Zero Days by ProngRelease date: July 28, 2017
Prong have been around the block a few times. They had their beginnings as a New York hardcore crossover act in the late 80s, with metallic riffs that appealed to metal kids (i.e. me). Once the production had been sorted out early albums Beg to Differ and Prove You Wrong offered spare, angular riffing with a melodic edge. They had metal kudos (Metallica artist Pushead did the cover for Beg…), but didn’t sound quite like the guys with the long hair: it was compelling. They went all muscular and Pantera after that while the world basked in Kurt Cobain’s aura, and around that time my musical horizons broadened. Seeing them live in a sweatbox venue in Cambridge (UK not MA) in about 1991 was very memorable. Prove You Wrong still gets a regular spin round my house. After a hiatus in the 2000s Tommy Victor and co have revived their earlier sound and made an energetic string of albums since 2012, including a set of crunchy and well-received cover versions on 2015’s Songs from the Black Hole.
Zero Days sounds to me like they are eschewing an album chock full of muscular metal riffs for a bit more variety, and a lot of it is very … accessible. It’s got the punch of a Prong album, with plenty of fast riffing and heavy thunder, but there’s a lilt in Victor’s voice at times that makes me think “damn, he’s written a single”. It makes for an album that’s a good deal broader in scope than the single-lane thud and roar of a lot of modern metal albums. Take ‘Blood Out of a Stone’, for instance, with its dramatic drumming and an almost plaintive call and response in the vocals, with Victor singing “I’m only human”. It has an almost Green Day-like feel.
Next track ‘Operation of the Moral Law’ reminds us that he’s not actually going to join Green Day anytime soon and crashes on with the hardcore pounce and drum work of an early Anthrax record. This back and forth continues through the album. ‘Divide and Conquer’ has a properly melodic chorus that could come from a band that cares about shifting radio-friendly units. Victor’s voice has a fabulous melody to it on this track. There’s a harder edge in the refrain and it’s all very catchy. Interspersed with the more melodic numbers are the likes of the pounding thrash of ‘Forced into Tolerance’ and the rumbling doom of ‘Self Righteous Indignation’.
‘The Whispers’ sounds to me like classic Prong – a sparse, hooky melody and deliciously crunchy bass that’s high in the mix, all underpinned by metronome drumming and a very memorable chorus. The lyrics are obviously a big part of this record, with environmental and political themes running through, showing a strong moral conscience in the songwriting. Plus there’s resignation as to the state of things: title track ‘Zero Days’ referring to “zero days…out of options…judgement day”.
Zero Days offers it all: fast galloping thrash and slower, heavier numbers, many with a massive dose of hooky melody that keeps the interest all the way through. This variety, the light and the shade, make for a very strong, very listenable metal album, and one that will stay on my playlist for a long while. This is possibly Prong’s finest effort since Prove You Wrong.