Prong – Songs From the Black Hole

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SPV/Steamhammer

Review by Rick Ossian

Buy the CD HERE and the MP3s HERE

Normally when I am confronted with a covers album I am sceptical at best.  I’ve been burned before with these clowns trying to emulate their heroes, and quite frankly have just about had my fill.  However, when I noticed it was my thrash metal heroes Prong, I decided to make an exception.  Prong are three stalwart metal champs who hail from Los Angeles by way of New York.  They are Tommy Victor (vocals, guitar), Jason Christopher (bass, backing vocals) and Art Cruz (drums).  Most of you may know Prong from their Rude Awakening days, as the track Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck was a regular FM staple when I was living in our state’s capital.  This may be among their best work since that lofty peak.

For the most part, the tracks contained herein are covers of punk rock denizens that most of you may have heard whispered in the corners of clubs and wild parties.  Husker Du? you would hear, or Fugazi, to which the inevitable reply, ‘who are those guys talking about?‘  Some of the bands covered on this record were never chart darlings or even critics’ champions.  Most of them were never really household words, save for, perhaps, Neil Young.  The mere fact that there is a Neil Young track on board here is almost completely incongruous, especially given the other selections!

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Doomsday, originally recorded by Discharge, is short but sweet, with heavy riffage and powerful drums.  There is even a lead guitar shredding solo at about 1:20.  This tune is a serious jam that is over way too quickly.

Vision Thing, a Sisters of Mercy cover, as our fearless leader has observed, is “really rather excellent“.  Some killer riffing busts down the dear, and main riff kicks some serious ass.  With lyrics like “twenty-five whores in the room next door” and “another motherfucker in a motorcade”, how can you lose?

Goofy’s Concern was originally a Butthole Surfers number, and is about as faithful as you can be when it comes to the Surfers.  I witness the spectacle that is the Butthole Surfers live in Omaha one night, and I can tell you that I never quite looked at music the same way after that event.  For Prong‘s version I can tell you I was similarly fixated, especially when the droning intro gave way to trip-hammer drumming and heavy guitar riffing and vocal screaming and — well, you get the picture.  Some VERY intense stuff.  The main riff is excellent, as is the norm with Prong.  This one is another of several on board here that is agonizingly short but sugary sweet.

Kids of the Black Hole, an Adolescents tune, is done up again with drones, heavy riffing on the guitars and super fucking bad-ass drumming.  This is almost metal psych, in a way – it doesn’t really sound like punk – but then it is a heavy metal band doing classic punk rock covers.  The epitome of musical irony, you might say?  Just Prong doing their thing, I say.  The fierceness and the fury are there, and even a spoken word ‘house of’/’nights of’ rap, plus an instrumental breakdown at about the four-minute mark.  Everything a growing metalhead could want or need…

The Bars is a Black Flag number, and the boys do it up right, with a wonderful opening bass line, busy-as-hell drums and guitar joining in almost instantaneously.  There are lots of surprises here, including a wicked fast guitar solo shredding away (2:55) and a guitar fade-out.  Not typical of punk rock, but then what is?

Seeing Red was originally a Killing Joke anthem, and the Prong treatment features a cool guitar intro heralding the punk onslaught that soon follows.  The bass and drums join in at about 10 seconds in, shortly followed by vocal intensity at 20.  I was reminded of Hawkwind, of all bands, particularly when they do their space punk routine on the live Space Ritual stuff.  The end features droning feedback and a guitar fade out again.

Husker Du’s Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely is up next, and Prong‘s turn on this punk classic features heavy feedback, squalling guitars and pounding drums and bass.  Some melody is actually happening here vocally, which is another thing that one may not find normal for punk OR heavy metal, for that matter.  Seems Prong are full of surprises.  I was reminded of Black Star Riders, strangely enough, on this number.  At 1:30 there is some seriously shredding lead work again, and the drums are hellishly busy, almost nihilistic, if you will.

Fugazi‘s Give Me The Cure is the next to get the Prong treatment, and they grace its intro with a cool psych guitar figure, followed by droning and drums AGAIN.  I know, broken record, Rick – right? Of course!  Just listen and you will know that they have put the Prong stamp on things, so to speak.

Banned In D.C., originally done up by Bad Brains, features more of the same – heavy drus, screaming vocals, burning guitar.  This is super heavy punk mixed with a modicum of thrash.  At about a minute in they shift into hard rock, almost heavy metal territory.  At 1:45 there is what seems by now to be the obligatory lead guitar solo.  Not a bad turn at all.

Finally we come to the closer, a beautifully done cover of Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer.  This one was a a faithful enough cover to bring chills to my spine.  It is what we will refer to as “the single”.  Whether or not it garners any FM airplay is for anyone to say.  My guess is that it may not, but that would only be the loss of the radio station’s.  If not for the repetition and the selections, I would probably give this one top marks.  It is tempting.

****/5

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