• Prong
  • Primitive Origins (UK Spigot) 1987 
  • Force Fed (UK Spigot) 1988  (In-Effect) 1989 
  • Beg to Differ (Epic) 1990 
  • The Peel Sessions EP (UK Strange Fruit) 1990  (Strange Fruit/Dutch East India Trading) 1991 
  • Prove You Wrong (Epic) 1991 
  • Whose Fist Is This Anyway? EP (Epic) 1992 
  • Cleansing (Epic) 1994 
  • Rude Awakening (Epic) 1996 

Whether they’re metal or not, this underground-spawned, speedcore-trained New York trio produced some of the most brutally assaultive power rock around. Formed by singer/guitarist Tommy Victor and his CBGB co-worker Mike Kirkland (bass/vocals) with drummer Ted Parsons of the Swans, Prong debuted with Primitive Origins, a record whose annoying reliance on change-on-a-dime tempos keeps the lyrical street-smarts from sinking in. Force Fed is a far less hysterical showcase for the group’s considerable chops. The control displayed on “Look Up at the Sun” and (on the US version) the grinding “Bought and Sold” is heartening. A pair of creepy-crawly instrumentals that are equal parts muscle-flex and mind-control set the stage for Prong’s major-label bow.

Oddly enough, Beg to Differ is a lot more radical than either of Prong’s indie discs. Delivering violent minimalist lyrics in a drill-sergeant bark over stark backdrops, the LP has the feel of a post-nuke documentary. The pointillist precision of Parsons’ drumming leaves plenty of room for Victor and Kirkland’s shared death dance. (The CD adds a nice live version of Chrome’s “Third From the Sun” retrieved from a British 12-inch.)

Kirkland was replaced by Troy Gregory just before the recording of Prove You Wrong, a change of little sonic or compositional consequence, although it does leave Victor the sole lead vocalist. While the trio’s devotion to precisely lurching rhythms keeps the songs choppy — a clenched fist twitching spasmodically as it prepares to deliver a haymaker — this dull record makes that attribute part of a tentative shift toward industrial anti-musicality. Basically, blunt-instrument originals like “Unconditional,” “Hell If I Could” and “Positively Blind” walk a sloppy line parallel to Helmet; meanwhile, a tuneless cover of the Stranglers’ “(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)” is harsher than the original but nowhere near as threatening. (The six-track Whose Fist Is This Anyway? is Prove You Wrong‘s remix EP. Foetus and Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven are the ones tampering with “Grip,” “Hell If I Could” and two others here.)

Raven subsequently joined Prong, taking over from Gregory and bringing sampler John Bechdel from Murder Inc. along with him. Seared by Terry Date’s sharp-edged co-production, Cleansing doesn’t venture too far from the band’s stripped-down raunch, but does embrace tempos that are easier to follow and hoarse vocals that are harder to bear. The samples are fairly incidental, and the power is sharp and efficiently focused. Ultimately, Cleansing finds Prong in its favorite position: straddling styles and driving down its own power alley.

Recorded in January 1989, the Peel EP offers commanding high-voltage renditions of “Defiant,” “Decay,” “Senseless Abuse” and “In My Veins.”

[Deborah Sprague / Ira Robbins]

See also: Killing Joke, Swans