Prong - Songs from the Black Hole 01Being a Prong fan can be a confusing exercise in cognitive dissonance. I am acutely aware of their many musical shortcomings, and yet I keep coming back for the awesome riffs and mosh-worthy aggression. The band’s track record with other people’s songs is pretty bizarre, and when I saw the tracklist for their covers album Songs From The Black Hole, my initial reaction was equal parts glee and dread. This has the potential to either be fucking awesome, or hilariously bad. I enjoy laughter, so either way, I win.

The album kicks off with two tracks that play very much to Prong‘s strengths: “Doomsday,” by Discharge, and the Sisters of Mercy classic “Vision Thing.” Vocalist/guitarist Tommy Victor sounds positively vicious on “Doomsday,” with the band tightening up on the original’s d-beat riffage for a more modern sound. The Sisters‘ harsh atmosphere and dance-ready rhythms are a perfect match, and in Prong‘s hands, “Vision Thing” becomes a more straightforward rocker in the vein of perhaps “Rude Awakening.”

About half of Black Hole covers ’80s hardcore bands, and Victor has done an excellent job choosing material from this era. However, a lot of these songs are textbook examples of “songs that should not be played by Prong.” Case in point: The signature guitar hook from Husker Du‘s “Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely” is mangled into a caricature of Tommy Victor-isms, complete with ridiculous pick squeals and unnecessary dissonance. I literally burst out laughing within 5 seconds of hitting play.

Prong - Songs from the Black Hole 02Bad Brains‘ “Banned In D.C.” is given a delivery faithful to the original, proving nothing except that Victor is no match for Brains‘ manic vocalist H.R. In other news, water is wet. Adolescents‘ “Kids Of The Black Hole” is slowed down to a half-time groove, resulting in one of the more interesting tracks on the album. I’ve wished for years that someone would cover Black Flag’s “The Bars,” and Prong‘s attempt would be a flawless victory, if not for the blatant use of programmed drums. (note: drums on Black Hole are credited to a human being named Art Cruz, but I call bullshit on that).

The inclusion of a Killing Joke song is hardly a surprise. KJ is probably their single biggest influence sonically, and most of Prong‘s classic lineup did time in both bands. “Seeing Red” is an odd choice, however, seeing as how the original version is from 2003, and hardly in need of an update. Stranger still is that Prong simply replicates the original version note-for-note, including Victor imitating Jaz Coleman’s English accent. I chalk this up as a lost opportunity, as a Prongified version of “Wardance” or “Requiem” would’ve been awesome.

The remaining tracks are hit and miss. “Goofy’s Concern” (Butthole Surfers) translates into Prong‘s world quite nicely, seeing as how the song is about 80% guitar divebombs. “Give Me The Cure” (Fugazi) is a surprisingly good fit for Victor’s voice, but once again, the programmed drums destroy all the groove and dynamics. The album closes with a nearly unbearable 6-minute cover of Neil Young‘s “Cortez the Killer,” like a giant middle finger to the entire universe.

As a project that seemed destined to be either fantastic or terrible, Songs From The Black Hole turns out to be a little bit of both. The record is a fascinating exercise in not knowing one’s limitations, but when it’s good, it’s pretty damn fun. I wish Tommy Victor could have found another way to show his admiration for these songs, like maybe a podcast or guest DJ set somewhere. However, the original versions, and the bands responsible for them, are all very much worth checking out if you’re not already familiar with them.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: SPV
Websites: ProngOfficial | Facebook.com/Prong
Release Dates: EU: 2015.03.30 | NA: 03.31.2015

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  • Martin Knap

    and in the meantime… Immortal split up.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Seriously? At least we have Inquisition for our froggy black metal, but still…Ah well, at least All Shall Fall sees them out on a superbly high note.

      • Martin Knap

        agreed

    • michael rodrigues

      well at least i can stop holding my breath :(

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      They’ll be back for $ure

      • Martin Knap

        fetishized abstract value is know for it’s potency to bend reality according to it’s own logic.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          i.e. they’ll go broke suing each other for rights, them have to reform in-order to pay the lawyers…

  • hubcapiv

    The Onion A.V. Club used to do “The 25 Least Essential Records of 20XX.” For projects that existed outside of “good” or “bad,” instead living in the world of “why?”

    Seems to me that a Prong covers record released in 2015 would be a good candidate for that list.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Yeah, “inessential” is exactly the right word here.

  • I like their cover of “Vision Thing” but in all honesty, that’s a tough song to mess up. Otherwise, not so much here I need.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I love their version of the Stranglers ‘Get a grip (on yourself)’…One of the all time great metal cover’s IMO. Right up there with Coroner doing the Beatles ‘Come Together’!

