Album Review: Prong – Zero Days
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Ever since their return from the abyss in 2012, American thrash/punk power trio Prong have been unstoppable workhorses. In just five years, the veterans, led by vocal virtuoso and shaman of shredding Tommy Victor, have released four studio albums, while also finding time to tour worldwide with extreme metal royalty, including Testament, Sepultura, Obituary and Exodus. Continuing their workaholic nature, Prong’s eleventh record, Zero Days, is set to drop on 28th July, coming less than eighteen months after their previous full-length offering, X – No Absolutes (2016). Despite the incredibly narrow timeframe the band gave itself for this record, however, Zero Days is not only the best aural treat that Prong have offered since their comeback, but also possibly their greatest achievement since the beloved Cleansing (1994). This album excels among a great many others in Prong’s back-catalogue because, simply, it understands the three biggest aspects that make this band great: massive melodies, muscular guitar riffs and an attitudinal union of hardcore and thrash metal. The opening half of the record especially is beyond manic. Zero Days roars to life with ‘However It May End’, with front-man Victor yelling at the top of his lungs while a fast, incendiary riff quickly takes hold, giving the record a Hatebreed-esque vibe early on. Direct, intense and packed with unhinged aggression, the title track and ‘Off the Grid’ soon follow in the opener’s visceral, punk-inclined footsteps. ‘Divide and Conquer’ interrupts the flow of the all-out hardcore by delivering a whole-hearted metal experience, slowing the pace and introducing more harmonised singing, as well as the biggest hooks of the record thus far. By the end of the song, a great many will be singing along with ‘Divide and Conquer’’s anthemic, eponymous refrain. As far as the guitars go, the song is also one of the most diverse by this point in the album, blending full-on, thrash metal shredding with classic rock power chords to drive home the impact of the upped melodies. ‘Forced into Tolerance’ hammers its way through three minutes of balls-to-the-wall speed with rowdy gang vocals, before ‘Interbeing’’s doomy opening evolves into another harmonic experience. Once more, the chorus is this entry’s highlight, balancing the verses’ shouts with clean, hard rock singing. ‘Blood Out of Stone’ is easily Zero Days’ most accessible cut, displaying radio rock tendencies by opening with a clean-sung and percussion-helmed first verse before breaking down into a fully-fledged chorus rife with addictive hooks. With its gigantic sing-alongs, ‘Blood Out of Stone’ was practically hand-crafted to be a single, and is something that the likes of MTV would have lapped up and played mercilessly on repeat back in the ‘80s or ‘90s. ‘Operation of the Moral Law’ is the perfect counterpoint as a follow-up, with its building riff making it perfect for a live environment. Its masterful call-backs to guitar parts and cues from the era of classic, ‘80s thrash turn this into a possible hit that is destined to get crowds moving worldwide. ‘The Whispers’, ‘Self Righteous Indignation’ and ‘Rulers of the Collective’ then return more than their fair share of harmonies to the proceedings, while also maintaining a pit-creating sense of anarchy through open-string shreds and skull-rattling drumming. ‘Compulsive Future Projection’ continues this newfound trend of Zero Days’ closing tracks, but adds in a hefty dose of Pantera-like groove metal to truly take the power up to 11. Last track ‘Wasting of the Dawn’ is a constant effort, with Victor’s riffs and voice not quite as diverse as with other songs, but its length and focus make it an adequate closing suite. As a finale, however, something like the guttural ‘Operation of the Moral Law’ may have been more exceptional, functioning the way ‘Spit Out the Bone’ did for Metallica’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016), adding an immense dose of vitality to leave listeners on an energetic high. However, as is, Zero Days is still a rip-roaring success for Prong and definitely within the upper echelon of their discography. Its middle section is easily where its shines best, feeling slightly more versatile, mature and expert than the flat-out hardcore that opens the album. Without a doubt, Zero Days is a great record. But perhaps with different sequencing (something resulting in the more punishing hardcore cuts being littered throughout the album, instead of purely in the first half), it could have been perfect. Zero Days will be available via Steamhammer / SPV on 28th July.