As a music enthusiast since a very young age, I’ve been able to see the power and effect specific bands from a point in time have on genres and on their peers. It’s truly a remarkable thing to see and hear. There is one band in particular that never really got their due and that is a bit unsettling in my mind. That band is Prong.
Formed in 1986 by two CBGB’s employees, house sound engineer Tommy Victor (guitar/vocals) and doorman Mike Kirkland (bass), later joined by former Swans drummer Ted Parsons, these three would form the band Prong and begin their ascent into heavy music notoriety. Originally the band was more of a hardcore punk band but by the time they went into the studio to record their landmark album Beg To Differ, Prong really started to find and develop their own sound. They had developed a more groove oriented style of thrash metal and a guitar sound that would influence countless amounts of bands and players over the years. For their next album, Prove You Wrong, Prong began to incorporate electronics, samples, and a bit more melody. By the time their fifth album Cleansing was released, it would also be the album to really launch the band into a different sphere with songs like “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck,” “Broken Peace,” and “Whose Fist Is This Anyway.” Cleansing also featured a lineup change as former Killing Joke members Paul Raven (bass) and John Bechdel (keyboards). Their next album, 1996’s Rude Awakening, would prove to be the bands last for a while. After being dropped by their label, all the members would leave and go on to other bands. Tommy Victor would join Danzig’s band, Ted Parsons would join Godflesh and Jesu, Paul Raven returned to Killing Joke and John Bechdel would begin to work with Fear Factory.
After an 8 year hiatus, Prong came back on the scene with Tommy Victor and new batch of players which included the great Monte Pittman. Through the course of the years Prong would continue to release new music in between Tommy playing and writing for Danzig and Ministry. In 2007, Prong released the album Power of the Damager via Al Jorgensen of Ministry’s label 13th Planet. As Prong continued to release new music and tour, the line up would change as well. Former Static X bassist Tony Campos would be among the alumni of Prong. It really wasn’t until 2011 and 2013 that the Prong line up would become such a force as the original. With the additions of bassist Jason Christopher in 2011 and drummer Art Cruz in 2013, along with Tommy Victor, Prong was once again on a path to kick ass. The albums that followed such as Ruining Lives (2014), the covers album Songs From The Black Hole (2015) which includes the great cover of Cortez The Killer by Neil Young), X- No Absolutes (2016) which is also one of my personal favorites of the band) and finally Zero Days (2017) have really breathed new life into the band.
Musically Prong is still kicking ass but, it’s the lyrics and vocals that have really been stepped up. In an 2016 interview Tommy stated “I think the vocals have gotten better and better and that’s indicative on the new record. I spent a lot more time on the lyrics. They had to be to be perfect on this one. That’s really where I’ve been moving with the Prong experience. That’s become the centerpiece of my interest — the lyrics and the vocals. Finding riffs is very difficult. That is probably the less enjoyable aspect of making the record, because everything’s been done already. These guitar players and kids today are so amazing and outstanding, it’s like, how do you compete with that? So finding that is difficult. I think we did a good job, but the pressure to write really good songs every record is of more strategic importance here, because I think that where veterans can somehow stand alone because you know how to write songs. You’ve done it in the past. The kids might be able to destroy you on their instruments these days, but to write a good ol’ rock and roll song, that’s something we may be able to do better than them. That’s what we have to focus on.” That statement is beyond true and the albums that Prong has released recently, really shows how to “write” a song.
Prong is and will always be pioneers of a style and sound that would go on to be highly influential. As you look back at bands like Korn, Chevelle, Static X, Soulfly, etc you can really tell where their sense of “groove” comes from. One tidbit that I’ve always found interesting is that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fell in love with the guitar tone of Tommy’s back on Beg To Differ, and if you listen closely to both Broken and The Downward Spiral, you can definitely hear it. There is no doubting the amount of influence and inspiration Prong has given to the heavy music world. It’s time to show the appreciation to a great band and give them their due. So thank you Prong for all the years of great tunes and the influence you’ve passed down.
Prong Albums (well my favorites):
Beg To Differ:
Prove You Wrong:
Carved Into Stone:
Power Of The Damager:
X- No Absolutes: