Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Album Review: Five Finger Death Punch - The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1

I am embarrassed to admit it.  Though I had heard of Five Finger Death Punch, I had never really heard their music before.  So, I was excited to have the opportunity to finally sit down and take in the music of this band that so many friends have been raving about lately.

Now, having heard of a band without hearing their music brings expectations of what one will hear.  With a name like Five Finger Death Punch, I thought that there was little room for interpretation of what the music would sound like.  However...

As the album kicked in with "Lift Me Up" and featured a second verse sung by Rob Halford, I was a little surprised that the song wasn't as heavy as the band name suggested.  And the second track, "Watch You Bleed," had my mind fitting 5FDP in the hard-rock-but-not-quite-metal-by-today's-standards genre that is home to bands like Adrenaline Mob and Disturbed.  Don't get me wrong, the songs were good - great, actually - just not as heavy as I had envisioned.

After a more gritty third track, "You," the album showcased the diversity of the band with "Wrong Side of Heaven."  I hadn't heard a band that could make a ballad sound this manly since the pre-Newsted days of Metallica. 

However, the real meat of the album kicked in with track 5, "Burn MF."  This song has a hook that makes you want to sing - make that scream - back to your speakers on your first listen.  Hard and heavy, this song is clearly the album's anthem.  And with "I.M. Sin" following, I realized that this album is getting heavier as it goes along.  This is more of the brutality I expected from a band with such a violent name!

"Anywhere But Here" featured some distant female background vocals.  On further investigation, I learned that they were supplied by Maria Brink of In This Moment.  Even more delightful was learning that the album featured two versions of three songs, including "Anywhere But Here," and that second version is sung duet style with Brink front and center.  In my view, the more Maria the better!

The rest of the album wraps up extremely well, with nary any filler.  Highlights of the rest of the album include the uber-aggressive "Dot Your Eyes" and a cool cover of LL Cool J's old-school rap tune, "Mama Said Knock You Out."  Speaking of that little tribute, there is an awesome, innovative, melodic-noise guitar solo on the song that brings metal shredding into the post-Skrillex world.  Actually, the guitar work throughout is amazing.  On this album, lead guitarist Jason Hook undisputedly establishes himself as one of the top guitar gods in the business with his tricky riffs, creative rhythms, and blistering solos.

After listening to the album as a whole, Five Finger Death Punch does their name no disservice.  The body of work that is "The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1," with its bottom-heavy production and speed-bag-like bass drum beats, lives up to the bone-breaking implications of the band's moniker and is of the quality to become a mainstay on one's metal playlist.

Heavy bands often let aggression undermine a focus on hooks or good song structure.  Not Five Finger Death Punch.  When it comes to metal bands, 5FDP is the complete package.