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Prong set the tone for so many popular metal bands — and yet you probably don’t know their music

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Some bands wear their influences on their sleeves — so much that when you listen to their music, you can hear elements inspired by other artists. In the case of New York’s Prong, you’ve likely heard the influence they’ve had on other bands more than you’ve heard their music.

Prong came out of New York’s hardcore scene with a brutal, minimalist approach to heavy metal. The band’s founder and front man, Tommy Victor, was a sound technician at the famous New York club CBGB’s in the late ’80s. Together with one of his co-workers (bassist Mike Kirkland) and ex-Swans drummer Ted Parsons, he formed Prong.

The band’s first two records, Primitive Origins and Force Fed, were released on the seminal indie label Southern Records and lent the band some instant underground credibility. Prong’s sound was simple, raw and aggressive — a more precise, metallic interpretation of ’80s hardcore punk. With a growing following, Prong attracted the attention of major label Epic Records, which signed them to a recording contract.

Major-label status led to some immediate changes: Prong’s sound was no longer based on heavy, minimalist riffage. The band crossed over into more technical, thrashy territory with their major-label debut, Beg to Differ. It was there that you could see and hear the growing pains of a band that seemed to be losing its identity under the microscope of number-crunching record execs. But not for long.

Prong’s next two albums, Prove You Wrong and Cleansing, were a return to form. The simple, hammering riffs were back and the addition of keyboards added an atmospheric, industrial element that was perfectly in line with the band’s sound. This new direction led to a couple of mildly successful singles, in particular 1994’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck,” which was in constant rotation on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.

Creative success, however, did not lead to business success for Prong. They were dropped following the release of Rude Awakening in 1996. Victor broke up the band and concentrated on being a sideman for other artists, touring for many years as Glenn Danzig’s guitarist. Meanwhile, bands like White Zombie, Nine Inch Nails and Korn achieved massive popularity and commercial success by borrowing heavily from Prong’s bag of tricks. All of those artists — and many others — have cited Prong as having been a major influence, and you can hear it in their music.

Victor re-formed Prong a few years ago, and the band now resides on 13th Planet Records, the label formed by Al Jourgensen of Ministry. You’re not likely to hear anything new or exciting in their current tunes, but you will hear the Prong that they set out to be, and that’s influenced so many others.

Prong plays with Soulfly, Incite and Rotting Corpse at the Knitting Factory on Monday, March 29, at 7 pm. Tickets: $20-$22. All-ages. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call (800) 325-SEAT.

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