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How many different styles can you try and fit into one album while trying to keep it all seamless? How about some punchy, driving, groovy thrash metal? Some more lumbering and slow-marching pieces? A bit of funk, perhaps? On Cleansing, Prong tried all of these for the various songs off of it, and had varying success with each of these styles. Cleansing is Prong's biggest album and the one most people think of when Prong is mentioned, provided they know about Prong first. This band are no strangers to stylistic shifts and Cleansing displays the disparate elements of Prong's sound most evenly.
Cleansing puts its strongest fare at the beginning with swinging thrashers, strong grooves, and a slick catchiness that's easy to see on songs like "Another Worldly Device", "Who's Fist is This Anyway", and "Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck" which make themselves known simply from their riffs. They make up a part of the first style bloc on this album, the groovy thrashers. The second style bloc consists of lumbering groove metal and relies on the tense and dangerous atmosphere accented by tough riffs and grooves that serve to intimidate. The final and smallest bloc of style is the funky stuff like "Broken Peace" which has some corny lyrics, but makes up for them with a funky rhythm so infectious you can't tear your ears away from it. These three blocs of style make up the sounds you will hear when listening to Cleansing. While many of the songs on here succeed, there are also a sizeable number that just feel like filler. Many slower parts are lethargic without being relaxing like "Not of this Earth" which just sits around and tries to be a little funky without trying to lay much of a groove down, which just doesn't fly in funk metal. The simpler fare from all three style camps on Cleansing seriously undermines the album, and while they don't annoy you, you will wish there was more going on, since simplicity doesn't fit when you're trying to make memorable thrash or groove metal. That said, there are imposing pieces that really kick the energy back into the album like "Home Rule" which uses a dangerous, slow build and fast, punchy release to its advantage. Moments like that make me glad that I picked Cleansing up, since the golden moments on this release are to kill for, and plus you can deal with the filler with a quick press of the skip button. Though there are some bland moments sprinkled about, but when Prong gets it right, they get it solidly right.
Cleansing is an album that's a bit inconsistent, but still plenty of punch-throwing fun. It's tough and slick at the same time and gives you plenty of songs you'll want to hit rewind on once they're done. It's a strong contender as far as 90s groove metal is concerned. With a bit more consistency, they could have ended up delivering something that could really knock your teeth out.
So, Prong. Underdogs, misfits, often ignored and occasionally maligned. Rightly? Wrongly? It's not for me to say, since I haven't paid enough attention to them in general. That said, I've often found their groovy, workmanlike sound quite passable and have been known to bob my head a bit for some of the more intense numbers. Not a startling reaction to be honest. Prong do strike one as a rather mild band at times, without any particular distinction or attention-grabbing feature, meaning that I tend to forget them rather than hate them. 'Cleansing' contains probably their best-known song, 'Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck', which I'm sure I knew before I knew the band themselves, due to the many covers that exist (I think I even own one by Dry Kill Logic). It's not straight-up the best song on this album, but if you've heard it before you know more or less what to expect.
'Cleansing' generally has a sound and style that is a little hard to pin down. Prong play as a three-piece (John Bechdel contributed as a keyboardist, though his influence is minimal), so the sound is driven by riffs and tends not to be very complex or atmospheric, rhythms playing more of a role than melodies or leads. Tommy Victor necessarily does a lot of the work, playing plunging, downtuned guitar parts in tandem with picked out harmonics and pinches, allowing the sound to fluctuate between high and low, trebly and bassy. His partners are busy, putting in a lot of effort to keep everything tight and moving, although they get submerged in some problems with a clicky production.
The style varies a long way between songs, sometimes sounding like the kind of groove metal that Pantera was putting out at the same time (perhaps their most common comparison), sometimes sounding closer to thrash metal (as on the storming 'Cut-Rate'), sometimes bringing in Fear Factory's late-90s industrial influences (although of course Prong got there first), sometimes doing their own thing and drifting away with more relaxed, almost post-rock washes of keys and guitar. This may make 'Cleansing' sound like a messy album, and to some degree it is, but in the fertile climate of the early 90s, genres mixed and fertilized one another; therefore, we really shouldn't be surprised by a song like 'Broken Peace', which has a kind of light funk riff that builds into groove/industrial slabs of guitar and a faster, chuggier riff that wouldn't sound out of place on some of the contemporary thrash albums, plus the kind of stadium-sized solo that Metallica were hogging. The last piece of the puzzle is the vocal performance, which stays clean but dirty, like a hardcore or sludge vocalist. I'm not sure if Tommy Victor is a very good vocalist, but he can certainly put plenty of emotion and expression into his voice at times.
The songs on 'Cleansing' are quite up and down, the album starting much stronger than it ends with five of the better songs and then a few patchy ones, before 'Home Rule' and 'Test' wrap things up in good style. The three openers are all big-hitting groove metal numbers that pack in enough riffs and vocal hooks to be interesting, though 'Whose Fist Is This Anyway?' rolls by more on the strength of the others than its own merits. 'Cut-Rate' seems to be a leftover from the earlier model of Prong, with much faster and thrashier guitars, Paul Raven even blurring up a bit on bass, even if the outro is pure bonehead riffless groove. I don't think much of the four songs that start with 'One Outnumbered', where the album seems to really lose its grip and drift without enough memorable moments or exciting performances. It's an occasional problem in the more well-formed songs too, since the band are largely relying on Tommy Victor's performance to hook the listener, and he really doesn't have the riffs or the vocal charisma to make a lasting effort, certainly not for an album nearly an hour long.
