New York City metal band Prong never quite went beyond the "cult following" level of success they attained up through their excellent fourth album, 1994's Cleansing, before calling it quits two years later following the release of its strong follow-up, Rude Awakening. I lost track of the band shortly after that until about a month ago, when I saw they had a new album out and had been putting out releases sporadically throughout the past decade since reforming in 2000. The lone constant in the band is founder Tommy Victor (lead vocals and guitars), with bassist Tony Campos and drummer Alexei Rodriguez rounding out the trio nowadays. Carved Into Stone, their latest, delivers a fulfilling metal fix, along with the pleasant surprise that comes with hearing a great album from a group that had completely fallen off my radar screen as a fan. And chalk one up here for illegal downloading leading to an album sale, as I never would have bought the CD or probably even known Prong were still around if I hadn't seen Carved Into Stone on one of my download sites.
Still intact from when I last heard new material from the band 16 years ago is the aggression and anger in the lyrics and music, as you would expect from a group that integrates elements of thrash metal, hardcore punk, and (to a lesser degree) industrial metal. I always thought Prong sounded a little ahead of their time back in the 90s, so sticking with the core components of their sound from that period doesn't sound dated in 2012. A full throttle threesome of "Eternal Heat", "Keep On Living In Pain", and "Ammunition" open the album and feature some thunderous drumming from Rodriguez and Victor's heavy guitar riffing, accented by fretboard harmonic squeals that the guitarist utilizes almost as much as Zakk Wylde. Speaking of things Ozzy-related, "Subtract" and the title track show an obvious Black Sabbath influence, particularly the latter's "Children Of The Grave"-like mid-song section. "Revenge Best Served Cold", one of the album's healthy serving of about eight top-notch tracks, successfully combines a big, hooky chorus with uncompromising heaviness and some tasteful guitar leads throughout the song. Victor delivers plenty of incendiary guitar soloing throughout the rest of the album as well, notably on "List Of Grievances", "Put Myself To Sleep", and "Ammunition". Vocally, Victor's singing/yelling style may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it serves the material well.
Prong's latest likely won't expand their fanbase much past those already with the band's albums in their collection, but it certainly stacks up with the group's best work from the 90s. In fact, after sampling the last couple of Prong albums I missed (just to give myself a complete picture of their discography), I'd say that Carved Into Stone marks their strongest album yet.