Prong’s First-Ever Covers Record Is A Must For Long-Time Fans And The Metal Masses Alike

Courtesy:  Steamhammer Records/SPV

Courtesy: Steamhammer Records/SPV

Tommy Victor has spent the better part of his adult life in the music industry. For nearly thirty years, Victor has been releasing music under the moniker of hard rock/metal band Prong. Through all of the band’s ups and downs, Victor has pushed on releasing new material from Prong. He has released, over the course of that time nine full length studio albums, two live albums, one remix album, four EPs, and a number of singles and music videos. For all of those releases, there is still one item that until now Victor hasn’t handled under the Prong moniker. That item is the obligatory covers album. Next week, Victor will release Prong’s first ever covers album in the form of Songs From The Black Hole. The ten track album will be released via Steamhammer/SPV. This collection of covers is a great addition to any long-time Prong fan’s music collection. That is obvious right off the top with the band’s cover of Discharge’s ‘Doomsday. The high adrenaline song grabs listeners instantly and refuses to let go. Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Vision Thing’ follows ‘Doomsday’ and is one more example of what makes this album a must have for any long-time Prong fan. Those fans that are familiar with Prong’s body of work will hear the influence of SOM on Tommy Victor when listening to this song. And much the same can be said of Prong’s cover of Black Flag’s ‘The Bars.’ Stylistically speaking, it’s easy to hear Black Flag’s influence on Victor throughout Prong’s albums. It’s not the only obvious influence either. The inclusion of songs from the likes of Killing Joke, Bad Brains, ad Butthole Surfers shows Prong’s roots just as clearly. And much the same can be said of the compilation’s remaining four tracks. The entire record taken into consideration, it proves to be more than just another obligatory collection of songs flung together to fulfill a contractual obligation. Rather it is a record that celebrates some of rock’s greatest bands and at the same time one of the industry’s most important and influential yet least known bands. If not for the fact that it is indeed a covers album, it would have otherwise been justifiably named by this critic as one of the best new hard rock and metal albums of the year.

It’s incredible to think that roughly twenty-seven years after the release of its debut album Force Fed, Prong has not released even one covers album. In comparison to the countless covers albums released by Prong’s counterparts in both the mainstream and underground, it becomes even more incredible. For that reason alone, founder and sole original member Tommy Victor is to be commended for holding his ground. Audiences that pick up this record will agree in listening to Songs From The Black Hole that Victor is just as worthy of applause for the covers chosen for this record. Right off the top, the album grabs listeners and refuses to let go with its cover of Discharge’s ‘Doomsday.’ The song title sounds ominous, like a Soundgarden song or a piece from some black metal band. But the reality of the song is that it is actually a high-energy war protest piece that will have any metal purist wanting to get a circle pit started in their own home all while making audiences really think. Tommy [Victor] sings, “And now the end is near/The end is near/It’s time to say our last goodbyes…Is it a reality or just a nightmare…/Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide/No escape, no escape/Is it reality or just a nightmare?” The song’s seemingly politically charged lyrics coupled with the talents of Victor’s band mates–bassist Jason Christopher and drummer Art Cruz–make ‘Doomsday’ a great addition to this record regardless of regardless of its placement in the album’s sequencing. It isn’t the only song worth noting that makes this record so enjoyable for Prong’s fans and the metal masses, either. The album’s second song, Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Vision Thing’ is another solid addition to the record.

Prong’s cover of ‘Vision Thing’ is just as solid an addition to SFTBH as the record’s opener, Discharge’s ‘Doomsday.’ Sisters of Mercy’s original take on ‘Vision Thing’ has a decidedly 80s rock sound. Yet despite this, it still manages to stand out from all of the songs churned out by the hair metal bands of its age. Its sound is more similar to that of Billy Idol than say Poison stylistically speaking. Victor and compay somehow managed to keep the song’s original style all while mixing it with the band’s own updated sound to make for yet another solid addition to this surprisingly enjoyable collection of covers. As with SFTBH’s opener, this song is just as apt to leave audiences thinking as deeply as rocking out. Victor sings about what sounds like a drug addict in a hotel room getting high in the song’s first verse, singing, “Two thousand hamburg four/And colours I ain’t seen before/It’s a small world and it smells funny/I’d buy another if it wasn’t for the money.” This definitely comes across as a commentary of sorts about someone getting high on something. The seeming reference to JFK’s assassination that follows will generate just as much discussion as the verse’s opening lines if not more. The song’s closing lines say plenty, though seeming to clear up any questions that might have been left. Victor sings in the song’s closing lines, “What do we need to make our world come alive/What does it take to make us sing/While we’re waiting for the next one to arrive/One million points of light/One billion dollar vision thing.” These lines come across as a statement concerning the need for things to change considering the state of the world (I.E. drug users everywhere, murderers, etc.). Again, this song’s mix of musical and lyrical substance makes this piece another solid addition to a record that is surprisingly enjoyable for Prong’s first-ever covers LP.

