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Prong - "Carved Into Stone" (CD)

Prong - "Carved Into Stone" CD cover image

"Carved Into Stone" track listing:

1. Eternal Heat
2. Keep on Living in Pain
3. Ammunition
4. Revenge...Best Served Cold
5. State of Rebellion
6. Put Myself to Sleep
7. List of Grievances
8. Carved Into Stone
9. Subtract
10. Path of Least Resistance
11. Reinvestigate

Reviewed by on April 28, 2012

"'Carved Into Stone' works both lyrically and musically because Victor knows how to write a hook."

Tommy Victor’s name (interviewed here) has been associated more with Ministry and Danzig over the last couple of years than Prong. There is a reason Glenn Danzig and Al Jourgensen have continued to employ Victor as their ax man; he knows how to create memorable rhythms enveloped in scraping, gravelly tones. Victor flexes his picking muscles with “Carved Into Stone,” his latest outing with his baby, Prong. He returns to the style that caught the ears of Danzig and Jourgensen, and revisits the sounds that made Prong such a major player in the ‘90s.

“Carved Into Stone” works both lyrically and musically because Victor knows how to write a hook. Victor’s voice, a hybrid of yelling and singing, isn’t anything to marvel over, but he understands how to make it work. Although the album thrives on concrete-textured guitar tones and even the occasional pummeling drum beat, Victor strips these away to outline his choruses. He uses backing vocals to create a dialog on “Keep on Living in Pain.” The title track switches swampy, Crowbar-like groove with melody.

From the lead-boot stomping groove of “Carved Into Stone” and the hardcore gait of “State of Rebellion,” to the alternative movements of “Revenge...Best Served Cold,” fans of Prong albums “Cleansing,” “Prove You Wrong” and “Rude Awakening” will mostly likely identify with “Carved Into Stone.” “Keep on Living in Pain” includes a segment of muted drum and bass where Victor plays a succession of notes that brings back the build up to the chorus on “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck.” As much as “Carved Into Stone” recalls the past, Victor and his cohorts (bassist Tony Campos and drummer Alexei Rodriguez) are by no means ignorant to the sounds of today.

The speed picking on “Eternal Heat” could fit on any thrash titan’s album. However, the drumming runs at both a thrash tempo and death metal tempo when Rodriguez takes a blasting approach. Much like modern metal royalty, Lamb of God, their rhythms seem derived from classic thrash, but with down-tuned, hulked-out tones like those on “Keep on Living in Pain” and “Ammunition.”

Unlike some of today’s song writers who use open-chord breakdowns as a crutch for poor song writing, Prong smoothly transitions pace. Sometimes, though, they sink their teeth into the jugular and don’t let go until your corpse is a shriveled, dehydrated husk. The group moves with a full head of steam on “List of Grievances.” Victor keeps his wrist in constant motion, picking away at this neck-thrashing speed metal number.

“Carved Into Stone” excels in the area of composition, tasty guitar licks and memorable choruses. Maybe it’s Victor’s vocals, but there is something about Prong that restricts them from being much bigger than they are. This same restriction has kept them from being a top tier act in my metal pantheon. Prong fans should pick up “Carved Into Stone,” and newcomers should also give it a try.

Highs: "Carved Into Stone" is well-written, has strong hooks and super heavy riffs.

Lows: Tommy Victor's vocals aren't bad, but are the album's weakest link.

Bottom line: A solid outing for fans of classic Prong and modern metal groove.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)