      • András Fodor

        Wasn’t that ‘I Want You (She ‘s So Heavy)’ Coroner covered from the Beatles? Well I’m sure it was, but did they do Come Together too? I love all of their covers, so please let meg know is there’s one I don’t know about!

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Doh, yes you’re right I always get those two songs mixed up, I meant their version of ‘I want you (she’s so heavy). I would love to hear them do come together though!

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Solely because I’m fascinated with “My War” covers, I really wish they’d done “My War” for their Black Flag song. Nonetheless, great read as always. Definitely curious if they’re pulling a Comecon with the “drummer” being named here though.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Their version of “My War” could’ve been damn good. But I like the song they picked — it’s one of the heavier Black Flag tunes, and obscure enough that no one else has covered it yet, to my knowledge. (It’s also pretty much the same song as “Slip it In”.)

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        Wow, it really is nearly the same thing. Pretty decent though, it works with the Prong sound quite well I think. But those drums…totally in agreement with you there, they could’ve done better.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          We called them out on those drums for their last album too. I would love if someone in the know could confirm or deny their real-ness.

          • hubcapiv

            Fake drums on “The Bars” is especially ironic (yes!) because in the original track you can clearly hear the odd, quiet “click-clunk click-clunk click-clunk” (check the intro 0:10 – 0:17) that makes regular appearances throughout Black Flag’s Slip It In – Loose Nut – In My Head era.

            I always assumed was some mechanical something in the drum kit bleeding into the sound recording.

            Point being, there’s no doubt THOSE are real drums, and probably done in one take, too.

            Although he produced many iconic 80s records, you couldn’t really call Spot a fanatic for details. But then he was probably being paid in beer, Rice-a-Roni and verbal abuse, so I can’t be too hard on the guy.

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            Yeah, most of Spot’s records sound like complete garbage (especially the Husker Du stuff). I’m amazed that none of that stuff has been remixed/remastered in the last 30 years.

          • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

            Also: that noise you mentioned on the original version is the sound of Bill Stevenson keeping time with his left foot on the hi-hat pedal. Y’know, stuff that people had to do in the old days, before click tracks and Drumkit From Hell.

  • Wilhelm

    I haven’t listened to Beg to Differ for at least ten years, judging from this tune, I’ll just listen to that one instead.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Whats TV doing with programmed drums on an album of mostly 80’s hardcore?!?!
    Seems a totally bizarre decision. It could’ve been interesting with this material if he’d channeled Godflesh and Big Black for these songs & used a proper 80’s TR 606 drum machine, which both Big Black and the Sisters used…probably Godflesh too.
    I got too much love for Prong to ever be angry, will check this out anyway.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Actually, if Tommy V. had just gone super raw with an ’80s drum machine, that could’ve been really cool. I’m all for fake drums that make no secret of it (i.e. Godflesh). It’s the whole “pretending to have a real drummer” thing that bugs me.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Yeah I agree.
        In principle I think this record is a great idea. It was a golden era of American music / music and deserves to be celebrated.
        I was and remain a big fan of all those bands. For me part of the charm of that era was the no fucks given integrity and looseness, the creative overdrive and burn fast intensity… if ever there was a time to let it all hang out, so to speak and not worry about programming your drums this was probably it…

    • Matt Vogt

      Godflesh used an Alesis HR-16 IIRC.

      Now that I’m commenting – I’ve listened to the tracks on this I know best (‘Give Me the Cure’ and ‘Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely’), and they don’t work for Prong at all…

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        right,
        I dont wanna know… is such a great song so I can see why they’d want to do it but I could think of a few others that might have worked better for prong, like ‘standing by the sea’ or ‘broken home broken heart’… maybe … theres always next time :)

  • sir_c

    There’s too much Prong heritage to tempt me to comment on this in an honest way.

  • MANASYt

    Whatever…I enjoy the album, I don’t think its a 2 outta 5 anyway LOL. For some reason this website is always bashing Prong anyway…Most other reviews a very positive…Most bands this old take 4-5 years to release anything these days so I’m not sure what the hell are you bitching about?!

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      No one was bitching, or bashing Prong. Several of us here at AMG are big-time Prong fans, including myself — we’d just like to see them make better records. If AMG existed when “Cleansing” was released, we’d probably have given it a very high score.

      • I second that. I love the early Prong albums. I want more material of that caliber.

        • Guest

          Which other band releases material like they did 25 years ago? Keep dreaming….’Ruining Lives’ is amazing for something coming out in 2015.

  • Davert Jopiesaus

    Programmed drums my ass, sample reinforcement/replacement. Wich is what almost everyone does.