Tommy Victor has been a busy boy recently. Since Prong returned from their self-prescribed hiatus in 2012 with Carved Into Stone (Long Branch/SPV), Victor has recorded two more albums with the band, played on Danzig‘s covers album Skeletons (Evilive/Nuclear Blast) and toured with both acts. Now, less than a year after the release of their own covers record Songs From the Black Hole (Steamhammer/SPV), Prong are back with X – No Absolutes (Steamhammer/SPV), their third full length in four years. Or fourth if you include the covers album. (Editor’s note: They also have a self-released live album on Bandcamp they are not counting either!)
Although previous record Ruining Lives (Steamhammer/SPV) was generally well received, it felt a little like the band were trying too hard to make sure they pleased everybody by writing songs which sat nicely inside their own safe little pigeon holes. Hardcore song – check. Thrash song – check. Industrial song – check. This time out, there’s a slightly more organic feel to the record in the respect that although there are songs which clearly fit into each of those little boxes, there are some which cross over into others or have a different sound entirely. It appears that recording a covers album has had a positive creative effect on the band.
The opening trio of songs are all about hitting you hard and fast though. ‘Ultimate Authority’ is a mid-paced stomper with a hardcore chorus and a Pantera vibe to its opening riff. ‘Sense of Ease’ is full-on shouty and aggressive hardcore thrashing with a nice breakdown towards the end, and “Without Words” simply punches its way unceremoniously into your ears.
Things fall into standard territory (in a good way) with the next few songs. The title track stands out with its more laid back, but still purposeful approach, and ‘Do Nothing’ is possibly the closest the band have ever come to writing a ballad. There’s a hint of Ministry during ‘Belief System’, the pacy ‘In Spite of Hindrances’ features an all too brief guitar solo which sounds distinctly similar to old school Metallica, and one of the album’s highlights ‘Ice Runs Through My Veins’ begins with a pulsing bassline and a tickly little riff followed by a chorus not a million miles away from The Sisters of Mercy. Victor’s love of pinch harmonics has been noticeably restrained until we get to ‘Worth Pursuing’ when he suddenly throws caution to the wind and hurls a load of them into the mix just for the hell of it. Closer ‘With Dignity’ although actually pretty catchy, is probably the weakest track on the album, sounding more like Linkin Park than it probably should, the bonus track ‘Universal Law’ saving the album from ending on its lowest point.