”I hate nostalgia,” declares PRONG frontman Tommy Victor when discussing CARVED INTO STONE, the eighth full-length studio album to bear the band’s name. ”But this record literally has every strand of PRONG’s DNA spliced together in a way that feels more exciting than it has in some time.” While it’s commonplace and cliche for bands to tell you how much better their new album is when compared to their last, Victor’s sentiments on the new PRONG record are no mere creation of a PR hype machine. They’re both accurate and important for longtime fans and new listeners alike. Like it or not, ”nostalgia” is a large piece of the PRONG experience for many listeners, myself included.
As a writer, I’ve thrown down plenty of virtual ink devoted to Victor and his sonic output over the years. In fact, the first twelve paragraphs of a 2009 interview I’d done with Tommy focused on nostalgia – zeroing in on my personal history with the band. Rather than re-hash, check that out in my archives right here. In the time since that was posted, Victor and I would cross paths two more times. The first was on a live webcast from the Los Angeles Convention Center, the second an awkward passing when PRONG played Chicago’s Bottom Lounge with Soulfly. I’m pretty sure my drastic change in appearance – full beard/long hair to clean shaven and short hair – may have been the reason that Victor didn’t seem to recognize me when we quickly exchanged greetings near the merch booth. Regardless, it was on that night that I first experienced the lineup that has stayed together and represents the PRONG of 2012 – a beast that features Tony Campos (SOULFLY, ex-STATIC-X) on the low-end, with Alexei Rodriguez (ex-3 INCHES OF BLOOD) behind the kit. On CARVED INTO STONE, this trio establishes themselves as a force capable of meeting or exceeding the power of the Victor/Parsons/Raven PRONG of the mid-1990’s.
Beg to Differ… Prove You Wrong… Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck… Rude Awakening… all iconic songs in the PRONG arsenal; anthems that each represent a specific time. In nearly a decade’s worth of recorded history since PRONG reactivated, no song was worthy of standing alongside those – until Revenge… Best Served Cold.
By the fourth track of the album, it is made perfectly clear that CARVED INTO STONE is the album that PRONG fans have been eagerly awaiting since 1996’s RUDE AWAKENING. Under the guidance of producer Steve Evetts, PRONG has created a true companion to CLEANSING and ‘AWAKENING. The unmistakable tone has returned, and the groove that was largely missing from SCORPIO RISING and POWER OF THE DAMAGER has been restored. While the latter was a step in returning to the thrashy beginnings of pre-CLEANSING PRONG, the new album really does, as Victor said himself, have “every strand of PRONG’s DNA.”
Revenge… Best Served Cold is perfect, both musically, and lyrically. If you have enemies, this is your new theme song. The band also shot a video for it recently, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they visually realize the lyrics.
But let’s back up three songs – Album opener Eternal Heat wastes no time in breaking out the blast beats and harmonic squeals like a swift punch to the face to remind people that PRONG is here.
Keep On Living In Pain and Ammunition are hard-hitting appetizers that lead into the main course while prompting a question that has been often thought since the early 90’s: “What do we have to do to get more people to listen to (and buy) a PRONG album?“
If anger is the fuel that drives the PRONG engine, CARVED INTO STONE delivers by amping-up the hostility in the album’s back half. If you weren’t “playing for the hate team” already, listen to State of Rebellion or List of Grievances and get back to me. If the latter doesn’t inspire a circle pit or ten during the current tour, audiences have curiously gone deaf. Breaking tradition, the title track this time around does not take the fist-pumping anthem route, but downshifts into sludgy, yet uplifting melody. When Reinvestigate arrives to close out the album, it comes bearing some industrialized synth of a variety long abscent in the PRONG sound. It’s as if the song itself is an answer and statement to everything that PRONG represents.
While nostalgia may feel like a crutch that can sometimes keep one from taking steps into the future, CARVED INTO STONE is proof that sometimes a fresh look at the past is exactly what a band needs in order to open up the doors to a bright new chapter of it’s own existence.
The Rock Father™ Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
PRONG – CARVED INTO STONE will be released on April 24th, 2012 via Long Branch/SPV Records. The band is currently on tour with CROWBAR. Get dates at http://prongmusic.com/. A small note is that Campos is not handling bass duties on the current run of dates due to SOULFLY being on the road as well.
Pictured above: Part of my PRONG collection. POWER OF THE DAMN MIXXXER and CARVED INTO STONE not pictured because they’re digital.