Tommy Victor, consider yourself on a roll. After a solid stint with MINISTRY while tinkering to keep PRONG afloat over the years to mixed reviews, Victor proved his naysayers wrong with the 2012 rebound album, "Carved in Stone". This time, rebound is a dirty word. It's been ages since PRONG's monster riffs ran rampant amidst the commercial breaks on "Headbanger's Ball", but Victor's acting like time is abstract and he has eternity at his beckon call. "Ruining Lives", PRONG's ninth album, is an electrifying summation of where Victor's been and where he's assertively heading.
"Turnover" wastes no time getting "Ruining Lives" on the right track with a fast, riff-heavy whump that finds Tommy Victor slicing away on his guitar and singing without panic as he turns a melodic trick into it. The failure of "Rude Awakening" in the eyes of Epic Records might've put a fear factor into Victor's songwriting over the next few albums, but many PRONG fans will agree he was onto something back then. "Turnover" thus brings a settled balance of aggression and tunefulness, setting a mark that's well-met through "Ruining Lives".
Victor's time in MINISTRY has given him a spark that finds him slashing through the steady crush of "The Barriers" and he rides the song's forceful velocity with gleeful shredding and reeling riffs. His vocals are just as concentrated and it's only a few intermittent industrial-based squeals from his frets that interrupt the song's fast and focused flow. "Windows Shut" then restrains the tempo, if not Victor's enthusiasm. If "Rude Awakening" taught him anything, it's to be intrepid with melody when it fits. For all the agro pumping and tempered knitting on the verses, "Windows Shut"'s choruses are equally huge.
Hammered down with some of the sweatiest grooves since "Cleansing", Victor sounds freaking emancipated as he rides "Remove, Separate Self"'s bang with succulent riffs and elevating choruses. Silently, you just know he's hoisting a middle finger toward his former label. In a less-crowded music market, the heat-seeking "Remove, Separate Self" would be an instant hit. "Absence of Light" likewise hits the lobbing slink methods from "Cleansing" and pays off nearly as much. The anticipatory verses are killer and though the choruses may overextend beyond the ugliness preceding them, "Absence of Light" continues to show Tommy Victor enjoying himself. Once again on "Self Will Run Riot", Victor hits everything from "Prove You Wrong" through "Rude Awakening" to assemble a constantly churning riff fest setting up effervescent choruses that hardly overextend in this case.
The title track pulls the reins (most of the time, anyway), but certainly not the heaviness. If anything, "Ruining Lives" is one of the album's crunchiest offerings with Victor's suffocating rips, Jason Christopher's rolling bass and galloping double hammer from Art Cruz. The song is given an added boost courtesy of a thrashed-out solo section, smartly juxtaposed within the mid-tempo grind surrounding it. Speaking of thrash, hang out for the fierce flurries of "The Book of Change" and "Chamber of Thought", the former featuring some of the wildest licks PRONG's ever laid claim to. Victor's on fire with these cuts and his backing mates are well-up to meeting him headfirst.
Art Cruz and Jason Christopher should be given credit for keeping Tommy Victor inspired. Christopher's backing vocals are hefty and he's a freakazoid with his bass whuffing on "Come to Realize". PRONG these days is hardly the same three-headed hydra as it was in the "Beg to Differ" and "Prove You Wrong" years, much less "Cleansing" and "Rude Awakening". On the other hand, this is the most self-assured Victor has sounded in ages, not that "Scorpio Rising" or "Power of the Damager" were bad albums. Those felt more like Victor's desperation to exist, while "Carved in Stone" and now "Ruining Lives" feels like his personal liberation. As Victor would snarl on "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck", cheers…