Album: N.G.R.I. – EP
There are a lot of reasons or methods one might use to try and shirk the responsibility of their actions—especially where the fatality of another is concerned. Where some might opt for a defense based in claiming lack of focused intent (also known as Manslaughter), others might go for defenses similar to the ever-so-infamous OJ Simpson tactic—you know—if the glove don’t fit…
But none carry the same reputation as NGRI—Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. And when it comes to capturing the twisted, demented, depraved and sinister thoughts that so many file under “insane,” few bands do that as well as Prison. This nu-infused ruthless metalcore quartet define themselves as “heavy and unrelenting,” and that couldn’t be more true. Bold, brutalizing intensity with a scathing, shar edge, NGRI sounds almost like the brainsick child of King 810 and The Last Ten Seconds of Life—complete with a love of all things both groovy and Slipknot. A display of absurd aggression honed by lyrics that provide a first person-perspective inside lyrics reflecting several shades of psychosis, Prison have created an immerse and intense environment that sentences the listener to upwards of twenty minutes of pure terror.
In a word, the music behind NGRI is dark. Bereft of ethereality or subtlety, Prison begin hammering at he listened from the first seconds of “Dead Meat,” be it with bare-knucked and raw hardcore influence or scathing, sharp and shredding metallic prowess. The album’s percussion is minimalist in a marvelously effective way—nowhere in NGRI will the listener hear absurd blast beats or over-the-top fills. Instead, on songs like the first minute or more of “Our Father” and segments of “The Knife and the Dying Dream,” the drums relegate themselves to the background, keeping things barren and simple yet still strong and beefy—which of course morphs into a full-force onslaught during the climactic breakdown within “Our Father,” or the entirety of the fast and pissed “Losing My Mind.” During the more structural and “softer” percussive parts, the drums work excellently with the bass to keep songs fluid and full of motion, directing the more dynamic segments towards sections dominated by furiously fretted riffs and floor-shaking breakdowns. This is especially true during “Rape Me,” which is ruthless during its entirety, but certainly features moments where the bass and drums relegate themselves to a structural, low-end-based role while the guitar and vocals steal the listener’s attention.
Vocally, Prison follow the precedent set by the band’s musicianship—low, solid and thoroughly sinister. The brainchild of frontman Johnny Crowder, NGRI takes the listener on a disturbing thrill ride, filled with haunting and depraved lyrics that find their fit with eerie and monstrous vocal styles that fill every ounce of empty space left for them by the dynamic instrumentation. “Dead Meat,” for example, seems geared towards simply scaring the listener shitless—repeatedly questioning them, “did I choose death? Or did Death choose me?” Where other songs—like “Our Father,” which may be the EP highlight, shine a bright light on religious hypocrisy. Crowder’s vocals throughout Prison’s 2017 EP are strung out and frantic—yet still deep, jarring and twisted, sounding all too much like what one might imagine a far-from-sane voice in the back of your head could sound like. This backfires incredibly rarely; with the first minute or so of “Wear Your Skin” being the only real instance. Here, while Crowder’s vocals remain fantastic, the lyrics feel…corny, almost too much like someone read Poe’s The Black Cat and decided it would sound good as a metalcore song. However, the remainder of NGRI is strung out, intense and aggravated—the hallmarks of a mind warped by insanity, much to the listener’s benefit.
Prison’s previous releases I was skeptical of—never truly won over by the band’s sound until hearing it reach a composed and fluid form like that found on NGRI. Insane in the best way, Prison aim to use music as a means of eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health—something crucially important not only within the heavy music community where lyrics often focus on self-loathing and suicide—but in the world at large. Because of that, Prison are an important band even if moments—like the near-cringey opening to “Wear Your Skin”—keep some listeners away. While Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity might be a good plea for some, it doesn’t work for Prison—who prove the band’s insane dynamic makes them guilty of great success in a highly competitive scene.
For Fans Of: The Last Ten Seconds of Life, Korn, Slipknot, King 810
By: Connor Welsh