Every Prong Album Ranked From Worst To Best By Tommy Victor
On several levels, Prong have always been one of metal’s more revolutionary bands. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the New York-based trio flooded traditional thrash with low-end guitars and hip-swinging rhythms, helping to create the genre we now call groove metal and influencing acts like White Zombie and Pantera. But on top of that, Prong were one of New York City’s premiere metal bands, combining the many disparate artistic flavors around the Big Apple into a unique musical identity, introducing metal to concepts and sounds that just weren’t available in LA or Florida.
And while we think of Type O Negative as Brooklyn’s band, Prong frontman Tommy Victor asserts that he was one of the first metal musicians make in-roads into the city’s most popular borough today.
“I was a pioneer back in the day — I was one of the first people to live off the L Train back in the day, over on Graham Avenue,” says Victor. “It’s changed a lot. Where I lived was not that bad. It was was a completely Italian neighborhood, where a lot of people didn’t speak English. It was old Brooklyn. I was still working at CBGBs at the time late at night, and there were no alternative people there. It was untouched by any alternative culture at all. It’s amazing that it was three stops out of Manhattan, and it was a completely different world. There was no sign of an art world. The neighbors weren’t that great, because we dressed conservatively to get the apartment, and after that I was rocking the leather jacket I used to wear, and my landlord was like, ‘What the Hell is this?’”
Tommy’s legacy is longer and stronger than some might realize — Prong have 11 studio albums in total, and are releasing a new EP, Age Of Defiance, this Friday. To honor the latest installment in the band’s extensive catalog, we asked Tommy to rank Prong’s albums from worst to best. Here’s the marching order he gave us…
11. Scorpio Rising (2003)
“I don’t even know if this is a Prong record in a way — I’d stopped Prong, and then got a phone call offering to do another record after we got dropped. It was a blind call — the guy said, ‘Is this Tommy Victor? How about doing another Prong record?’ I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ I was running out of money and working on electronic music like an idiot, trying to learn all the digital audio stations — it wasn’t going very well. So I had a couple of songs that were rock, and finally decided to do it, and signed a deal.
“I didn’t have the old band together — Ted [Parsons, drums] had moved to Norway, so it was impossible to get him over here. Paul [Raven, bass], I couldn’t find him. So I had these local yokels, one of whom was Monte Pittman, who eventually played with Madonna. We had this one producer who was just doing coke for three weeks, and couldn’t get anything done. I didn’t like the way it came out — we just had a lot of problems with the mixes, the sound of it. I listened back to it recently, and the production on it is just atrocious. We should’ve spent more time getting the thing dialed in. A lot of people like that record, and they ask why I hate it so much — because it sounds like shit to me!”
10. Rude Awakening (1996)
“Similar kind of circumstances — I just thought that the stars were not aligned during this recording. That was the follow-up to [1994’s] Cleansing, and we just wanted to do something better than Cleansing. Cleansing was so breakthrough, it was something new, and we figured, ‘Let’s do something new and better!’ We just got a little arrogant, and we got a little wishful thinking.
“We had a different A&R guy, and I had to write a whole shitload of songs, and we were constantly under the gun to rearrange them. We were suddenly professional musicians or something, and had to question every little thing we did…it just became a mess. And midway through the session, they said, ‘You guys gotta go in and do this Strange Days movie soundtrack.’ And that took a month at a time, and that was a disaster, too. The budget ended up being fifty grand to record one song on that. When we finally got it done, I walked out on the mixes. Terry [Date, producer] and I did not agree with anything on that record.”
9. Force Fed (1989)
“That’s a cute record, a good record — I just have it down there for audio quality. It was recorded for pennies on the Lower East Side in a storefront on a quarter-inch tape machine. It had a good vibe to it, it’s just not one of the most stellar records out of all of them. We were just babies at the time. It was our second time in the studio. It was done real fast. A lot of people love that record — for the thrash metal/grindcore audience, it was a breakthrough record — but the later records show more maturity.”
8. Prove You Wrong (1991)
“It’s the only record with [bassist] Troy Gregory in it. We had a very fast writing period with him, but he was new, and it was time-permitting — we sort of ran in, threw a bunch of songs together, and made a record. There are some really good moments on there — Unconditional is one of those classic Prong songs, the title track is still a crowd-pleaser — but it’s another one of those records that doesn’t sound that great.
“I didn’t like the production on that one either. We went with Mark Dodgson, and he could just not get the guitar sound together on that record. I thought there was an over-focus on the drums. Ted wanted to be in this big, wide room, but I don’t like the drum sound on that record. It doesn’t pack the wallop that some of the other records do.”
7. Power of the Damager (2007)
“Another record that was done at a weird time. Contrary to some of the epic releases, that was done when I was playing in Ministry and I had some time off. It’s a secondary Prong record, when Prong was not my sole focus, so it’s in the doldrums period of the band. Al didn’t have anything going on, so he was like, ‘Why don’t you make a Prong record on my label?’
“He had some engineer who, in classic Al Jourgensen fashion was pretty much a homeless kid who he decided was going to run his studio for $200 a month. So that’s the engineer we got. Good kid, but you get what you pay for. The songs are strong — Monte and I put our heads together, and the one song Al went in and mixed, The Banishment, came out pretty good — but once it was done, we did a little touring, and we were back with Ministry again, so it wasn’t very focused. It’s a record I’d like to see remixed and remastered. It was mixed in Al’s garage.”
