The promo blurb provided with the album states: ‘…X – No Absolutes is Prong at their very best. The sheer intensity and ferocity of the album’s opening triumvirate Ultimate Authority, Sense of Ease and Without Words leaves the listener gasping for air…’ OK, I thought, bring it on! So was I left gasping for air? Did it knock my socks off? Well, unfortunately no, but it did grow on me a bit.
Prong’s genres have ranged from thrash metal, groove metal, industrial metal to hardcore punk. Singer/guitarist Tommy Victor was a sound engineer at CBGB back in the day, and there is a hint of punk in a lot of the songs (actually, a definite nod with mostly sub-3:20 song lengths). I can’t say X – No Absolutes is really hitting anything in the realms of industrial or hardcore.
Victor’s vocals are known for being clean sounding, but to me it often sounds just too ‘nice’ for the music. Track 1, Ultimate Authority starts off with some cool riffs and sounds reasonably heavy, with a slightly punk sounding chorus, but the vocals mellow out a bit too much. I would have opened the album with Sense of Ease, it has some good fast riffs and drumming, and I hoped this was going to lead into something better. For me, the stand out tracks were Belief System – this has more of a groove metal sound to it, the vocals come across better, and the guitar solo seems to flow naturally into being (unlike a couple of other tracks); and Soul Sickness was also pretty enjoyable – catchy rhythm and riffs, and mostly good vocals. The ballad, Do Nothing, while not really to my taste, actually suits Victor’s vocals much better. I can imagine these songs would sound much more impressive (read: heavier) played live. X – No Absolutes has an overlying thrashy sound with some metallic guitar riffs and solos (to make sure you know it’s metal), but there are times where it drifts into ‘accessible’ rock territory. Initially I didn’t think too much of this album, but a second listen (with much better quality headphones) made me like it just that little bit more.
X – No Absolutes is out now on SPV/Steamhammer