Better Than: Watching Titanic while “I’m sailing away / Set an open course for the virgin seas…” (sung by South Park‘s Cartman, of course) runs through your head.
Setting sail for a metal show on the not-so-open seas, concessions must be made. Booze du nuit: Seven (Seagram’s) and Seven’s (7-up), based on the memory of Saltines and ginger ale as saviors of bilious grade school whale-watching trips. Dramamine was imbibed (non-drowsy formula). Earplugs, procured. It was time to cruise with Prong, the long-lived NY-bred hardcore/metal band playing its first local show in more than five years.
Openers For Sleeping Or Jumping sounded fine from two decks down as we puttered by the Statue of Liberty, but the views and bad Blackberry photos initially took precedence over the metal. Second up Eminence came from Brazil just for this gig, and their aggro punk/hardcore energy drew comparisons to Sepultura (unarguably the most successful Brazilian metal band), the double-kick drums, Flying V guitars and commanding presence (and bullhorn) of vocalist Bruno Paraguay welcomed by the mini-moshpit flailing under the prom-like Christmas lights of the boat’s dance floor. The ship-full of floating CMJ attendees aren’t the only fans: with producer Terry Date (Pantera, Deftones, Korn) working on their next CD, Eminence are a band to watch.
But Prong were clearly stars of the Star of Palm Beach, singer/guitarist Tommy Victor (who has also done time with Danzig and Ministry) remaining the trio’s driving force throughout numerous incarnations since the lineup’s 1986 formation. Song and album titles like “Whose Fist Is This Anyway,” Prove You Wrong and “Unconditional” hint at the band’s intense, unrelenting approach both musically and lyrically. At this show — with monster drummer Art Cruz (late of Cali deathcore band Winds of Plague) — Prong’s playing prowess and manic energy proved they’re still very much a metallic force to be reckoned with.
At the forefront of the early ’90s industrial trend, Prong meshed their undeniable monster grooves with a tense staccato attack, and it’s still relevant, sounding best on songs like “Irrelevant Thoughts” (off 1991’s Prove You Wrong), while Victor’s shredding solo and the time changes of “Unconditional” were reminiscent of a more metal Suicidal Tendencies. New material like the driving “Revenge Best Served Cold,” slid seamlessly between the classic shout-along “Broken Peace” and “Rude Awakening.”
The mosh-pit mixed with the occasional rocking of the sturdy ship led to a few pit-falls, but it was a joyous pit of power and passion that thrashed no more than a foot in front of the band, not a scrum of drunken stupidity. In the “if that’s the Jersey Palisades this must be ‘Lost and Found’ category,” Prong closed out their 13-song set with their aural apogee “Snap Your Fingers Snap Your Neck,” the intensity blowing minds and ears before the masses were re-deposited onto Pier 40, a little deafer, slightly sweatier and much happier.
Critical Bias: I used to listen to Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck,” every morning. It makes you drive very fast. If I was a wrestler, it would be my entrance music. Without a Pantera to play live in the world, I will happily “settle” for Prong and Clutch.
Overheard: “Dramamine for sale, $5 a pill.” (Uttered by me, profiting from those less prepared.) There were no takers. “Is that New Jersey?” (Yes, yes it was.)
Random Notebook Dump: “Zombie meets Pantera with a wah guitar.” (Description of Prong’s “Broken Peace.”)