Don’t you wish “Headbangers Ball” was back? Not just for the obvious reasons, if you’re a metalhead. The Gen X’ers who made The Ball their Saturday night Sabbath will confirm that what made the show so damned great, and at the same time so damned awful, was just as much about the intro and commercial-break music as it was about the videos and band interviews. S.O.D. and then PRONG helped relieve the frequent drought propagated by the Metal Light prefabs ruling The Ball’s first run.
It’s been ages since we heard snippets from the “Beg to Differ” album gnawing along the MTV airwaves. If the timely breakout of PANTERA did anything for anybody trying to survive in American metal, it was to inadvertently give PRONG sustained life on MTV upon dropping its monster 1994 album, “Cleansing”. Though Ted Parsons and Mike Kirkland have long departed the band, with a score of replacements enough to cover three hockey lines, riff-monger Tommy Victor has been making the most of PRONG‘s second coming. Sheesh, it seems so long ago since Epic Records unceremoniously dumped PRONG, a mere month after the release of the prophetically titled “Rude Awakening”: 21 years, actually.
The worst you hear anyone speaking out against PRONG since the 2002 rebirth are those who gripe over “Scorpio Rising”, but that’s about it. The reason, Tommy Victor knows what the hell he’s doing. Particularly after scoring huge with “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck”. The song’s a staple he holds dear to his songwriting scheme, and it is good for at least one attempt at replication per album. The good news for Victor‘s purposes is he’s a damned good metal songwriter with other tricks up his sleeve. He’s made recent efforts such as “Ruining Lives”, “Carved Into Stone” and “X – No Absolutes” worthy entries into the always evolving PRONG canon.
Victor states he went the extra mile, to paraphrase, to write PRONG‘s latest album, “Zero Days”. With the benefit of returning bassist Mike Longworth and drummer Art Cruz, “Zero Days” carries an energized vibe to it. As ever, Victor tinkers with the core sound by tapping into agro metal, hardcore, anthem rock and industrial while remaining true to the marching crunch and thrash that go into a PRONG record. This time, he brings a horde of guests to the studio including Chris Canella, Greg Harrison, Marzi Montazeri, Matt Williams, Fred Ziomek and an entire “Prong Gang Vocal Choir” lending shouts galore to an album already stuffed with fortitude.
A little bit of HELMET and a little bit of FEAR FACTORY with Tommy Victor‘s scowling riffs go into “However It May End” and the title track. The album sets upon a fast and rowdy course with speedsters dominating for a long while, i.e. “Zero Days”, “Off the Grid”, “The Whispers”, “Operation of the Moral Law” and the hardcore-crafted “Forced Into Tolerance”, one of the fastest and fiercest songs PRONG‘s ever toiled through. For a long time, the pace of this album is so heated Tommy Victor has no choice but to match the searing swiftness of “Zero Days” with a beyond sick solo, shared in tandem with shredmaster Greg Harrison.
The tempo slows dramatically though the intensity remains heaped upon the slithering and filthy “Self Righteous Indignation”, into which Tommy Victor and Mike Longworth spew their nastiest chords. “Rulers of the Collective” steps up to mid-tempo and carries wafts of the title cut to “Rude Awakening” on the verses, while dialing into a pogo-inducing shout-along on the choruses. “Compulsive Future Projection” maintains the same groove with a mounting melody and a couple of dallying breakdowns to keep PRONG relevant while getting out as hastily sneaking them in.
There are some genuinely amazing and catchy numbers like “Divide and Conquer” and the exquisite enormity of “The Whispers”, whisking “Snap Your Fingers” into a brisk, KILLING JOKE-esque soar. Paul Raven is no doubt thwacking a four-string salute from the other side in appreciation. “The Whispers” is one of the most perfect songs ever written by Victor and PRONG—and there have been quite a few along the way.
“Wasting of the Dawn” and the bonus track “Reasons to Be Fearful” are second gen “Rude Awakening” with Victor lyrically and figuratively announcing on the latter his testing of the waters, in this case, treading as close to emo core as he dares without pussing out. There’s a lot of thrust behind “Reasons to Believe” while the electro ticks, juicy riffs and wading bass lines on “Wasting of the Dawn” give Art Cruz a thick groove to pound over.
You may have to go to VH1 Classic these days for your old-school metal and hard rock video fix, but if there’s ever a “Headbangers Ball” revival, wouldn’t it be poetic justice if it got served up by the opening riffs to “However it May End”? Tommy Victor might fume that’s a lost cause as he does out of the gate on this album, but you can’t hang that negating tag upon “Zero Days” itself—oh, hell no.