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Prawwng - Primuhtive Awwrigins - 92%

Thanatotron, October 9th, 2010

New York City is the kind of place that tends to draw the least likely of people into the most seemingly fateful alliances. Consider the trio who would become Prong: bassist Mike Kirkland, the punk Frankenstein in charge of guarding the entrance to CBGB's, who fled Utah to escape the Mormons; drummer Ted Parsons, an alumnus of the original grind band Swans, and a refugee of the Boston non-scene where people pronounce Celtic Frost as "Selltic Frahhst"; and finally guitarist Tommy Victor, also of CB's (he was the sound-tech), and the only city native-- born and raised on the stark and often merciless realities of Street Justice, Survival of the Streets, and other Cro-Mags songs about pavement.

In '86 they collaborated tentatively under the modest proposal to "play some hawwdcoar", but they ended up composing some of the most scathing and yet ambitiously expressive thrash to ever be set loose on the ears of a dying empire. And it's all contained in a colorless, scrawled-over sleeve bearing the rather self-effacing title, "Primitive Origins".

The most apparent ancestor for this speed-blurred collection of riffs is most certainly Black Flag circa "Damaged" or Side 1 of "My War", from the jazzy diminished scale motifs to the phrenetic freeform leadwork punctuating drivingly rhythmic, harried phrases. Equal inspiration is taken from the fastest and most vicious compositions by Sel--err... Celtic Frost, except the trademarked operatic chromaticisms are re-contextualized from gothic kingdoms to industrialized wastelands-- and yet still, somehow, the songs retain that same Romantic, wartorn will to power.

Lead vocals alternate between the characteristically "New Yawwk"-nasal, exasperated cries of Victor and the burly, junkyard-dog growls of Kirkland, with Parsons even adding his shouts during the more anthemic refrains. Indeed, during the earliest days of Prong, the concept of the "power trio" was beheld on an almost sacred level. The purest kernels of expression were pursued with both the unwavering integrity of an ascetic and the hammer-wielding wrath of a nihilist, and each member truly represented his own sharpened tine on the three-point trident: Prong was just as much a creative outlet as it was a weapon.

Like the expository photography of 19th-Century City reformer Jacob Riis, lyrics and music on "Primitive Origins" combine to illustrate searing portraits of authority gone corrupt, morality reduced to shambles, and society's tyrannical passions overindulged into an all-consuming monstrosity. But even within such apocalyptic subject matter, Prong display a sense of self-affirmation and perhaps even a particularly morbid joy in the struggle to create, to press forward, and to survive amidst an atmosphere of conventionalized dysfunction. It was through this violently cathartic process that Prong demonstrated that "the urban warrior", though decidedly less sensational than any fairytale knights of old, is no less an honorary figure-- wagering life and death on the unspoken oaths of chivalry laid bare upon the open streets of our modern battlegrounds.