The seemingly unstoppable rise of Five Finger Death Punch has been as unlikely in one way as it has been inevitable in others. On one hand, they aren’t doing anything that could be considered new or innovative, yet on the other, they are so steeped in the familiar sound and image of some of metal’s most beloved bands from the last 20 years that the reason for the breadth of their appeal is obvious. If the idea of Pantera’s raw brute power and undeniable groove mixed with the shiny production and lung-busting choruses of Disturbed moves you then Five Finger Death Punch are bound to get your vote.
This is the big test for them, though. After three albums of perfect moshpit fodder, the band have decided to stomp straight into the minefield that is the double album. This presents a unique set of problems, the most prominent being the fact that 12 tracks of non-deviation, straightforward metal can often outstay its welcome, so a 24-song double disc is an attention-span challenger that only a few bands have ever successfully negotiated.
Wisely, they’ve decided to release each half separately and to steer well clear of any confusing and convoluted conceptual themes. Part one starts promisingly, with opening track Lift Me Up setting the tone in the manner you would expect. Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook trade chugging riffs behind Ivan Moody’s rabid pitbull snarl, but come the second verse, the unmistakable voice of Rob Halford joins the party and begins trading lines with Ivan. It’s a definite fist-punching moment and an undeniable marker. The message is clear: Five Finger Death Punch are pulling out all the stops.
It’s a shame, then, that the next two tracks, Watch You Bleed and You, seem to be fairly by-the-numbers Five Finger Death Punch, dulling the opening impact somewhat. It’s not until fourth track Wrong Side Of Heaven that they hit their stride again. Calling it a ballad may be a stretch, but it features a plaintive performance from Ivan that shows he can do more than mere chest-swelling bravado and it adds a pleasingly different dimension to the record.
It’s a welcome break as they go straight back into satisfying all-out aggression on Burn MF and I.M. Sin, before Maria Brink joins in on Anywhere But Here with slightly less successful results than the album’s other guests. Those include excellent contributions from Max Cavalera and Jamey Jasta (who almost makes Ivan sound like a shrinking violet on the brutal Dot Your Eyes).
However, the big talking point is the inclusion of a cover of LL Cool J’s classic 90s hip-hop anthem Mama Said Knock You Out featuring rapper Tech N9ne. On paper it’s an ill-advised idea, but in reality it’s one of the album’s highlights and sums up Five Finger Death Punch in a nutshell: slightly baffling, totally over the top, but with so much swagger and conviction that you can’t help but be joyously swept along. Five Finger Death Punch are half way to the best album of their career so far.