Prong – ‘Zero Days’

By Jay Hampshire

For many, Prong are to underground metal what Metallica are to mainstream metal: thirty-plus year old veterans who continue to play hard, and have influenced a vast number of bands spanning several notable genres. Tommy Victor and co came bounding back onto the scene a decade ago, after a self-imposed hiatus, and here they stand, ready to batter you senseless with twelfth studio album ‘Zero Days’.

From the first bars of ‘However It May End’ you know that Prong mean business. Gruff vocals lead into a bouncing hardcore riff, stacked with aggressive palm muting. Staccato barks sit over sub-industrial electro lines, before the band lock into a stuttering thrash run that locks in hard, blazing with guitar solos and gang vocals. The title track races and gallops as only thrash can, propelled by energetic kick drums and punchy riffing.

‘Off The Grid’ barges in with muscular riffing and soaring, emotive choruses, rattling with machine gun snare work. ‘Divide and Conquer’ swaggers with a bassy groove, stomping away with simple hard rock indulgence. ‘Forced Into Tolerance’ tumbles away with big drum fills and a slightly questionable lyrical message. ‘Interbeing’ tolls with atonality and builds slowly with attacking guitars, climbing upwards.

‘Blood Out Of Stone’ broods slowly, swelling and creeping, releasing the tension into guitar grinds, heavily dominated by vocals. ‘Operation Of The Moral Law’ is all sleaze and swagger, breathlessly tearing forwards with razor edged riffs and piercing solos. ‘The Whispers’ screeches with feedback and sits heavy with layering, but doesn’t offer much that the preceding tracks haven’t already. ‘Self Righteous Indignation’ bristles with menace, a fist-pumping slugger of shudderingly large riffs and massive amounts of sonic space – proof that Prong don’t have to play blisteringly fast to create something great.

‘Rulers Of The Collective’ sparkles with more melodic guitars and a skipping electro drum loop, while ‘Compulsive Future Projection’ comes across as super clean, with sub-pop vocal hooks, djenty riffing and an infectious good time vibe. ‘Wasting Of The Dawn’ sadly fizzles a little rather than bring the show to a close triumphantly, sounding all too similar to the dozen tracks that have already assaulted our ears.

Looking to the positives, it’s clear that Prong have still got it. There’s a tonne of energy and vitriol channelled through ‘Zero Days’, and I definite sense that the trio are still absolutely in love with what they do. You can isolate the individual elements and sounds that have influenced bands from Trivium and Slipknot to Nine Inch Nails, and the band combine these often disparate sounds well, without any ragged edges or transitioning.

This isn’t a perfect record, however. The production comes up a little too squeaky clean, missing the booming bottom end and snarling guitars that could have added extra clout – although it’s definitely a clear sounding record, with plenty of breathing space for each instrument. Victor’s vocals, while solid, seem to dominate certain tracks, and a shift to ‘less is more’ could be argued. The record also feels long. Not in the sense of a doom album where each track towers at twenty minutes, but the sheer volume of songs here (thirteen total) leaves the listener feeling more than a little drained, and serves to expose some of the glaring similarities between a few of the tracks.

Overall, ‘Zero Days’ is a solid listen, full of fist-raising thrash and enough added elements to keep things fresh. Whether it will stand up to repeated listening, or the band’s lauded back catalogue, is up for debate.

JAY HAMPSHIRE

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