Album of the Week 17-2012: Prong – Carved Into Stone

Finally! Tommy Victor has managed to inject the vigor with which he’s been kicking Al Jourgenson’s teeth in on Ministry’s last few albums into a Prong record! Although I have tremendous respect for Victor as a guitarist, as a songwriter and most of all as someone who keeps soldiering on, no matter what obstacles he encounters, Prong’s discography has been somewhat of a hit-and-miss affair for me. 2007’s ‘Power Of The Damager’ showed a Prong that was stylistically awesome, but seemed a bit tired performance-wise. Look no further for redemption: ‘Carved Into Stone’ is the best Prong record since ‘Cleansing’.

Though less overtly Thrashy than ‘Power Of The Damager’, this album sounds like Tommy Victor doing what he likes best without paying too much attention to what crowd he should please most with the material. The result is something that should appeal to both the Hardcore and Metal crowds of Prong. Also, the more melodic side of Prong is displayed passionately here, though with enough balls to not scare the crap out of longtime listeners.

Additionally, it seems that Prong finally has the musicians it deserves. There’s little doubt about Victor’s qualities as a guitarist – he does, however, outdo himself on a few brilliant guitar solos here – but he’s finally gotten himself a rhythm section that lifts the whole thing to a higher level. He and bassist Tony Campos are already thoroughly familiar with each other’s work through Ministry – not unlike with the late Paul Raven before Campos – and Campos’ bass sound complements this music perfectly. By the way, is there any modern Metal band this guy doesn’t play in these days? Also, I wasn’t too familiar with Alexei Rodriguez, but he might very well be Prong’s best drummer yet. He adapts well to every groove laid down by Victor, but he fares just as well with Thrash polkas and even some blast beats!

If I had to pick a favorite on ‘Carved Into Stone’, it would be the uptempo Thrash riff monster that is ‘List Of Grievances’, as it fits my taste perfectly, but there’s a lot more to enjoy here. ‘Eternal Heat’ is possibly Prong’s best opening track yet and should appeal to any Metalhead, while ‘Revenge…Best Served Cold’ benefits from its inescapable catchiness and has therefore logically been selected as the album’s single. ‘Ammunition’ was already familiar to me due to its inclusion on co-writers Channel Zero’s  ‘Feed ‘Em With A Brick’ and also kicks ass here, although I think Franky De Smet-van Damme’s vocals fit this song slightly better. ‘Reinvestigate’ is a perfect closer in the sense that it leaves the listener hungry to put the album back on and ‘Carved Into Stone’ is the monumental title track this album begs for, the one that brings everything together.

Besides being Prong’s best effort in a long time, ‘Carved Into Stone’ may be the perfect album to start your Prong collection with. For starters, Prong’s crossover may always be too little of one thing to easily adapt to. Tommy Victor seems to have found an answer to that without betraying himself: more Metal, more melody, more power, more stomping Hardcore bits and just all out more Prong. And it’s been a long time since Prong’s been Prong as good as on this album.

Recommended tracks: ‘List Of Grievances’, ‘Revenge…Best Served Cold’, ‘Eternal Heat’, ‘Carved Into Stone’

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