State Of Emergency

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Descent
02. State Of Emergency
03. Breaking Point
04. Non-Existence
05. Light Turns Black
06. Who Told Me
07. Obeisance
08. Disconnected
09. Compliant
10. Back (NYC)
11. Working Man (Rush cover)

Tommy Victor is one of heavy music's true unsung heroes. Glenn Danzig's right-hand man for over two decades, the PRONG frontman has written more great riffs than most. From early '90s triumphs "Beg To Differ", "Prove You Wrong" and "Cleansing", to the remarkably consistent run of albums that PRONG have released since reconvening in 2002, Victor's strike rate has been phenomenal and criminally overlooked. Six years on from "Zero Days" (the band's strongest album in decades),  he has fired his extremely reliable riff machine up again, and "State Of Emergency" is the result.

It always bears repeating that PRONG have a wholly unique sound that is impervious to time or trend. "State Of Emergency" is a big, sonically pristine affair. But the essential grittiness of Victor's original formula ensures that his band still sound rooted in piss-stained New York streets and fueled by the defiance of the eternal underdog. As always, these are succinct and brutish songs, often full of melody, but always delivered with an iron fist.

With that in mind, "The Descent" is the perfect opener: a short, sharp thrasher, with a raging punk rock underbelly and an endearingly thuggish breakdown that blooms into a magnificent guitar solo. The title track is less berserk but equally effective, a classic Victor tirade skitters across some refined machine-gun chug, before a churning, noise rock monstrosity of a chorus conjures echoes of PRONG's underground past. The whole thing is strategically designed to make people bang their heads. Next, "Breaking Point" gently harks back to the industrial-tinged escapades of "Cleansing", but with a strong stench of New York hardcore seeping through the syncopated riffing. In contrast, "Non-Existence" is a straight-up, melodic punk rock song, albeit powered by the unabashed metal power of Victor's riffs.

Elsewhere, "Light Turns Black" is a pitch-black hardcore squall, with a stealthy central riff that refuses to quit. "Obeisance" is a gently experimental exercise in jarring dissonance and lysergic post-punk. The tempo drops for the dystopian melodrama of "Compliant", as PRONG switch effortlessly from bulked-out, lobotomized grooves to woozily atmospheric psych rock and back again, weaving in old-school metal riffs, blazing solos and a choking dose of melancholy along the way. Victor is such an astute and gifted songwriter that every one of these left-field maneuvers simply adds to the hypnotic effect of PRONG in full flight. Even at their weirdest, they will still snap your neck.

Concluding with the balls-out thrash-punk assault of "Back (NYC)" and a RUSH cover ("Working Man") that makes perfect sense and rocks like an absolute bastard, "State Of Emergency" is another formidable contribution to an increasingly impressive legacy.

Author: Dom Lawson
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