Prong: The Demon Thrashers of Stanton Street

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Before the drum machines, remixes, and guest appearances, Prong was a very lonely metalcore trio from the Lower East Side of New York. Forget about Anthrax and Overkill — theirs was the New York City of Tompkins Square police riots, Warzone, art/noise, and urban decay. While hatecore groups like Sheer Terror and School of Violence were running back and forth between the metal and hardcore neighborhoods in 1986, Prong were squatting on something special and different. There was something extra burning in their ashy skulls.

For one thing, they had non-metal pedigrees. Drummer Ted Parsons dealt the death beats on the Swans’ Holy Money, one of the slowest and most grating industrial LPs ever. Bassist Mike Kirkland came from the strange hardcore band Crawlpappy, who later lost John Stanier to Helmet. Prong’s bandleader, Tommy Victor — on dissonant guitar and hoarse vocals, was musically damaged in the extreme in every direction after tending soundboard at CBGBs for a semi-eternity.

Out of step with any thrash trends, Prong came into the speed/thrash/core game sounding like an unholy fusion of early Sonic Youth and Megadeth, and the world slowly took notice of well-rusted songs like “Drainpipe” and “Dreams Like That.” I wish more bands adopted the influence — the caustic, open-ended Prong sound is the main reason Fear, Emptiness, Despair is my favorite Napalm Death album.

PRONG * 7-song demo 1986 [21.9MB .rar]

After two self-released outings of grating metal scrape, Prong signed to Epic in 1990 and soon found a new course as a sort of groove-laden rhythmic Killing Joke interpretation for the Metallica generation. They thrived on the periphery of the heavy music world until the late 1990s, then disappeared for several years, until Tommy Victor resurfaced recently with a new trio featuring Madonna sideman Monte Pittman sporting a nice trampy beard. You can download the track “The Banishishment” from the new Prong HERE. Meanwhile, Ted Parsons is now drummer in Justin Broadrick’s post-Godflesh dream/drone band Jesu.

So everything’s turned out well — except Tommy Victor still owes me $20.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Mike Kirkland didn’t come from Crawlpappy, Crawlpappy (as far as I know) didn’t start until after Prong had been around for a while. Mike came from DAMAGE, who were also a strange lot, a lineup that had two bassists in fact.

    I’m JACKED to hear this demo again, THIS is Prong. Their earliest tracks up to and including Force Fed are the best material they did. Things got a little too slick for me by the time they did Beg To Differ, though the live promo EP (“Live at CBGB’s) that trumpeted its release was also noteworthy. Prove You Wrong wasn’t bad, but it lost the brutality and thrash of the original trio. That was the last time I saw them, and haven’t been interested in anything Tommy touched since then. It’s unfortunate because the originality was in striking contrast to most all other thrash acts (outside of Voivod) and it seems he’s been chasing the commercial carrot ever since.

  2. Thanks, Paulie, I completely forgot about Damage — they were an all-synth hardcore band with a live drummer, right? I’m still pretty sure that Kirkland also passed through the earliest version of Crawlpappy, too.

  3. I don’t remember any synths. I saw them at a CB’s matinee with Leeway (their 1st show ever) and the K-Martians. DAMAGE definitely had 2 bass players and am pretty sure 1 guitar and drums.

  4. Funny, I hadn’t realized that Steve McAllister was in Damage too – The same guy that was a soundman at CBGB’s the same time Tommy was, and who went on to engineer all the old Prong stuff too… He also produced the DIRGE material of the mid to late 80s, incredible NJ metalcore.

    THANKS AGAIN Ian for posting the Prong!

  5. Damn fine guitarist Tommy is. And the first trio was my fave line up. I used to follow the band all over the NY area when then they played and have a few beers with them here and there. I lost track of them for a few albums, but the newest album sounds amazing.

  6. I bet most Prong fans came about like me: once I found out they were the band playing in the background on Headbanger’s ball, I was hooked. Prove You Wrong is still a big hit in my car.

  7. hey, synths DO NOT suck!!! thanx for posting this out, very cool stuff. what can I say, I may be pointed out as being partial, but I think the current incarnation of PRONG really does justice to what the band showed up to be during years. I too miss Ted Parsons – who BTW, had a cancer… and luckily went thru it o.k. – but I really like the way they sound around these days.

    give them a try, prejudices DO suck.

    www.prongmusic.com

  8. the new album has the hard hitting slamming drums on par with Parsons. Victor’s precise industrial riffs have only gotten better with time, and he seems to be heading full circle, moving toward a primitive origins tampon, only the blood is not dry

  9. Man, I can’t tell you how IMPOSSIBLE it was to get Primitive Origins and Force Fed in upstate MAINE in the eighties. It drove me nuts!

    Thanks for this!

  10. This is a late reply as I’ve been outa touch with the whole scene.
    Since I was there cutting a lot of the tracks, I’ll correct some things.
    The orignal Prong, the first two albums and some live stuff that appeared later, was created with all three members having an almost equal input in the composition and sound. It was a colaboration.
    I think the combination of all three created the most original version of Prong. They didn’t sound like anyone else at the time and had a big influence on many other bands.

    The later stuff had more of the Tommy Victor influence and he was more into fitting in and that is why the later stuff didn’t stand out as such as an original style. It was more accessible by most, because they sounded like a lot of other bands at the time, but the later stuff didn’t have much of an influence on other artists.

    The early stuff wasn’t as popular, mostly because of the raw production quality. The early stuff was recorded in a NYC apartment studio at a very low budget. They were also not trying to fit in with any catagory so there wasn’t any single style of song writing and production. The lack of having any cohesiveness is what set them apart.

    I still find the early stuff quite listenable and feel proud to have been involved with the production, even with the low budget limiitations.

    stevie

  11. Prong was always the oddball in speed metal because they were arty and yet emotionally attracted to the apocalyptic scenarios their lyrics described. I noted the same thing Stevie McAllister did — up through “Beg to Differ” they had a balanced sound with depth, but after that it got linear, although “Cleansing” partially corrected this.

  12. Does this work with Macs? Dying to hear this again. I was at their first show and still have the demo, but no way to play it because I chucked my cassette player. Thanks!

    • Marc, yes this download package works with Mac computers. You need a program that can extract RAR files, like RAR-Expander from the App Store, or just double-click to open with a newer version of OSX. Enjoy the dissonant demo!

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