100% Live

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From the hope-they-haven't-lost-their-vitality department came Prong, re-emerging after a five-year hiatus with a new lineup, tour, and subsequent live album. Fans were rightfully skeptical, Prong in 2002 being essentially singer, guitarist, and main songwriter Tommy Victor teamed up with some hired guns for the purpose of mining the band's back catalog -- and the not-so-creatively titled 100% Live is an underwhelming return for one of metal's most overlooked and wildly creative acts of the '90s. Part of the problem is this live set's sanitized production, which gives the feeling that it was pieced together from various recordings; granted, "Dark Signs," "Cut Rate," and "Close the Door" offer some punch, but most songs, especially "Broken Peace," a barnburner on classic studio album Cleansing, are pancaked by flat fidelity (with all the crowd noise removed, the high end suffers) and performances that make longtime fans yearn for the stellar musicianship of ex-drummer and founding member Ted Parsons (who eventually joined Godflesh). The lone new song, "Initiation," despite solid, typically minimalist riffing, sounds like a Cleansing outtake, leaving one to hope that the upcoming studio album would offer the refreshing, left-of-center, existentialist approach -- a combination of street grit and intelligence, of unconventional chord phrasings, progressive percussion, and profound lyrics that never talked down to its audience, lost its gut-level impact, or got mired in intellectualism -- that made this band such a vital (and underappreciated) outfit in the mid-'90s. Unfortunately, 100% Live doesn't fit into the band's canon very well, because one would hope that Prong would be above digging up old favorites for the sake of nostalgia.

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