Prong’s career on planet metal has been a rollercoaster of a journey. You can’t have existed as long as this New York institution has without ups and downs and this trio has provided and endured its share of everything. After crawling out of the Lower East Side’s no-wave, noise and hardcore scene as a metallic outlier back in the mid-80s with full-stop classics Force Fed, Beg to Differ and Prove You Wrong, there was a hit-and-miss mid-90s major label spell, some terrible showings during the first decade of this millennium, a stunning return to form with 2014’s Ruining Lives with more discouraging misses, encouraging hits and questionable choices to follow.
Along the way, there have been defining moments of innovation, a five-year hiatus, two of the greatest remix EPs in the history of heavy music, blame for being an inadvertent influence on nu-metal and more members joining and leaving founding member/guitarist/vocalist Tommy Victor than backstage deli trays. Prong has forgotten more about failure and success than most bands will ever experience. After the public embrace of 2017’s Zero Days album, the band found itself increasing its carbon footprint with almost two years of solid touring. At the same time, they were also faced with the possibility of a slowing of momentum following post-tour decompression and writing sessions for the next record. Hence, we have Age of Defiance, a five-song stop-gap EP to tide folks over until full-length number eleven.
Consisting of two new studio tracks and three live tracks, Age of Defiance isn’t here to break ground or offer surprises. Neither is it designed to toy with new avenues of exploration or appeal to anyone not already taking shelter in the Prong wheelhouse. The title track is one that fits in with the direction the band has explored at length over the past ten-plus years or so. A pulsing four-on-the-floor stomp is met in unison by chugging alternate-picking during the verse riffs. Then, a grandiose, suspended chord progression and some soaring vocal phrasing make for a hyper-infectious chorus that nudges up against sing-a-long status despite the simplicity of the riff and Victor’s limited range. “The End of Sanity,” we’re told is an old-school rager written to showcase throughout a tour with Agnostic Front. Don’t believe that hype. The tune starts with a mid-paced head-nodder of a riff and basically sticks to that pace the entire way through. It may be a departure from the recent-years songwriting formula (see above), but outside of the lyrical ire, lacks any amount of promised gristle and grime.
The three live tracks are taken from 1994’s Cleansing and 1996’s Rude Awakening and have been captured such that unless you knew they were recorded in Berlin back in 2015, you’d never be able to tell. There’s zero in the way crowd noise/reaction and the recording itself is of high-end demo, if not studio album, quality. Sounding like the most pristine of soundboard tapes is an accomplishment in and of itself, but it’s very much lacking in the fields of distinction and energy to the point of making then inessential listening, especially if you own listening to the albums in question. This, by and large, is a microcosm for this entire outing; only those fans and completists with unflappable and deep connections to the band will and should care.