Both Prong’s cover of ‘Doomsday’ and of ‘Vision Thing’ are solid additions to SFTBH. By themselves, both songs present their own element of enjoyment. When taken into consideration with the record’s other covers, both songs combine with those covers to show why for a first-time effort, Prong’s new covers record is a must have for any of its long-time fans. ‘Doomsday’ and ‘Vision Thing’ aren’t proof enough of this argument, then the band’s cover of Black Flag’s ‘The Bars’ is sure to convince audiences. PRong’s cover of this hardcore classic is a near spot on re-working. What’s more, there’s a certain element to it that harkens back to the days of Prong’s 1994 album Cleansing. Lyrically speaking, ‘The Bars’ is a rather dark song. It seems to focus on a figure with some rather troubling inner turmoil. As Victor sings, “Everytime I see I got my hands wrapped around the bars/I can’t shut off my mind/And now I’ve waited/My hands are wrapped around the bars/The bars, the lies, the lies, lies, lies/Are trapped behind the bars/My mind hates my body/My body hates my soul/I close my eyes and fight/Inside my own black hole.” The figure’s own torn feelings apparently seem to center around a young woman that took her own life by jumping out of a window. It is hardly the most positive lyrical content. But it is deep and deeply moving. Prong’s take on the song, musically speaking is a perfect match for those lyrics. The combination of both elements exhibit exactly why ‘The Bars’ is one more great addition to SFTBH.

‘The Bars,’ ‘Doomsday,’ and ‘Vision Thing’ are all positive additions to SFTBH. They are just a small glimpse into what makes this first-ever covers collection from Prong a must have for the band’s long-time fans. The record’s other seven covers each offer their own enjoyment for fans, too. All ten of the compilation’s songs taken into consideration, SFTBH proves in the end to be a record that was well worth the wait whether listeners are fans of Prong or the band’s covered by Prong here. SFTBH will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, March 31st. Beginning April 17th, Prong will hit the road in support of SFTBH with a sixteen-date European tour that runs through May 3rd. After wrapping the European leg of its tour Prong will take off the rest of the summer to charge up for a U.S. tour that kicks off October 23rd in Ramona, California. The 41-date North American tour will take the band across America and Canada throughout the summer and into the winter, wrapping up December 7th at the famed Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood, California. The band’s full tour schedule is available online along with all of the latest updates from the band at:

Website: http://prongmusic.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/prongmusic

Twitter: http://twitter.com/prongmusic

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Ford Is As Ferocious As Ever On Her New Live Recording

Courtesy:  SPV/Steamhammer Records

Courtesy: SPV/Steamhammer Records

Lita Ford’s new live recording, The Bitch Is Back, is a good introduction to the veteran rocker’s music.  Ford, who started her career decades ago as a member of the famed Runaways, proves with this latest live release that she still has plenty left to offer her audiences.  From the show’s set list to the audio mix to her general presence, there is much to like about this new live recording.  All things considered, Ford should have titled this recording, The Bitch Is Here instead of its given title.  Regardless, it proves in the end to be one of the year’s top live CDs.

The set list chosen for Ford’s 2013 show at California’s famed Canyon Club is the first part of what makes The Bitch Is Back so enjoyable for audiences.  Most of the songs chosen for this show come from her 2012 album, Livin’ Like a Runaway.  However, there are some older tracks included in the set list presented on this recording.  One of the best of the songs included in this recording is ‘Can’t Catch Me.’ She explains to the audience in attendance that the song was spawned after a chance meeting at the Rainbow Room.  Who would have ever thought that Lita Ford and Lemmy Kilmister would collaborate?  Regardless, the result is a fun, high octane piece that bears all the trademarks of classic Motorhead.  It’s little tidbits such as this that Ford shares through her set that makes this recording even more fun.  But that will be discussed later.  Ford’s collaboration with Lemmy Kilmister is just one of the high points that fans will take away from The Bitch is Back.  She also includes ‘Hate’, which is just one of the songs that she pulled from Livin’ Like a Runaway.  The song’s lyrical side is a powerful social commentary about society’s seemingly growing obsession with violence and hate.  It’s not such a stretch.  One need just look at the content of today’s TV shows and movies and one will agree that Ford is right on the mark here.  Her driving guitar riffs expertly compliment the song’s lyrics, making it one more high point of the show.  There is so much more that could be discussed concerning the show’s set list.  Allegedly, there were even a number of songs from the show not included in this recording.  If that is indeed the case, then maybe fans will get the remainder of those songs in a future live release.  To that extent, one could argue that by not including all of the songs from her show, Ford has left fans wanting more in the best possible way.  Again, that just makes this recording all the more worth hearing.

