Los Angeles on the Danzig tour. Upon arriving home, Victor listened to the songs once, then placed the CD-R on his mahogany bookshelf, where they remained unheard… until now!
Or at least it seems that way. In fact, when Victor’s vocals take on that slightly-phased/chorused Rastafarian lilt, you’ll swear you’re in the car with Wuv Bernardo and Sonny Sandoval! The music is just that relentlessly uplifting. For example “Do Nothing” posits emotionally bleak lyrics (“Welcome to the world of unhappiness,” proclaims Victor), but surges like a diaphanous neon power-ballad aimed squarely for the heavens.
This isn’t to say that X – No Absolutes is all nü and no metal. The record has lots of chuggy riffs and squealing pinch harmonics, as well as some Slayer-style squealing solos. Thrashy passages flourish, and drummer Art Cruz’s double bass game is undeniable. The songs are about three or four minutes long and contain enough different approaches to give the album some welcome variance.
X – No Absolutes is a real modern day blast from the past, and therefore hard to take seriously as more than idle nostalgia. However, the music here is pleasant, balanced and affirming. These traits will burn like acid on the pale skin of tr00 metalheads, but for those who don’t consider liking P.O.D. or Sevendust a deeply shameful and aberrant thing, Prong’s latest is a pretty solid record.