Zero Days is the twelfth album from Tommy Victor’s on-again, off-again post-thrash group, Prong. Victor formed the band in 1986 while he was sound engineer at the world-renowned dive bar, CBGB’s. Their heyday was the early to mid ’90s when albums like Beg To Differ and Cleansing rode the slipstream of grunge into the mainstream. That was in their industrial-tinged phase when they were influenced by, and influencing, the likes of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Indeed, Victor went on to join Ministry during one of Prong’s hiatus. The industrial influence has long fallen away and this is a straight up metal groove from the power trio of Victor, Mike Longworth (bass), and Art Cruz (drums).
Zero Days is Prong’s fifth album since Victor resurrected the band in 2012, and at this point, it feels like they are doing too much. The downtuned guitars make the riffs sound like every other metal band. The production is contrarily trying to turn their post-hardcore industrial sound into pop-punk. Victor no longer sounds menacing and righteously indignant, he sounds like he’s skating down Venice Beach Boulevard with a backwards baseball cap on his noggin. This is particularly evident on ‘Divide and Conquer' and ‘Blood Out Of Stone’. The over-production on the vocals is problematic and it spoils the enjoyment of Prong’s usually top-notch riffing. Victor has produced it himself again but the next record would benefit from a trip to Illinois to be overseen by Steve Albini.
Wisely opening with the hardcore ‘However It May End', Zero Days quickly loses momentum. ‘Off The Grid’ and ‘Forced Into Tolerance’ are generic and forgettable thrashers. The latter is also on dodgy ground in social terms. It sounds like an anthem for Trumpian fascism. There’s a massive upturn in proceedings in the final quarter of the album. It’s as if the production budget ran out towards the end and, with ‘Rulers Of The Collective’, we get a glimpse of prime Prong. Victor is throaty and shouty. The guitars are meaty and pushed to the fore, and the multi-tracking is kept to an acceptable level. ‘Compulsive Future Projection’ follows it and is an unusual song from the band. It is slower and more spacious than what has preceded it. These traits mark it as the standout track on Zero Days.
All of which makes a fine ending to this album. It’s such a pity that it takes so long to get good, or even listenable. Last years’ X-No Absolutes was a decent offering but didn’t demand repeated listening after the initial release. With Zero Days, the returns continue to diminish. A couple of years away from the studio, a new producer, and some better quality control will be needed for Prong to retain any currency.