The set list included in this recording is the center of what makes it so enjoyable.  However, it isn’t the only part of what makes it so enjoyable.  The recording and mastering work done by Bill Gall and Fernando Cavasos respectively makes the record all the more worth the listen.  Indoor venues always present their own set of challenges when recording live performances.  This is the case regardless of whether one is recording a pop star, rock band, rapper, or some other act.  So it goes without saying that Gall and Cavasos did an impressive job in making sure that Ford’s fans were presented with the best product possible.

The final audio mix presented in The Bitch is Back works in tandem with the recording’s set list to make it a record that is a good introduction to first time fans.  The final product is just as good for those fans that are more knowledgeable of Ford’s body of work.   For everything already noted, there is still one more piece to this recording that can’t be ignored.  That piece is Ford’s own performance.  As with the set list, so much could be noted.  There just isn’t enough space or time for it all.  While this recording is only the concert’s audio portion, one can tell simply by listening, that even after so many decades, Ford has not lost a single bit of steam.  As a matter of fact, the level of energy that she exhibits throughout the performance echoes the energy and stage presence of her fellow veteran rockers in their heyday.  That stage presence is the final proverbial nail for this recording.  Alongside the expert audio mix and equally impressive set list, it makes this record that much more of a must hear for any Lita Ford fan old and new alike.  It is available now in stores and online.  After fans pick up her new live release, they can also make plans to see her live once she hits the road again in the new year.  She is currently taking some much needed rest and relaxation in order to get recharged before hitting the road again.  She is currently slated to kick off 2014 with a live performance on January 9th at the world famous Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood, California.  That show will be followed by performances in Nevada and more dates in California.  Fans can get the latest tour updates, news and more from Lita Ford online at http://www.facebook.com/litaofficial and http://www.LitaFordOnline.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Final Revolution Is The First Great Hard Rock/Metal Album Of 2014

Courtesy:  SPV/Steamhammer Records

Courtesy: SPV/Steamhammer Records

The Final Revolution, the latest release from veteran New York based hardcore band Pro-Pain, is the first great hard rock record of 2014. The band’s album, its fourteenth, displays a band that shows no sign of stopping, despite its title. The album dozen tracks total just over half an hour. Yes that’s short. But in that time, the band—Gary Meskil (vocals/bass), Adam Phillips (Lead Guitar), Marshall Stephens (Rhythm Guitar), and Jonas Sanders (drums)—offers its fans a collection of songs that will hit them like a musical megaton bomb. It all starts with the relentless ‘Deathwish.’ Meskil and company grab listeners by the ear from the opening moments of this speed/thrash metal style song and refuse to let go even after the song’s end.  Considering that this band has been running full steam since 1991, the merciless metal onslaught of this song as an opener is quite the re-introduction for Meskil and company.  The official video for the song is available online now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2tEetO2eSU.

This critic has already noted that the members of Pro-Pain refuse to back down at any point in the band’s new album. Every song on this new record will have purist metal heads proudly raising their horns high.  ‘One Shot, One Kill’, the album’s second song exhibits this quite well.  It is just as brutal as ‘Deathwish.’  As brutal as it is, it doesn’t have the same speed/thrash metal style sound.  This song’s style is more straight hardcore. All four of the band’s members work with the same precision in this song, as the military figures that don the album. One can so easily see this being a fan favorite both on record and live. It would be so easy to see fans singing along, fists pumping in the air as Meskil and company scream, “One shot/One kill” in the song’s bridge and final moments. Guitarist Adam Phillips shines in the bridge as he drives through his solo. He shows that he is no lightweight. Listeners will note that Phillips’ solo is akin to the style of Arch Enemy’s Michael Amott and Slipknot’s own Mick Thompson.  And it isn’t the only spot on this album in which he and his fellow musicians so expertly exhibit their talents, either.

