Review Summary: Five Finger Death Punch's newest album will satisfy their fans, top every "best new rock music" chart, and earn them millions of dollars. In truth, though, this is nothing you haven't heard from them already.
Five Finger Death Punch are a band that means something different to everyone. To outsiders, they are merely a substandard group that produces generic yet tolerable radio-friendly metal for teens. To their fans, they are the most badass, hardcore rockers to ever grace the stage. To most metal listeners, they are an abomination, the worst thing to happen to metal since Limp Bizkit, and they are the sole reason why fat people exist. I, however, think differently. Their existence doesn't offend me and their fanboys don't bother me. If a FFDP song comes on the radio, I won't turn it off. Although I would not consider myself a huge fan of FFDP in any way, I will admit to genuinely enjoying the album War Is the Answer
. I completely understand the hate that they get and I agree with a large part of it. However, are their albums truly as terrible as they are made out to be? My answer: yes and no.
The first three FFDP albums sounded almost the same, each following a remarkably similar formula. Each album contains one or two ballads and a handful of songs that barfed up social commentary. However, the majority of the songs are trite and predictable. The average FFDP song contains uninspired lyrics about hate and violence, with their vocalist, Ivan Moody, barking, growling, and shouting like he is about to wrestle a bear or rip your throat out. As for the rest of the band, they always take the backseat so that Moody can do his thing. The riffs are never very infectious, the drumming is solid but never too impressive, the guitar solos do little to add the song, and the bass hides in the background, hoping no one will see or hear him in any song. FFDP's fourth album, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1
, attempts to mix things up a bit.
Simply by looking at the album's name, one can tell that FFDP are trying to be different. The titles of their first three albums are obvious attempts to present their music as harcore. The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell
is rather intriguing in that it has no clear meaning. Also, the fact that the album is split into two separate parts is a new concept for FFDP and an interesting one at that.
The other major change on this album is the inclusion of guest vocalists. Ivan Moody has always been the heart and soul of every FFDP song, and the idea of him stepping down for a change is more than welcome. Sadly, however, the guest vocalists usually do little to enhance the songs. The first track on the album, "Lift Me Up" features the legendary Rob Halford as a guest vocalist and is the only instance in which the guest actually adds to the song. Halford was a great choice for "Lift Me Up," as his powerful voice compliments the cheesy, angry lyrics and surprisingly catchy riff. However, the other songs with guest vocalists are disappointing. "Anywhere But Here," a decent song in itself, does little to utilize guest vocalist Maria Brink. Rather than singing a full-on duet with Moody, she only appears halfway through the song to sing along in the background. For the most part, the guests are pretty much useless and serve little purpose in the grand scheme of things.
Despite all of its problems, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell
has some truly great moments on it. The almost-title track, "Wrong Side of Heaven," is an extremely successful ballad. It has a very pretty intro and an infectious beat to go along with it. The lyrics are more of the same, but are more thoughtful than they usually are. Although Moody utilizes his typical clean vocals, he exercises more control than usual. "Lift Me Up," as mentioned earlier, is another successful offering, with tons of energy and a catchy groove. However, no song is more successful than "Diary of a Deadman." The spoken word lyrics concern a dying man who feels defeated and unsatisfied with his life. This song is emotional and gripping, qualities that no other FFDP song has. The verses are separated by guitar solos that enhance the song's melancholy mood as opposed to just shredding for the sake of being brutal. "Diary of a Deadman" is a unique offering to the FFDP library and would have been a fitting way to close the album.
It can easily be said that FFDP songs are either hit-or-miss. On this album, unfortunately, they miss far more than they hit. "Dot Your Eyes," "Burn MF," "You," and "I.M.Sin" are throwaway songs that have come to be expected on FFDP releases. Like usual, Moody belts out angry, over-the-top lyrics about hate and whatnot while the guitar chugs along in the background. "M.I.N.E. (End This Way)" is a dull and forgettable ballad while "Watch You Bleed," despite being one of the better songs on the album, is incredibly unfocused. Unsure if it wants to be a ballad or not, it randomly switches its sound back and forth between soft and heavy. FFDP's cover of the rap song "Mama Said Knock You Out" is hilarious for the wrong reasons. Although it's good to see FFDP experimenting with their sound, this particular experiment went horribly wrong. To say the least, Moody cannot rap. His vocal style is more than suitable when the lyrics are violent and hate-filled. On this song, however, his voice is extremely unfitting. Despite all of this, FFDP's cover of "Mama Said Knock You Out" is still absolutely hysterical. Moody's delivery of the line "Listen to the bass go BOOM!" is funny beyond belief. Guest rapper Tech N9ne appears very briefly to provide much needed relief to Moody's horrendous vocals halfway through the song. This still isn't enough to save the song, as Moody comes back in immediately after Tech N9ne is finished. All of the throwaway, generic tracks prove that FFDP have done little growing since their last album.
The biggest insult of all are the final three tracks on the album, which are nothing more than alternate versions of the songs "I.M.Sin," "Dot Your Eyes," and "Anywhere But Here." The alternate "I.M.Sin" includes guest verses with Max Cavalera (one of my favorite metal vocalists of all time). Unfortunately, Cavalera adopts a vocal approach similar to Moody's during the song, rendering his guest appearance as absolutely useless. The alternate "Dot Your Eyes" is just as bland as before, and guest vocalist Jamey Jasta's vocal approach is simply a watered-down version of Moody's. The alternate "Anywhere But Here," once again, features Maria Brink. Only this time, Brink and Moody sing a duet rather than her only coming in at the end. Brink proves to be a strong vocalist who compliments Moody perfectly. The duet section is considerably touching and Brink's solo performance is also quite strong (Brink delivers the most powerful scream on the entire album near the end of the song). The alternate "Anywhere But Here" begs a question: what is the point of the first version? The first version of "Anywhere But Here" is forgettable and generic, while the alternate is one of the best songs on the entire album. As for the other two alternate songs, why were they necessary? The guests do little to better the overall sound of the song and both versions sound relatively similar. So why include both versions? Hopefully, FFDP will not make this same mistake on volume two of The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell
"Never judge a book by its cover" applies remarkably well to The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1
. Don't go into this album with any preconceived notions you may have due to its hype. Don't be intrigued by the album's title. Don't be excited to hear the guest vocalists. Don't expect to hear something that you will make you question the meaning of life. FFDP have not grown up and this album is consistent with the formula they have developed in their last three releases. The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell
had plenty of potential for FFDP to break new ground and show the world that they are more than just a one trick pony. Ultimately, though, they choose to do the exact same thing they've been doing all along. If you enjoyed Way of the Fist
, War Is the Answer
, or American Capitalist
, you will enjoy this album as well. If not, you have no reason to listen to it. FFDP are the same exact band that they were in 2005 and show little sign of ever changing.