Album Review: Prong - "Ruining Lives"

Heads up, fans of early 90's metal. Prong is back with a new album. But before we get to just how awesome the new album is (sorry for the spoiler), I have my very own, albeit unexciting to anyone but me, Prong story.

It was back in late January, 1992. Bill Clinton was the new President, glam metal was dying a slow, painful death and "alternative music" was beginning to take hold. I had just hooked up with a local band as their biggest fan/roadie when we had the opportunity to open for Prong at the Lost Horizon club in Syracuse, NY. The trip from Albany to Syracuse is not a particularly taxing event unless, of course, you're driving through a blizzard, which we were. The drive took quite a while and we almost died once or twice but, as they say, the show must go on. Suffice it to say, we made it in one piece and the band did, in fact, open for Prong while they were supporting their "Prove You Wrong" album. Rock and roll!

The drive back to Albany was even worse but I'll save that for another day.

Since we're talking about the "Prove You Wrong" album, we might as well mention "Beg To Differ" and "Cleansing" also. These three albums, for me, put Prong near the top of the class when it came to the new face of metal in the early 90's along with Pantera and Sepultura. Prong's music was sparse and aggressive and, in my less-than-humble opinion, "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" is still one of the greats.

I am super excited at the opportunity to review the newest Prong album, "Ruining Lives". It has been nearly 24 years since "Beg To Differ" came out and the band has changed personnel a number of times since then. This time around, it's founding member Tommy Victor on vocals and guitar, Jason Christopher on bass and Art Cruz on the drums.

As far as the new album goes, it's freakin' Prong! The drums are a bit more produced than previous albums but Victor is still nailing it with his guitar sound. The music has also matured quite a bit. Where the riffs and lyrics were more minimalistic in the past, "Ruining Lives" is much more melodic in both the music and the vocals. Where Tommy Victor used to just shout (see "Prove You Wrong"), he now sings from time to time. You'll still hear some of Prong's signature sound, especially on "Absence of Light", but it has been augmented with more melodious choruses throughout.

When a band, especially a metal band, spreads its wings and ventures outside its box, an argument almost always ensues. If this album were made by a new band you had never heard of before you would think, "This is great. It sounds a little like Prong". But since Prong did, in fact, make it, I'm afraid fans of their older material will say, "Why is he SINGING? Why aren't they more pissed off?".

Make no mistake, they're still pissed off but maybe not quite AS pissed off as they were 24 years ago. Tommy Victor and Prong are a New York City band. Remember what New York was like 24 years ago? It was dirty and gritty and Prong's music reflected that grittiness. Now, we have in many places, a kinder, gentler, slightly less gritty New York and Prong's latest album seems to reflect that as well.

The album starts with a handful of kick ass songs but really shifts into high gear in the middle of the record beginning with "Absence Of Light", "The Book Of Change" and "Self Will Run Riot".

Prong really stretches its legs with the poly-rhythmic "Come To Realize". As far as I know, this is a pretty radical departure for the band and is not unwelcomed. This is the maturity of the music I spoke of earlier. As Tommy Victor himself says, "It really is math-metal meets pure hardcore with a crazy-ass riff" and I couldn't agree more.

I didn't love, love, love everything on "Ruining Lives" but I did like it all a lot. It's the same Prong you know and love with a few added features for those of us who have grown along with the music. My days of roadie-ing have long since passed but Prong will always have a special place in the old memory banks. And now, thanks to this new album, we can start a whole new chapter. Rock on!

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