One more example of what makes The Final Revolution such a strong new album from Pro-Pain is the full on anthem that is ‘Want Some?’  Meskil screams in this song, “Can you see the hate and pain in my eyes/The way they seem to cut through you/The wrath of a billion tortured souls/Will come crashing down through/This God forsaken place called Earth/And leave a voice so well-deserved/In this life you get what you give/So listen up/For if you want some/You better come quick/And come clean/Before reality hits you like a brick.”  He leaves absolutely no question as to what he is saying here.  He doesn’t stop here, writing in the song’s second verse, “I don’t give a f*** what was said/I listen to the voices in my head/Before I take note of what you say/On this particular s***** day/Division has reached a feverous pitch/And in the end, we won’t be missed…”  This is full on defiance in every sense of the word.  The outright defiance mixed with the song’s pummeling musical side makes this song one of the highest of highs on The Final Revolution.  And it would again be no surprise if it becomes a fan favorite for this reason both in on record in a live setting.  The same can be said of the other songs noted in this review.  Fans will get to hear each of these songs and all of the album’s others when it drops on January 21st, 2014.  The band is currently touring Europe in support of its upcoming album.  More tour dates are planned.  Fans can keep up with all of the latest tour updates, news, and more from Pro-Pain while they await the album’s release on the band’s official website and Facebook pages at http://www.pro-pain.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/PRO-PAIN-OFFICIAL-PAGE/215861125115781.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Stripped To The Bone Is ETG’s Best Yet

Eat The Gun Stripped To The BoneOdds are that most American audiences are not familiar with the music of Eat The Gun.  However, the band—Hendrik Wippermann (vocals/guitar), Gereon Homann (drums), and Peter Bergmuller (bass)—has made quite the name for itself in its home country of Germany.  Eat The Gun has already released three full length studio albums and an EP since 2002.  The band released its fourth full length record this week.  Stripped to the Bone is an apt title for the band’s latest release.  That’s because of the band’s stripped down, straight forward, rock and roll sound on this album and its equally straight forward, stripped down lyrical content on this album, too.  Being that this is the band’s fourth full length release, this could very well be the one to break out the band, given the proper support from radio programmers and listeners.

Stripped to the Bone kicks off in proper rock and roll fashion with its opener, ‘At The End Of The Day.’  This song is just one of the many radio ready songs from this album.  The song’s driving guitar and drums tracks collectively make this song an instant fan favorite.  They give the song a certain straight-forward rock and roll vibe.  There’s no pretentiousness about it.  It’s just good, solid rock and roll.  Lyrically, it’s just as straight forward.  WIppermann sings in the song’s opening verse, “Been giving you a hard time/I had to find my way/Thanks for all your patience/One thing I guarantee/If you get along with me/I will get along with you/If you get along with me/You’ll see/It’s all about you/And me/At the end of the day/All the trouble/And the struggles/Are just stones in our way.”  This is quite the uplifting statement for listeners.  That uplifting and infectious chorus set next to the equally strong guitar breaks serves to make ‘At The End of The Day’ quite the impressive opener.  It sets the tone for what’s to come.  And what comes after impresses just as much, as audiences will hear for themselves.

‘Loner’, the album’s second song and lead single is just as strong an offering as ‘At The End Of The Day.’  It’s a social statement, yes.  But it doesn’t have the holier than thou attitude In its own way, ‘Loner’ is an allegory about individualism.  Its main character just wants to be himself.  He wants to get away from all the pressures that people place on one another and from their self-centered nature.  Just as with the album’s opener, this song boasts a high energy musical side that will more than certainly have listeners moving right off the bat.  The song’s lyrical side is just as certain to keep listeners engaged.  Wipperman is to be applauded for not being preachy unlike so many other bands out there trying to make statements in their music.  He writes in this song’s opening verse, “I had a dream/That one day/Life would be/Much easier/No crooked heroes/With beady eyes/Sellin’ us/A pack of lies.”  He leaves nothing to interpretation in this short line.  And to be honest, more songwriters need to be so straight forward.  Far too many songwriters write in metaphors.  This leaves far too much room for misinterpretation in songs.  Thank goodness that isn’t the case with this song or any other throughout this LP.

If ‘Loner’ and ‘At The End of The Day’ aren’t enough to convince new listeners to what makes Stripped to the Bone such a worthwhile listen, then perhaps the album’s penultimate song, ‘Hot Blood’ will convince said listeners.  This song is pure rock and roll in every sense.  From its hard rocking, hard driving musical side to its classic rock and roll lyrical fare, this is one of the highest of highs from this album.  Wipperman sings alongside the song’s full throttle guitars and drums, “She’s got/The hot blood/I’m at her mercy/When she is dirty/She’s got/The hot blood/No need to tease me/When she is sleazy.”  Seeing a live audience singing along, clapping their hands in unison to the high energy anthem is so easy here.

Speaking of the band’s live show, the band has a pair of dates in Germany currently set  for March.  Fans can keep up with all of the latest tour updates and news from the band online at http://www.eatthegun.com and http://www.facebook.com/eatthegun.official.  Fans can also go to either site to order Stripped to the Bone now.  It goes without saying that the songs noted here are just part of what makes Stripped to the Bone a record definitely worth hearing.  It is just as fitting to note that regardless of how much attention it may or may not get stateside or elsewhere, this record is more than deserving of a place on this critic’s list of the year’s best new independent releases list.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.