6. Ruining Lives (2014)
“That was a magical record, because everything went to shit in my personal life. It came after Carved Into Stone, where after seven years I began focusing all my time on Prong. That came out fairly close to Carved Into Stone. I think I had a lot more time to write the material for Carved… than Ruining Lives. It’s one of the only records I’ve done where every song that I wrote came out on the record. I didn’t waste anything on that.
“Some of the material is not as good as some of the top-notch records. We had a lot of problems at first — the guy who was going to produce the record sort of flipped out and was kind of loser. That’s when we found Chris Collier. At one point, I was like, ‘This is never gonna happen’, and then in two weeks we were almost finished! I’m really impressed by the vocals, the guitar playing — we just could’ve done with a couple of better songs on the record.”
5. Beg to Differ (1990)
“There’s not much bad you can say about Beg to Differ. It was a very enjoyable record to make, everyone in the band was getting along great, we had a great time with Mark Dodson, we were well-rehearsed, the band was playing a lot of shows…Some of the songs we played on the record we were playing live already, so they were standards.
“In all honesty, it was the first groove metal record. It gets overlooked, but I don’t know who came out with anything before that. Helmet took from that, as did White Zombie. That record was the first one of its kind. I was working at CBGB as the sound man at the time, and I was barraged with all sorts of bands, and I took from all these different bands to make a difference. We went in, laid it down, mixed at Normandy Sound in Rhode Island, played Monopoly at night, drank a shitload of beer…it was a great experience. That was when the band was still fun and everything was cool.”
4. Carved Into Stone (2012)
“That may be, as far as material goes, the best Prong record of all time. The amount of time and energy spent dialing in those songs was exceptional. I decided I was no longer going to throw Al Jourgensen any riffs. I was frustrated with my lack of recognition with that project, and my lack of getting paid. And I decided, I HAVE to make a really good Prong record. I have to do this before I pack it in. I didn’t even know if there was going to be another Prong record AFTER Carved Into Stone.
“We had to shop a demo for that record, and no one was really interested but SPV. [Drummer] Alexei Rodriguez and me worked very hard on that record. [Producer] Steve Evetts was totally energized. We did pre-production, something I’d never done before on any Prong record — we went in for two weeks and jammed the stuff and made arrangements, made tapes, made last-minute adjustments, changed guitar parts, changed bass parts, changed drum parts…Evetts had me in the vocal booth for eight or nine hours a day, teaching me how to sing again.
“If anything, the only problem I have with that is the mixes, and that was my fault. Evetts has a template going, and I made a couple of really poor judgment calls on the mixes. I’ll take blame for that. It’s a fantastic album — it brought Prong back in. If we have any minor hits, Revenge…Served Cold is one of them.”
3. X - No Absolutes (2016)
“Another record that was an absolute enjoyment to make. It was the first record that was completely Chris Collier and me producing and engineering. We did it at Chris’s very spartan studio, and it was just very exciting. Another period of great songwriting came around, and I was inspired. Everything from lyrically to songwriting to production techniques to working with Chris…I just thought it was smooth sailing. Jason [Christopher, bass] was inspired — there was great bass playing on the record. Everything was good, we were excited about the future. Another one of our minor hit Prong songs is ultimate authority. It does well on Spotify, it’s a real crowd pleaser…I’m really proud of that record, man. That might’ve been #1 on the list, but after relistening, I put it down to #3.”
2. Cleansing (1994)
“It’s not a perfect record, but it’s our biggest success, as anybody who knows about the band realizes. It keeps selling — it just doesn’t go away, that record. We just re-released it again by Century Media on vinyl. It’s just one of the great underground alternative metal records of the ‘90s. Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck was all over Beavis And Butthead and MTV at the time – it was a really recognizable anthem, and it’s still to this day.
“It’s amazing how that record came together. We’d just lost Troy Gregory. It was written on Powers Street in Williamsburg in my bathroom on an acoustic guitar, at night, trying to hide from the neighbors because I didn’t want them to know I played in a band. It was an amazing process. Epic Records was unbelievably supportive of the band at that point. Everybody wanted to produce the band, and we eventually went with Terry Date. The label was completely opposed to him, but they eventually came around and supported us. We recorded at Dead Animals, did basic tracks at the Magic Shop, and then ultimately — and this is probably the greatest thing in my whole career — it was mixed at Electric Lady studios in New York. How could you go wrong with that?
“It was an amazing experience, and the result is great. It doesn’t make #1 because there’re a couple of duds on there, a couple of songs that were sort of thrown in. But that’s okay, because we’ve got the hits on that record.”
1. Zero Days (2017)
“It’s a combination of all my history, all my experience, all my songwriting ability, my vocal ability, and every guitar trick I could pull out of my bag — it’s all in that record. I listened to it again, for this ranking, and I was like, ‘Holy shit, the guitar playing on this record is just out of control.’ I don’t know how I did half the stuff on there.
“It’s the perfect Prong record. Every song is sort of a hit in its own way, they’re all anthems. It sounds absolutely fantastic. We spent so much time on the mixes. We mastered it three times. The writing period was strenuous and hard, but we just dialed it in. It’s was a lot of work, and it certainly sounds like it. It’s the strongest, most well-performed Prong record there is. There’s no doubt about it, it’s a slam dunk. You can’t deny any of that, from the material to the guitar playing to the drumming. The lyrics are outstanding. It’s just undeniably the most professional Prong record there is.”
Prong’s new EP, Age Of Defiance, drops Friday, November 29, from SPV/Steamhammer, and is available for preorder.
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