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Ruining Lives

Steamhammer (2014)
Rating: 9.5/10

Formed in the late 80s, Prong’s original run (which lasted until 1997) is considered to be the inspiration for the nu metal movement. While bands like Primus and Faith No More were able to eventually outrun that distinction, Prong doesn’t seem to be able to shake it thanks in no small part to their only major hit, ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’ (from 1994’s Cleansing).

Since 2002 though, mainman Tommy Victor has led a revolving group of musicians through a series of albums that most consider mediocre at best. Ruining Lives changes all that, though. While I’m sure Victor is proud of all his works, this one seems to sound a bit more inspired and a whole lot more energetic.

For Ruining Lives Victor steps it backwards a little bit by utilizing a little cleaner sounds, and even adding in a bit more melody than we have heard post-reunion. ‘Self Will Run Riot’ immediately comes to mind when throwing that statement out there. It’s heavy and fast, but not so heavy and so fast that it bogs itself down with “tough guy” imagery, and Victor’s clean vocals are really melodic. ‘Remove, Separate Self’ has an even more mainstream edge that is balanced out by a killer heavy riff in the bridge. Again though, Victor’s vocals are excellent here. It may bother some fans to hear him singing with such a melodic edge so much of the time, but I think it beautifully illustrated how amazingly versatile Victor has become vocally over the years.

‘Ruining Lives’, ‘Come To Realize’, ‘Limitations And Validations’ and ‘The Barriers’ all have that classic Prong sound that inspired nu metal (and, admit it, the first wave of nu metal was pretty interesting) without any of the trendy sounding bullshit that the genre is associated with these days. Likewise, ‘Chamber Of Thought’ flies by at a thrashier clip than a lot of the record, and it offers a little extra heaviness to the record that some will feel is missing. These songs make up the bulk of the record, and they blend the riff heavy American metal that Prong is instantly identified by with elements of the late 90s melodic death metal movement (particularly with the mid-paced guitar work) and plenty of hidden melody that sticks with you long after the album is finished.

In the end, this is the first post-reunion Prong album that feels like a classic. Everything about this album sounds inspired and energetic, from the old school cover art to the fast pace to the angry, sometimes soaring vocal work. I have always enjoyed Prong, but this is the first album since Cleansing that refuses to leave my CD player (yep, I still have one of those!).

Mark Fisher

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