Released: 2014, Steamhammer/SPV
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Don’t think for a second that the visual presentation of RUINING LIVES is at all accidental. From the choice of logo, to the color scheme, to the prominently adorned fork n’ eyeball, the artwork should immediately elicit fond memories amongst the Prong faithful of a place and time when the outfit was arguably at its creative zenith. Not that Tommy Victor and company have had any shortage of inspiration and/or vitriol lately, the exceptional CARVED INTO STONE made sure that everyone knew that. But for those of you who experienced the band’s evolution between FORCE FED and CLEANSING, you know exactly what I’m talking about; they were goddamn untouchable.
Apparently Uncle Tommy wants to remind you of that, because RUINING LIVES is goddamn untouchable.
RUINING LIVES is the sound of a young man’s anger communicated through an older man’s experience. While far from a nostalgia record, the 11 tracks on the album adopt a bare knuckle, no bullshit approach that recalls the unapologetic aggression of BEG TO DIFFER, the melodic exploration of PROVE YOU WRONG, and the impeccably catchy songwriting that’s been a constant hallmark of Prong for thirty years. RUINING LIVES takes everything you’ve ever loved about Prong and makes it better.
Opening track “Turnover” is an instant classic; uptempo, riff heavy, with a message of positivity and self–reliance that’s a recurring theme across the album. It straddles that fine line of feeling like a throwback tune while sounding totally fresh and energized at the same time. Tunes like “The Barriers”, the title track, and the ultra-fast “The Book of Change” are straight up thrashers in the purest sense, while “Windows Shut”, “Remove, Separate Self”, and “Absence of Light” piggy back dense rhythms, fat hooks, and fan ready sing-along choruses. There’s plenty of variety to be found on RUINING LIVES, but it always sounds unmistakably like Prong. How many other bands can say that?
“Organic” is a word that gets thrown around far too often (guilty as charged), but RUINING LIVES is for certain the most “organic” sounding Prong record since PROVE YOU WRONG. Gone are the mechanical rhythms that have been the band’s calling card for the latter half of its existence in favor of a more straightforward riff n’ melody approach. The result is a much more lush and vivid sounding record that make the layers of vocals and instrumental arrangements just sound f@#king HUGE. It’s an exceptional album, no question there, but it’s even more so when you strap on some headphones and really allow everything that’s going on to soak in.
2012’s CARVED INTO STONE was an amazing record that totally reset expectations of what Prong was capable of in the 21st century, but RUINING LIVES raises the bar to an entirely other level. As someone who’s been buying Prong albums for longer than he’d care to admit, I’ll argue with anyone that RUINING LIVES is Tommy Victor’s finest hour. Buy this.