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Five Finger Death Punch (an undeniably cool name inspired by a Dim Mak technique used by "The Bride" in the equally cool film "Kill Bill") are a heavy metal band hailing from Los Angeles having formed in 2005. After the usual dramatic shuffling of band members their current line-up is Ivan Moody (vocalist), Zoltan Bathory (guitarist), Jason Hook (guitarist), Chris Kael (bassist) and Jeremy Spencer (drummer). I would say on the heavy metal scale of number one being Britney Spears and number ten being Slipknot they are about an 8 as they enjoy some seriously heavy guitar riffs and manic drumming not to mention the positively demonic and angry death growling from Moody, but interestingly they also incorporate much more melodic passages into all their songs which shaves off some of the intensity and makes for some very catchy tunes.
They have been pretty successful in America so far (oddly Finland too) with their first two albums "The Way of the Fist (2007)" and "War is the Answer (2009)" both having been certified gold (selling more than 500,000 copies) and their third studio album to date "American Capitalist" is looking to be just as successful selling more than 90,000 copies in the first week of release and charting at number 3 on the Billboard 200 US chart, but as of yet they are not particularly well known here in the UK. "The Way of the Fist" was actually re-released in the US with some extra tracks included, but the final version released in the UK included these missing tracks (Never Enough, Stranger Than Fiction) plus two bonus tracks, so the UK edition actually is the most comprehensive version - lucky us.
===The Way of the Fist (2007)===
So, if you're looking for intensely heavy, eardrum bursting guitars and vitriolic anger you've come to the right place. The album kicks off with "Ashes" which pretty much sets the tone for the album to come with seriously heavy guitars and awesome solo passages, insane drumming plus death metal vocals spewing forth with some darkly evocative lyrics - "A hair trigger temperament. A switchblade for a tongue. Walking one man genocide. Black belt in corrupt". But in stark contrast to this brutal onslaught is a very catchy and softened chorus with a genuine emotional feel to it where Moody showcases his surprisingly smooth vocals adding an extra layer to the song. At least half the songs on this album interspersed throughout are in a very similar vein.
"A Place to Die" is another example and the really likeable thing about this song is that the complex solo guitar sections are at the forefront and aren't lost in the melee which makes for a more tuneful offering. The verses and vocals are as angry as ever and the lyrics are just as darkly chilling - "The light at the end, the crack in the sky, there's no promise for release, no way for me to get away" - but yet again there is an incredibly toned down and catchy chorus. "Salvation" follows suit with an incredibly heavy intro, but this song has a more balanced feel to it with longer, slower choruses and more emphasis on the silkier vocals throughout, plus plenty of solo guitar action for a more melodic sound. There are some strong anti-religious themes in this one that also gives this song a rather wrathful quality to it - "I won't bow to something that I've never seen. I can't believe in something that doesn't believe in me. I'm not blood of your blood, I'm no son of your god".
Likewise, "White Knuckles" is a song full of contrastingly heavy passages mixed with much slower and more melodic passages, especially in the chorus, and also with a heavy emphasis on some kick-ass guitar solos. It is certainly angrier than "Salvation" with a subtle political message - "How many people really care? How many will be standing? I'll light the match, the flame, the fuse, the bomb. Rescue the world from slavery". You can stick "The Devil's Own" on this list as well as it is yet again another concoction of bitterly heavy passages contrasted against the softer, more emotional chorus. The lyrics are incredibly anguished which also ratchet up the intensity of the song - "It's because of you I'm broken. It's because of you I'm dead inside. I never asked to be here. It's because of you I'm godforsaken"
So, from a more balanced song on to a completely relentless one, "The Way of the Fist" is a barrage of passionate hatred from beginning to end without any respite even from the chorus which has no noticeable shift in tempo, although towards the latter half of the song there is an impressively tuneful guitar solo which does ease the intensity a negligible amount. This song is pure rage all the way through with some of the heaviest guitars and manic drumming out of any of the tracks plus screaming vocals and what are effectively mindless lyrics driven by fury with swearing in every other sentence - "Strapped with rage, got no patience for victims. Sick and tired of the whole f**kin' world".
