Friday, February 8, 2008

Metal Inquisition Roundtable #1: Who riffs harder: Prong or Pantera?

Sergeant D
: This is a tough one for me. When it comes to vaguely racist 90s thrash with hardcore elements, both bands are at the top of the heap, so it's hard to pick one over the other. Both bands have songs with memorable, yet retarded choruses that their fans loved to chant: "Snap your fingers, snap your neck" and "Fucking hostile." And of course, both bands had plenty of merchandise available through Blue Grape, including hockey jerseys, ashtrays, and "jams." So there's a lot of common ground.

But at the end of the day, you have to go with Pantera. Like Phil said in the Cowboys From Hell home video, they're truly a new generation of power groove. Unlike their peers that were just another forgettable track on a Concrete Corner cassette sampler, Pantera's songs have the kind of staying power that few bands ever create.

Lucho Metales: Look, I'm not one to shy away from controversy. I believe "South Of Heaven" is the best Slayer album. I think "Harmony Corruption" is the best Napalm Death album (if I hear ANYONE give me hell about how it's not a grindcore album, but a death metal album....heads will roll)... perhaps the most controversial opinion I hold is that Sanctuary were a derivative band that relied too heavily on their image, and that Dave Mustaine producing their album did little for its quality.

Having said all this I can now tell you that I feel that when it comes to straight up riffage, Prong were the kings. Yes, I know that Pantera were heavier, I also understand that Diamond Darrell's (I refuse to call him "Dimebag") guitar tone was masterful, but let's not get lost in the minutia of production values and gear. Both bands had equally bad, paper thin rhythm sections (Vinnie Paul's drumming in Cowboys From Hell is only slightly more advanced than that of Meg White) so the riffing really came through in both bands, but Prong always came out ahead. Their riffs were far more memorable, and anchored songs in a stronger manner. True, I have to try really hard to put aside the memory of seeing Tommy Victor when he was playing for Danzig, and I saw him after the show wearing leather pants and a clear plastic shirt. No joke. But hey, both bands made questionable fashion choices at times.

Still, how shocked were you when you bought Prong's "Beg To Differ" and suddenly realized that all the riffs for the Headbanger's Ball bumpers were by Prong? Riki Rachtman picked those riffs himself (as he stated in an interview with Prong circa 1994). If anyone can pick riffage, its Riki. Dude went skydiving with Dave Mustaine, so you know he's a man's man.

Gene Hoglan's Balls: Sergeant D and I first debated this fundamental question while looking at fat chicks in tight clothes at the Willowbrook Mall several years ago. So fierce was the debate that it raged on as we drove back to his apartment in Montclair and on into the wee hours of the morning. Even after hours of debate we couldn’t come up with a single definitive answer, but if I remember correctly I ended up siding with Dimebag and Sergeant D sided with Tommy Victor. Years later the debate rages on and for me at least, the answer is still not a clear cut one.

I don’t care much for early Prong. Their sloppy attempt at crossover just doesn’t speak to me the same way their mid 90s industrial metal does. The same can be said for Pantera. Their early, power metal albums are a joke compared to the razor sharp, muscular groove of albums like “Cowboys From Hell” and “Vulgar Display of Power.” When you put a song like “Rude Awakening” up against a song like “Primal Concrete Sledge” it’s almost impossible to pick one band over the other. You’ve got to two HUGE jackhammer riffs dripping with groove, and that’s only one example, but there are countless others. How do you pick just one?

In order to settle this debate there’s an important distinction that I think needs to be made between heaviness and hardness. As far as heaviness goes, Pantera is the clear winner, but in terms of hardness, Prong comes out on top. Dimebag’s riffs are heavier, but Tommy Victor’s are harder. Get it? Okay. With that distinction in mind I’m left with no other choice than to declare Prong the winner in the “Who Riffs Harder?” debate!

Awakening: This is an easy one for me. Pantera. Thanks in part to never really hearing Prong until later in my life, when I ventured into my beloved Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh and bought Beg to Differ used. What a turd. Maybe I was too stoked on getting the first three slayer albums used on vinyl on the same trip.

Pantera also provides for two of my favorite events in life.

Event number one is when this dude I grew up with saw Pantera and had Phil sign the side of his head. Said dude then went and had Phil’s signature tattooed to his fucking head. HIS HEAD! Later he covered it up with a sweet tribal. Now, I think he is dead. I can’t remember.

Event number two is that one night at this bar I somehow managed to convince everyone that I would be the "plus one" for free Pantera tickets that the bar was giving away. Sure enough, a friend won them and took me. We arrived, found $200 dollars in the walk up to the venue and then proceeded to have our balls blown off by the images of a pot leaf projected all over the roof. It was awesome.

Hey remember when Phil went black metal?

Hands down, Pantera.


Prong: 2
Pantera: 2


  1. pantera, hands down. they win.

  2. both of these bands completely and totally suck and you guys should be ashamed for wasting so much time discussing this......

  3. Pro-Pain.

    (insert sounds of crickets chirping)


  4. discussing whether pantera or prong riff harder is not only important, its crucial. the future of worldwide riffing is at stake. this is healthy dialogue, that must take place if we are to move forward as a metal society. yes, we are talking about recordings that were made nearly 20 years ago...but when you hear "cementary gates", it feels relevant...and so is this discourse. i applaud you for creating a forum for such an important discussion and topic.

  5. i, for one, feel that the potential of the internet has been fulfilled now that we have a place to make pro-pain jokes!!

  6. Wait... I'm probably missing something due to the use of smarmy sarcasm being off the chart at all times on here... but did someone just imply that Dimebag's guitar tone is good? Never has there been a more exact and easily pin-pointable negative trend catalyst in all of record music. SCOOP THE MIDS AND BE BRUTAL, BRO!!!

  7. prong was better,especially up till "rude awakening",havent really heard much after that...but what i liked was they had a killing joke influence and they shouldve kept it. when they tried to sound like pantera and be "hard" is when they pretty much jumped the shark. i wasnt into pantera,not a big fan of anything thats butch.

  8. One of my favorite stories is similar to the great events- I laugh every time I imagine a stranger approaching someone after overhearing them say "Pantera sucks" and without saying a word, punching them in the face and knocking them out cold. Also seeing Pantera was the best example I've ever seen of mob mentality in real life. Imagine an entire football field (really) of people slamming like their metal hearts out and kicking up enough dirt to make it difficult to breathe.

  9. the term "groove" cannot be used in the same context as METAL, much less when it's preceded with a "power", the whole thing collapses into itself and voids it's own existence on this dimension+pi.