PRONG for me is one of those bands that always have me thinking “Man, I should do some catching up on their discography” but for various reasons I always keep postponing it.  There is no postponing now though, but sadly “Songs from the Black Hole” is a covers album – and by “sadly” I don’t mean they’ve done awful work, but that it includes no new songs of their own”.

The choice of bands is quite interesting, ranging from 80’s hardcore bands to “darker” stuff like KILLING JOKE and SISTERS OF MERCY, in general a mixture of sounds that shaped PRONG’s own style (at least till “Rude Awakening” where I left them) plus “Cortez the Killer” at the end, one of the most inexplicable choices in the history of inexplicable choices.

The first thing to notice is something that always makes me cringe and that is the super clean, almost “plastic” production. If you are looking for the groovy depth that lies in albums like “Cleansing”, you better look elsewhere. However the first cover will have you fooled, since it is a really heavy rendition of “Doomsday” by the hardcore pioneers DISCHARGE played with respect and no intentions of experimental fooling around. Just like the original, it is straight, it is raw and it’s in your fucking face, also thanks to the blood boiling vocals by the old timer Tommy Victor.

Then comes “Vision Thing” by SISTERS OF MERCY and every ounce of objectivity I have is thrown out the window, since I’d still love it even if it was covered by a Mongolian throat singing band. In any case though, Prong take the rock ‘n’ roll aura it carries and transform it into a MANOWAR meets MOTLEY CRUE happy hour groovy ass shaker making it more like a beer drinking anthem. On a footnote, this must be one of the most bizarre and surreal paragraphs I’ll ever write.

What is really positive is that although Tommy is nowhere near the vocal abilities of singers like Andrew Eldritch, Neil Young or the psychopathically beautiful H.R of BAD BRAINS, he somehow manages to make every song his own, doing the absolutely basic stuff. On the negative side though, as I’ve already mentioned, the very clear and too professional recording will spoil for me some of the hardcore covers like “Bars” by BLACK FLAG or “Kids of the Black Hole” by Adolescents. Also, when a bit of technique is required –like in that turning on HUSKER DU’s “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely” refrain- they try to put their stigma with the wrong way, meaning an extra side of unnecessary guitar pinches and squeals.

However they will nail the covers on BUTTHOLE SURFERS “Goofy’s Concern”, KILLING JOKE’s “Seeing Red” above all and I’ll also give them the BAD BRAINS one, only for the guts to try and cover one of the most unique hardcore bands ever. They don’t work wonders, but they give an American punk – meets- industrial rock breath of fresh air to those beautiful oldies (“Seeing Red” is only 12 years old, so I’m referring to the album as a whole).

And I think that this is the most important fact about “Songs From The Black Hole”, that the use of the “PRONG” sound –even a bit more plastic than I’d wish- makes these favorite oldies more accessible to the young listener, gives them a more modern, uplifting essence without disrespecting the original creations, since I believe it is something PRONG did with affection taking into consideration that those are some of their heroes.

So, in any case, Prong don’t do anything groundbreaking with this album, yet it can be very fun at times if you can forgive the mischiefs mentioned above and I hope it can be a guide towards hardcore punk and the alternative scene if it falls on the hands of an unaware teenager. The NEIL YOUNG cover will be our skeleton in the closet, ok?

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