Prison - N.G.R.I.
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Thank you Prison for letting us review the EP early!
From the ashes of Dark Sermon emerge Prison. Johnny Crowder had been teasing the project for a while, and its small but growing fan base has been teeming with anticipation. When the day finally came, they announced the debut EP, N.G.R.I., and released single “The Knife and the Dying Dream.” The track crushes listeners with the twisted narrative of a man on the brink. Guitars come together in an inescapable groove and throw listeners into a tailspin. What is most surprising about the song is the presence of Crowder’s layered cleans that keep the song emotionally grounded. The song immediately shows promise and seemed to unanimously ease everyone’s mind following the end of Dark Sermon.
“Dead Meat” kicks the EP off with slow chug riffs and an eerie high end similiar to Sworn In’s The Death Card that will surely provoke pits. The anguish Crowder exudes leaves it mark, and it's lines like “I’ve been trying to look myself in the mirror and say, that it's okay / but I don’t trust this tongue of mine.” The theme of mental illness really shows itself with the inclusion of two clips bookending the track. I won’t say much, but one is of a lawyer discussing the insanity plea. “Losing My Mind” comes in violent and chaotic, frequently changing mood in tandem with its lyrical dilemma of trying to hold onto sanity and hiding that battle from others. It goes from frantic non-chord tones to minimal instrumentation and layered vocals, keeping the listener on his or her toes. With a rather unceremonious end, “The Knife and the Dying Dream” come in with that hair raising tone.
For such a dark EP, I’m almost uncomfortable calling “Wear Your Skin” fun, but it really is. It’s packed with bouncy riffs, string bends, and Crowder elongating his esses into a hiss (“Oh come on, you gotta let me wear your ssssskin”), seemingly having fun with his delivery. It's really one of the easiest songs to relate to in terms of subject matter, although it doesn’t quite sit right between “The Knife…” and “Our Father.” Speaking of which, “Our Father” is my favorite song on the EP with an ethereal atmosphere, a wavering backtrack, and the spiritually-devastating line, “You keep twisting the scripture so human beings aren’t to blame.” It’s undeniably the heaviest song on N.G.R.I. with the unexpected breakdown that plays with silence and another choice line: “God isn’t the problem, it's people like you.” Since the band isn’t planning on touring until they’re comfortable and ready, I guess I’ll have to imagine what being in the pit is like indefinitely. Lastly, “Rape Me” has floated on YouTube for a while and has made a lot of people uncomfortable. Isn’t that the point? The title, repeated over and over, is abrasive and assaultive on its own. It continues down this path of disgust as Crowder utilizes an ever-widening vocal range, culminating in this cathartic line: “Was it something I was wearing at the time / So tell me again how I was begging for it with my eyes.” Crowder delivers some of his rawest vocals as the song picks up and he delves into the consequences, keeping things vague but no less unsettling. Although the EP ends on a fade, it lingers long afterwards.
As a first official release, this is solid. N.G.R.I. feels rather refined, and Prison seem to know how to craft their intended aura, for the most part. Crowder does the heavy lifting on that front, but you can’t overlook the musicians behind him. Their bassist is prominent with commanding grooves, a slew of effects in the guitars that make it so dynamic. With that being said, it's not a perfect EP despite how much I enjoy it and am willing to overlook some issues with flow, one of the things I prize in my music. I’d rather have a cohesive EP or album than a collection of singles. But none of these minor gripes should deter you from listening. Prison are hitting the ground running, and I wouldn’t be surprised if things start picking for them soon after the scene has had some time to digest N.G.R.I.
- Alex B.