Review Summary: An album dedicated to a macho sound, with enough intricacies to be enjoyed for its occasional moments of glory.
Before I dive into this review I would like to say this is my first review here at Sputnik, and I encourage input both positive and negative, so long as it is constructive. I would also like to thank everyone involved with this site as the community here is very strong and serves as a reliable source for good music.
Five Finger Death Punch are a band that have to be taken with a grain of salt, any other expectations will surely lead to disappointment. With that said though, they are fairly talented musicians and at times even excel with some creative songwriting. While their focus of making music that tries to sound as gruff and macho is clear as can be, The Way of the Fists is also about as emotionally charged as can be, with some borderline Emo characteristics, with the lyrics proving this point throughout the album.
First and foremost is the guitar work on the album. Darrel and Zoltan spearhead this album through its entirety, and are clearly the most talented of the bunch. Their style ranges from chugging riffs that are standard for any metalcore band of today, to soaring melodies that almost remind me of Soloing from Anathema at times (compare the end of The Beloved to Salvation, you'll see). It's this factor that somewhat sets this band apart from metalcore acts such as As I Lay Dying or Trivium, as their approach of balls to the walls nonstop is not uncommon in the least.
The vocals are delivered entirely by Ivan Moody of Motograter fame. While his vocal approach is as commonplace as it comes, he does have a slightly unique sounding voice that once again sets him apart. What comes as a surprise is the clarity of his delivery, especially when it comes to the harsh vocals; Every word is clearly understood. This is a welcome change especially when inaudible vocals have become a tongue in cheek joke among the metal community (Boat, Rudder, Strange Mountain anyone?). Also it must be said that the clean vocals of Moody is fairly impressive as well. While he is by no means ready to take on someone like Lajon Witherspoon or Roy Kahn (Sevendust, Kamelot), he certainly has a vocal range that surpasses many other bands attempts at injecting emotion into their songs through cleanly sung passages.
Drumming is handled proficiently by Jeremy Spencer. The approach here is once again relatively typical with more double kick rolls than you can shake a stick at. Where he does excel though is when the band slows down and dives into a more aural approach. Here you can find Spencer utilizing his entire kit rather than your typical Snare/Bass standoff. The Way of the Fist is one song that serves as a good example of this as the chorus is enhanced through the use of crashes, toms and cymbals accompanying a gallop rather than just pummeling the kit. These occasional changes of pace keep the listeners ear intrigued and are not overused to the point of being predictably paced.
Lastly, something must be said about the production. It is absolutely pristine, and every instrument can be heard clearly throughout the majority of the album, with the bass being occasionally washed up in the mix. The guitars have a very clear sound to them, but do not overpower the rest of the band. The vocals don't seem overly dubbed as well, which strengthens previous statements about Moody's talent as a vocalist. On a side note, after seeing this band live, I must applaud them on being able to recreate their sound on the album live almost to a T, props to the guys of 5FDP on that choice.
With all these positive things said about the band, there must be some reason for a 3.5 rather than a 4 or even 4.5 right? Well, while there are many things to love about this album, there are still some things that prevent 5FDP from being stalwarts of the genre. First and foremost are the lyrics, which range from cliched to downright laughable at times. There are some times where I wished the vocals weren't so audible when I had to hear Moody shout "They're saying crush it, break it, smash it ****in' kill 'em all." It's moment's like these that really pull the listener away from the experience. Furthermore, Moody never really explains why he is so pissed off, with most references to the subject being so ambiguous, they lose their meaning by the next verse. Rarely has lyrics detracted from an album so much it could be described as disappointing. It's because of this, the grain of salt I mentioned before must be kept within reach while listening to this album.
To a lesser extent is the lack of variety. While there are times this band does write some truly killer material, it seems as though some songs are written around that one riff in hopes that it can carry the listener throughout the rest of the song. I'll use The Way of the Fist as the example again here as the chorus really is strong as can be, but the verse riffing and drumming is a drab as it comes.
Overall though, something must be said when a band can overcome these shortcomings and create an album that is not only just plain fun to listen to, but also at times step away from its firmly planted Metalcore roots and surprise the listener with some material that is both creative and epic sounding. With that, album does completely accomplish its goal of serving as the cd you listen to before your big hockey game, and surpasses them at times for the more picky metal fan.
Top Tracks: Salvation, A Place To Die, The Bleeding