Pictures : Olga Kuzmenko http://olgakuzmenko.com/
Words: Alan Daly
It’s a night that I have personally been looking forward to for some time. New York crossover thrash legends Prong are back in Dublin on one of their infrequent visits to Ireland. In the run up to the imminent release of their 11th studio album Zero Days, Tommy Victor has expressed his confidence that tonight’s show will be both well-received and worth the wait.
Supporting them on this leg of the tour are melodic thrash metallers Spoil Engine, and as we wait for them to take to the stage, our phones are suddenly abuzz with the breaking news of Chester Bennington’s tragic and untimely passing. The shocking revelation prompts discussions about mental health issues and recollections of the all-too-recent suicide of Chris Cornell as well as the parallels between the two. It’s seems plausible that the lukewarm reception given to the Belgian/Dutch quintet is at least partially influenced by the media reports, and the their thundering opening track ‘Doomed to Die’ might be a tad unfortunate, all things considered. Despite the band trying hard to encourage the 40 to 50 people near the stage in the Voodoo Lounge to participate, the audience engagement is (undeservedly) weak throughout the set.
Spoil Engine are fronted by Dutch vocalist Iris Goessens who manages to steer clear of the common image stereotypes oft favoured by metal frontwomen, being neither over-sexualised nor dark and gothic. Instead, her on-stage style is simple and understated and her frame belies the impressive vocal performance she delivers, ranging from melodic singing to guttural growls. The performance of the three guitarists is animated and sometimes over-choreographed during moments of synchronised riffing, but founding guitarist (and Harry Hill look-alike) Steven Sanders does seem to be genuinely loving the antics. The closing track, ‘Disconnect’, features expletive-laden sing-along lyrics and middle fingers in the air that probably work well in a festival setting, but again failed to impress the lethargic Voodoo Lounge audience. Their blisteringly tight debut Irish performance, full of catchy breakdowns and hooky riffs, is definitely deserving of a better reception, and we hope they are not discouraged from returning to Dublin again.
As the venue steadily begins to fill, it’s clear that many had simply opted to skip the support act, and soon there is barely room to move. Tommy Victor takes to the stage first, greeted by cheers and applause. He is followed by drummer Art Cruz who has been with the band since 2014, and bassist Mike Longworth who recently rejoined after serving time in the band in the mid 2000’s. From the opening track ‘Disbelief’ (the first track ever released by Prong, taken from their 30 year old debut EP Primitive Origins), it’s obvious that Victor and co are ready to enjoy playing as much as we will enjoy listening. Sporting a t-shirt bearing the album art to Zero Days, Victor regularly frequents the edge of the stage, leaning into the audience, practically rubbing his guitar into our faces. The atmosphere is electric and the energy steadily builds. It’s not too long before fans are climbing onto the stage and launching themselves back onto the sea of upstretched arms. The behaviour does get a bit tired when one or two guys take things a bit far, shooting selfie videos and generally loitering about onstage. But the band don’t seem to mind and carry on belting out classic tracks regardless.
The setlist is crammed with pretty much every classic Prong track you could ask for, leaning heavily on their highly acclaimed albums Cleansing and Beg to Differ from the early 90’s, but also including three tracks from their last album X (No Absolutes), as well as the first video track from their upcoming album Zero Days, ‘Divide and Conquer’. Of course, fan favourites like ‘Broken Peace’, ‘Another Worldly Device’ and ‘Snap your Fingers, Snap your Neck’, turn the audience into a heaving mass of sweaty bodies, enjoying the iconic crunchy riffs that became a staple of Prong’s sound early in their career. The twenty-odd track set wraps up with not one, but two encores, including ‘Revenge Best Served Cold’ and ‘Prove you Wrong’. Anyone who came along tonight or has heard any of the brand new tracks knows that Prong are far from finished, and are stronger now than anyone might reasonably expect. Definitely a tour (and album) worth spending a few quid on.
Zero Days will be released worldwide on July 28th
You can catch Prong at these clubs and festivals in Europe this Summer:
28.07 – Weinheim – Cafe Central
29.07 – Essen – Nord Open Air
30.07 – Siegen – Vortex
02.08 – Potsdam – Waschhaus
03.08 – Kostrzyn – Woodstock Open Air
04.08 – Wacken – Wacken Open Air
05.08 – Veltheim – Festival Kult
06.08 – Cologne – Rheinriot
09.08 – Regensburg – Eventhall Airport
10.08 – Graz – Explosiv
11.08 – Vienna – Viper Room
12.08 – Josefov – Brutal Assault Festival
25.08 – Sulingen – ReLoad Festival