This may be the problem with 'Cleansing' in the end - for all its diverse influences, it isn't really that interesting and I frequently find that I've been ignoring the music. 'Not of This Earth' really has it bad in that sense, because it just continues monotonously for six minutes, while there are a few groovers like 'No Question' that really seem under-developed and inconsequential. In the 90s, this album was probably more notable than today, because Prong were actually at the forefront of a developing scene (or two), but now it does sound dated and the ideas rather stale. About half the songs are worth revisiting, though listeners would be advised to look either forwards or backwards in the band's discography for some better-defined music. This is supposedly Prong's "commercial" album; it's just a shame that it's now reaching for a popular audience that no longer exists.
Thanks goes to Beavis & Butthead for introducing me to Prong - a band that stood out from the other alternative / wacko bands that appeared in the zany music video segments of the show. From what I understand, this is Prong’s most commercial successful album, and its groove motives against a thrash backdrop helped it obtain a wide audience.
Riffwise, this album is packed to the brim: aggressive, pounding, wrenching, and turbulent with tons of kick and a fun loving atmosphere while still remaining a very dark piece. The two big hits, “Whose Fist Is It Anyway?” and “Snap Your fingers, Snap Your Neck,” are the perfect examples of catchy, bouncy tunes charged with cut-throat choruses, hammering verses, and buzzsaw riffs properly coated with a deep sense of eradication and guidance. The songs are very serious in nature, but sound addicting and relentless. In a way, they pick up where many thrash bands of the 80s seemed to strike low-points in their careers during the 90s: Kreator, Destruction, Megadeth (somewhat), Slayer, and countless others. I’m reminded of Overkill most of all, since the style is much of the same when it comes to a pure assault on the senses through precise drumming, deafening bass, and very buzzy lead riffs. The main difference is that the riffs here sound a tad bit thicker than say the ones off of The Years Of Decay and the vocals are loud and proud.
Tommy Victor, the main man behind the vocals and guitars, is smashing and unmerciful in both departments. He lays down some pretty unyielding riffs, and his voice follows suit properly, as well. He usually yells with his hoarse voice that we all love to hear, and other times he’ll kind of mosey along with just talking like on “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck.” Other times he’ll depend more on the atmosphere trying to kick in, utilizing more effects with industrial influences, which feature themselves most prominently on the later tracks such as “No Questions.” The first half of the album houses more of the fast-paced gnarly tracks while the other half undergoes a shift towards industrial, but without doing itself in since the riffs don’t let up.
The quality of this album is rich all around, though as Prong’s fifth output you’d expect that. Double bass from the drums are thick and mighty, while the snares and toms don’t dispute the vibe as they attack in full force. Bass support rummages in the background, but give extra strength to the guitars, helping fill any gaps in the air as to prevent a thin atmosphere.
After that, I think we’re good from here on out. I’ve heard some issues arise where the songs begin to lose identity (sound alike), but to me this isn’t a huge ordeal. The sound is dignified in the beginning; each song carrying it’s own exclusive rhythm and groove. Later on I can admit that it may drudge together, but there are noticeable traits that help draw the lines between one and another (as slightly mentioned in earlier paragraphs). It’s a small concern for me, but I’ll recommend it anyway so that you can give it your own thoughts. Don’t let this band sit idle – let it be the executioner while you send your poseur bands to the gallows.
Prong....man....everytime I hear that band's name I think how they were so on the cusp of really breaking-through and becoming the next big thing. They are/were along the lines of bands/artists who completely stood out from the crowd and managed to make a niche for themselves without being so plagarized by so many bands simply because only they could do their own style with so much justice.
"Cleansing", like many other Metal bands in the mid-90's, was a direct link between their old style (Crossover/Thrash) to the more progressive newer style which is more groove and half-thrash based. Definately more of an industrial touch as well when it comes to the song structure and rythmns. If you consider this album Nu-Metal, well my friend I beg to differ(Ha! I made a funny!). "Cleansing" also features some of the more finest musicians of their day; Bassist Paul Raven ((RIP) Killing Joke, Ministry), and keyboardist John Bechel (Fear Factory).
The first half of "Cleansing" throws in a variety of songs from Prong's biggest hit "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" which is a mere foot-tapper compared to the groove-based motherfucker of "Broken Peace." "Broken Peace is FILLED with jump-da-fuck-up riffs but for some reason it's catchy as shit and it's groove that is well-needed and not forced. It harkens me back to Airwalks and baggy Jnco pants. Complete groove-based nostalgia. Then out of nowhere comes "Cut Rate" which is 1989 Crossover Riff HELL only in 1994!. It's got a nice little noisy industrial break which sounds something off C.O.C."Blind" but fuck it's still heavy. "One Out Numbred" is a breather with a more rock-based sound. Simpler. Starting to get a bit boring. After that song you get a bit bored with the tracks that all have different titles but seem like one huge run-on. The last song "Test" is right back to "One Out Numbered" and you think yourself aghHH! fuck you Tommy Victor. What the hell happened to that streak going through the first half of the album. Damnit!
That's one thing with Prong, you think they will deliver an ENTIRE album of great hits but only 1/4th or halfway do they completely loose track. But for those few songs that make your dick hard, it's worth it like a good cigarette buzz. You'll want it everytime but you'll only get one every once in a while. You'll savor the moment.