Prong is back with yet another album, as well as a testament to Tommy Victor's incredible stamina. As it stands, the band have released a new recording every year since 2014's Ruining Lives and the machine just keeps on rolling. Now while I liked the band's previous output of original material (2015's Songs From The Black Hole was a covers album) I felt it was a little more radio-friendly than I would've cared for, with this record being more in the vein of 2012's Carved Into Stone. That's not to say that all of the commercial material has taken a bow, because “Without Words” is definitely well in that vein. But it's also a very good song, with a thrash meets Killing Joke/Fear Factory vibe that I can definitely get behind. But before we even get to that one, there's a four-minute cut early on in the record called “Sense Of Ease” that comes directly before it. This track definitely sees the kit aflame, with Victor screaming as much as he's using a cleaner vocal approach much in the vein of current-era Anthrax, which I can again, get behind. We also have screaming guitars in the background, which I've also got no problem with. This is clearly what Prong sounds like at their best, so I don't feel that anyone should have a complaint with the performance. The title cut definitely contains a more industrial rock approach, where the verses and chorus prove strongest. It's one of those songs that feels like a sing-along, reminding me a bit of Dope's lighthearted material. But the record gets even lighter with the ballad “Do Nothing” which is a rather passionate piece that I can actually feel. I remember this piece from the first time I listened to the record and that says something. These guys prove that they can be commercially relevant, but I don't think they'll ever strip down completely to the point where even the shouts are removed from the track. I don't feel that Prong are channeling Linkin Park here, but in their defense, those guys got a bit heavier themselves as of late. Fear Factory and Killing Joke definitely had their share of great ballads, so I'd much more compare it to one of those great moments, rather than saccharine radio crap. Victor is obviously not channeling Adelle, whose new record should come with a box of tissues. Especially when he resorts to pounding your face into the ground during the djent-laden “Belief System.” Normally I don't care for djent, but prong are one of the few bands where it sounds tolerable, even memorable.
In addition to the Victor's approach, is a rather nice guitar backing in which the man is pulling off some rather nice and quite pretty solo moments. There's still and obvious core influence here, but there should be. That's the idea. These guys didn't simply hop on the bandwagon like Five Finger Death Punch (even though I'll admit I liked their debut Way Of The Fist) and have only been showing the world what hardcore music can sound like mixed in with industrial, thrash, rock and other familiar genres without sounding too much like bubblegum pop rock. Even if the chorus numbers can sound squeaky clean on cuts like “In Spite Of Hindrances” you can't deny that you're getting an absolute pummeling at the same time. While “Ice Runs Through My Veins” might sound a little too mainstream at first, we do have to keep in mind that Victor wants to explore other territories and if such an approach is delivered well enough, then why not? I've already walked you through the majority of the record and you can pretty much get the idea at this point, which is that X:No Absolutes is definitely a hefty record with a rather sugary center that you might not expect, nor will you expect the fact that you're actually enjoying it. For some it still might not be as heavy as they'd like, but that's not to say that these guys didn't deliver a beating. They just delivered a bit more than that, and when done right, is there really a problem?
(13 Tracks, 41:00)