Mavericks in a thrash-metal scene that placed more of a premium on playing with wild abandon and blistering speed than rigid precision, Prong and its brutally intense major-label classic Cleansing, from 1994, was only slightly looser and a tad less militaristic than Helmet’s rugged Meantime. Pummeling industrial minimalism that seemed to march to the orders of an unseen drill sergeant set Prong apart from the herd it had taken a cattle prod to in hard-hitting pieces like “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” and “Whose Fist Is This Anyway?” In the years since, Prong, on occasion, has grown even more taut and single-minded, sometimes mistakenly neglecting the barely harnessed power of its formidable low end. Released from Al Jourgensen’s 13th Planet label – Prong mastermind Tommy Victor also played with Ministry in the early 2000s – and winding up on SPV’s new Long Branch Records imprint, the crossover terrorists have significantly fattened a wiry sonic frame that had grown too lean.
In doing so, they have created a monster, the seething sonic psychopath Carved into Stone. Still painting bleak, disturbing visions of urban decay and street-level violence with technically brilliant musicianship, the harsh realities of Prong’s more recent diatribes are delivered with raging guitars, barking vocals and the double-kick drum blunt-force trauma of Alexei Rodriguez. Roaring out of the gate, the speed-metal blitz of opener “Eternal Heat” leaves one breathless, just as the visceral acts of sonic aggression that follow – namely, “Keep on Living in Pain” and “Ammunition” – somehow maintain the impossible breakneck pace previously set. Thicker and heavier, “Path of Least Resistance” and the surging title track, with its punching-bag rhythms and the kind of widescreen, black-hole choruses the Deftones get lost in, are mazes of dynamic riffage, while “Revenge … Best Served Cold” and “State of Rebellion” subversively chisel biting melodies into their uncompromising marriage of industrial and metal sadomasochism. An awesome sculpture of sound and fury, Carved into Stone is guilty of an aural assault so devastating that it really ought to be locked up.