Prong – “Beg to Differ”

dB HoF No. 154

Label: Epic

Release Date: March 1990


To say Prong was unique would be an understatement. We’re not talking about kitchen percussion and a catgut string quartet, but by the time Prong unfurled Beg to Differ onto a music-centric world still reeling from Aqua Net shotgun blasts in the form of MTV darlings “Love in an Elevator,” “Forever” and “Way Cool Jr.,” as well as thrash metal reaching its creative apex, Prong’s simplified rhythm ‘n’ dissonance-heavy thrust was positively rare air. Of course, Prong—a power trio comprised of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Victor, bassist Mike Kirkland and drummer Ted Parsons—had existed prior to Beg to Differ. The group’s debut EP Primitive Origins and follow-up LP Force Fed were, by virtue of crisscrossing punk (Damage), post-punk (Killing Joke), hardcore (Bad Brains, Discharge), and thrash metal (Slayer, Destruction) and re-forging them into something unheard of, underground institutions, both in the States and, to a greater extent, in England.

Picked up by Sony after big fishing it in small indie label ponds, Prong would craft a masterpiece of modern metal before there even was such a term. MTV—very much caught in the midst of, to quote Parsons, “boot and hair metal”—was the platform by which Beg to Differ would be broadcast to the masses. Initially, the album’s lead single, title track was in light rotation on Headbangers Ball, MTV’s flagship heavy music program. Filmed in the bowels of New York City, “Beg to Differ” captured an industrial vibe—Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM—without the Orwellian overtones. The song’s urban grit felt here and now rather than distant and future. “Beg to Differ,” with its surgical chops and atmospheric jangle, was instantly relatable. Unlike Voivod and Wargasm, there was no “adjustment period” to Prong.

Not long after the “Beg to Differ” video dropped jaws and MTV folded part of “Lost and Found” into theHeadbangers Ball theme did the rest of Prong’s second album start to impress. With a powerful yet clean production courtesy of Mark Dodson (Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies), lead-off track “For Dear Life,” “Steady Decline,” “Lost and Found,” “Prime Cut,” ”Take it in Hand,” and the inimitable “Your Fear” were thrash metal from a non-thrash metal perspective. No doubt about it. Prong didn’t bash brains and divebomb solo ’cause that’s what everyone else was doing. That is to say, Victor, Kirkland, and Parsons weren’t path-bound by the Big Four. They had their own set—individually and collectively—of mostly non-metal influences. And it showed.

There remain many thrash metal albums to enter the Hall of Fame, but it’s time to honor Beg to Differ for breaking sacred ground and directing where heavy music would inevitably head for the rest of the ’90s.

-Chris Dick

Got to get more Prong? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with all members on Beg to Differ, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.