"Meet the Monster" is another song that is explosively heavy and utterly relentless, but there is a sinister feel to this song which gives it a wonderful twist with the slightly surreal perspective from the mind of a metaphorical monster with some subtle social commentary. "Can you read between the lines? Or are you stuck in black and white? Hope I'm on the list of people that you hate, it's time you met the monster that you have helped create". I love Moody's vocals on this track as he creates an amusingly disturbed edge which emphasises the twisted nature of this song.
But the album isn't all vengeful fury - there are a number of mid-tempo tunes that really stand out on the album. "Can't Heal You" is a prime example - it still has heavy undertones and superb solo guitars that really threaten to erupt but this is a much more restrained song and the majority of the song is sung with much softer vocals, despite the odd lapse back to the death metal growls. There is also an intriguingly insane, almost schizophrenic feel to this song with abrupt changes from calm to crazy plus the background demonic voice that sneakily filters in. Once again the lyrics are wonderfully dark - "The deeper you get, the farther you fall down. The closer I get, the more you dissolve". Another fairly mid-tempo song is "Death Before Dishonour" which still has moments of high intensity, but with a slow, and emotional chorus taking centre stage, this is one of the more recognisable tracks on the album. Lyrically there is also a political/social message hidden within - "The FCC, the FBI and every tin god with a badge and a gun. You talk and talk, you preach and bitch but your words don't mean a thing".
For me though, the real standout songs of the album, two of which bizarrely weren't even included on the original US version, also all happen to be the singles released. "The Bleeding" which got to No. 9 in the US Main charts was the first released and is a completely different style to all the previous mentioned ones. It has a very toned down, almost acoustic feel to the guitars and is one of the most melodic tunes on the whole album. There are still some mandatory death metal growls dotted about here and there, but this song is incredibly emotional and beautifully sung but with enough heavy passages to hook any heavy metal lovers out there. The lyrics are again extremely dark and haunting - "Paint the mirrors black to forget you. I still picture your face and the way you used to taste. Roses in a glass, dead and wilted".
The second single released "Never Enough" also got to No. 9 and is more a mid-tempo tune, but again not wholly representative of the rest of the album. There are still some very heavy guitar riffs but this song never reaches the intensity of any of the other tunes. It mixes up anguish and anger in a brilliant way though, and is incredibly catchy and melodic. Once again though Moody shows off how good his voice actually is with a gradually building emotional display, but lyrically this is perhaps a more understated offering - "I'd rather you hate me for everything I am than have you love me for something that I can't".
The final single which just happens to be me also leaving the best until last is "Stranger Than Fiction". Again, completely non-representative of the album, for me this is by far the best tune on the entire album. Beating "The Bleeding" as the most tuneful, this song has been constructed masterfully. Always remaining at most a mid-tempo song, the chorus is actually more powerful than the verses for a change with a brilliant guitar hook which you can't wriggle free of even if you wanted. Again there are heavy undertones and some majestic guitar solos but these remain in the shadows to the stirring melody. Moody sings the rather melancholic lyrics in a very emotional fashion throughout with hardly a sniff of a growl - "I can't believe you'd stoop so low. Of all the things you took away I miss my mind the most". If you want to give Five Finger Death Punch a try I'd start with this song.
The extra bonus tracks don't really enhance the album much, the cover of the Faith No More track "From Out of Nowhere" is passionately done and performed brilliantly, but it is such a different style to their own it does feel a bit odd. Likewise, the live version of "The Devil's Own" doesn't really add anything to the studio version already on this album. Overall, this is a brilliant heavy metal debut, easily mixing it up with the likes of Trivium, Bullet for My Valentine, Disturbed, Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold to name a few. The guitar riffs and solo passages are dreamy, the drumming is epic and Ian Moody has a brilliant voice that can switch between death metal angry to smoothly emotional which all helps to create wonderfully varied songs with calm choruses mellowing the often brutal verses. A must for all heavy metal fans.
1. "Ashes" - 8/10
2. "The Way of the Fist" - 7/10
3. "Salvation" - 9/10
4. "The Bleeding" - 10/10
5. "A Place to Die" - 8/10
6. "The Devil's Own" - 8/10
7. "White Knuckles" - 8/10
8. "Never Enough" - 9/10
9. "Stranger Than Fiction" - 10/10
10. "Can't Heal You" - 9/10
11. "Death Before Dishonour" - 9/10
12. "Meet the Monster" - 8/10
13. "From Out of Nowhere" (Faith No More cover) - 7/10
14. "The Devil's Own" (Live) - 7/10