CD Review: ‘Songs From the Black Hole’ by Prong

Prong has always had a sound of its own. Equal parts hardcore, thrash, industrial and goth, the band has managed to stay fresh for 30 years. On Songs From The Black Hole, Tommy Victor and Company pay tribute to the trio’s influences and what a tribute it is. The band launches into “Doomsday” by D-Beat pioneers Discharge. The fast pace drumming and frantic riffing blasts from the speakers and pummel the listener from beginning to end. The band shows carefree aggression on “Goofy Concern” by the Butthole Suffers. One moment the group falls into a laid back groove then transitions in to a militaristic cadence. However, it is the band’s cover of The Adolescent’s “Kids of The Black Hole” that is the centerpiece of the record. Tommy’s lyrics have always dealt with alienation and a sense of belonging in a hard and callous world. The song itself is a song about the “Black Hole,” a home for homeless kids in the California punk scene. The chorus tugs at the heart while the dissonant chords convey a sense of uncertainty and isolation.

There is also a nice rendition of Black Flag’s “The Bars,” with the off kilter riffing and drumming Black Flag became known for during its latter years. Of course, it is not a Prong cover record without a Killing Joke song. Late Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven, played on Cleansing and Rude Awakening, thus there is some history between both bands. Killing Joke had immeasurable influence on Prong due to the former’s punk meets industrial sound. Prong does justice on the track “Seeing Red,” with its unorthodox song structure and echoing vocals. I also have to commend the band on its killer, energetic performance of “Banned in D.C.” by Bad Brains.

Overall, Songs From the Black Hole is a fun record with diverse song choices and a strong performance by the band. The production is top notch, which has never been an issue for Prong and the songs never sound constricted or forced. While some fans may prefer a new Prong LP, Songs is a great record unto itself and should tide fans over until the next Prong record.

For news on the band and upcoming tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://prongmusic.com/

CD Review: ‘Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent’ by Dead Empires

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Sugar and spice and just a dash of…sludge? Last time, the New York three-piece Dead Empires released an album was in 2012, with the vastly interesting debut LP Waiting In Waves. Happily, new material is upon us!  The group’s latest release, entitled Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent, will appear on Feb. 3, 2015, and my pre-release copy tells me that it’s ready to rock bodies and titillate cochleae.

Dead Empires is an instrumental three-piece outfit from upstate New York, who have made it a habit over the last few years of rampaging across New England with their unique brand of musicality. Much in the way a mosaic is constructed, combining fragments of vastly different materials and colors to form a thought-provoking final product, Dead Empires take a range of musical styles that when viewed closely seem vastly different, but when taken as a whole compose a breathtaking, organic experience. 100% Gluten Free – Guaranteed. I’m not sure about Kosher though.

So, onto the meat and potatoes of the review. Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent seems like a natural progression from Waiting In Waves, but continues a number of established traditions. The new release is more polished, thanks in part, no doubt, to their grand prize win at the 2013 Hudson Battle of the Bands competition which allowed them once again to record with D. James Goodwin (Devo, Murder By Death, Norah Jones). Additionally, when the last album was released, bassist DJ Scully had only just joined the band, which was at that time a four-piece. The two guitarists at the time, one of which is current member John Bryan, took turns on bass duty for recording the album.  Thus, on Secret Snakes we get to see what Scully can really bring to the band, and it is some low-end goodness, such as his rapidly riffed lines in “Five Day Death.” This also allows Bryan to focus more on his guitar duties, as he slathers the release in a coat of sludge and proceeds to lay mesmerizing melodies upon them, such as in the 16-minute closer, “House Of Light.” And I certainly can’t forget drummer Phil Bartsch, whose performance throughout this release might cause you to question at times whether there’s simply one man on percussion.

“I don’t like instrumental albums,” I hear you say. I usually don’t either. There are a handful of bands that seem to pull this sort of things off though, and Dead Empires is one of them. Their refusal to stick with one style keeps me from ever becoming bored with their music. Vocals? They don’t need no stinkin’ vocals! I’m not even sure what they’d be singing about with titles such as “Abra Cadaver” and “Cosmic Space Ape” (a personal favorite) anyway. But they managed to pull off a Jamaican Reggae breakdown in between a galloping, thrash-sludge rhythm and a reverberating spaced-out guitar solo, so maybe I shouldn’t doubt their capabilities in this regard, or any other. All I know is this: Valentine’s Day is coming up, and what better gift than the gift of Dead Empire’s Secret Snakes / Silent Serpent? Diamonds are forever, but this sounds better.

 

For more on Dead Empires, visit:
Official Website
Buy Secret Snakes / Silent SerpentFrom The Band
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