The biggest stick detractors like to beat Five Finger Death Punch with is that the band’s sound has largely remained the same throughout their career. Never mind that their swaggering lyrics and chugging riffs have netted them Gold and Platinum records and carried them into arenas around the world, apparently someone out there is holding out for FFDP blast-beats and polyrhythms.
Naturally, AfterLife doesn’t go that far, but it certainly is more experimental than past efforts. Play singles AfterLife, IOU or Welcome To The Circus and everything is as you’d expect it to be; the riffs chug like a freight train, the lyrics are daft but insidiously catchy (“diggy diggy dasket/time to burn the casket” from …Circus will haunt our dreams) and even the loss of guitarist Jason Hook hasn’t stopped the band from breaking out some six-string wizardry on the title-track for that proper stadium feel.
But then you move in to the album’s mid-section and producer Kevin Churko brings in outside influences to merge with the FFDP sound, for better or worse. Times Like These and Thanks For Asking both use synthetic beats to introduce pop sensibilities; the latter in particular feels like FFDP taking on Old Town Road. Elsewhere, Judgement Night could be pulled from Korn’s Issues and Moody’s vocal even veers towards rap. Closing track The End introduces strings, providing a nice crescendo to the record and ending on a high.
AfterLife’s stylistic variances aren’t enough to derail FFDP entirely, but they jarring enough to buzz at the back of the brain like a persistent mosquito. The use of electronic beats in particular often feels jarring amidst AfterLife’s mix; while by no means a St. Anger level mis-step, it does detract from the momentum and heft of the album’s heavier moments. In spite of that, Five Finger Death Punch’s talents still shine through, the right measurement of chest-beating anthems and heartfelt ballads ensuring the roll of the dice isn’t about to send them off the deep end.