REVIEW: Five Finger Death Punch’s ‘F8′ Is Great — Despite What Elitists May Think
In 2020, Five Finger Death Punch have become something of a punchline for a particular group of listeners.
But why is that? The band has seen continuous success, manifested in considerable album sales, massive world tours and even pop culture recognition. Hell, the group's hometown declared a "Five Finger Death Punch Day" last year. And it'd be hard to imagine Megadeth opening for them if FFDP hadn't arrived at some zenith of popularity among rock audiences.
Still, some fans seem to feel the Las Vegas outfit's brand of hook-y hard rock is beneath them. Embodying a kind of elitist backlash to marketability, it appears that the chorus of haters grows louder as the band becomes more successful. Yet the quintet is famous for a reason — its music and the message therein quite obviously penetrate to a wide swath of music fans. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that shouldn't take away from others' enjoyment of the band — should it?
Despite the whims of naysayers, Five Finger Death Punch possess an evident knack for crafting focused, melodic rock songs. We're talking surefire earworms that can go head-to-head with the best of any modern rockers performing today. Nor should it detract from the act's brutal power as an accomplished group of metal musicians — ones who've earned their place in heavy music's canon.
Nowhere is either attribute more apparent than on F8, Five Finger Death Punch's — you guessed it — eighth studio album that arrives Friday (Feb. 28).
If anything, the band has listened to the doubters and is perfectly fine with detractors shouting down its music. After F8's swelling, orchestral intro, one of the first lines on the album is a winking deadpan from lead vocalist Ivan Moody. "You can love it, or you can leave it," he growls during the thrashy first single "Inside Out." "Because nothing I say and nothing I feel is right."
The syncopated blast of "Inside Out" was first released in December 2019, and, on F8's tracklist, succeeding singles follow it in the order they were issued. On the driving "Full Circle," Moody admits he's "never going to change the world." Next comes the hulking but level-headed "Living the Dream." On that selection, buzzsaw guitar riffs smooth out into a streamlined refrain where the singer wonders if his group is "just part of the machine."
While listening to the album, one gets the feeling that Five Finger Death Punch don’t mind if some particular cohort thinks their music sounds terrible. It already speaks to a deep well of music fans, ones fully invested in the act's albums, tours and appearances.
Do you believe a burly frontman wearing a Monster Energy snapback cockeyed on his tattooed head really cares what anyone thinks about him? Most likely, the band will happily take that hatred and use it as fuel for its next red-blooded banger. And there's a whole bunch of them on F8 — not even counting the bonus tracks.
But it's when the rock-fueled pleasantries are over that F8 shines from a different perspective. "A Little Bit Off" is a poppy, acoustic-based number that lets the group's anthemic qualities fully bloom. Its relatable lyrics recount Moody's everyday laundry list of little anxieties, and it's certainly not hard to believe him. The singer surmounted years of alcohol abuse and now counts himself sober along with his fellow teetotaling bandmate, bassist Chris Kael. (Moody still indulges in cannabis-based escapes, however, as he makes clear in song and via his recently launched Moody's Medicinals CBD line.)
That doesn't mean the riffs don't hit the fan elsewhere on the album. Guitarist Zoltan Bathory wasn't lying when he said last year that the effort would return to the band's "heavier side." Selections such as "Bottom of the Top" and "This Is War" prove that Five Finger Death Punch's primary talent is in making bone-crushing heavy metal stompers. But those intense moments still allow the slower jams such as "Darkness Settles In" or "Brighter Side of Grey" plenty of room to breathe and develop their undeniable hooks.
Overall on F8, the listener gets a crystal-clear view of Five Finger Death Punch's strength as songwriters. The album's well peppered by producer Kevin Churko, and the group itself has been hacking away at this thing long enough to have it down pat. Sure, the band may favor crowdpleasers from 2015's Got Your Six and signature early tune "The Bleeding" in concert. But FFDP's latest album shows they still have plenty of sonic avenues to explore in the studio.
What any holier-than-thou metalheads need to know is that the era of guilty favorites (or ironic enjoyment) is over. No one should make a listener feel bad for liking Five Finger Death Punch, and it shouldn't be a secret if one rocks out to their music.
It's time to let the musical self-righteousness fall by the wayside. For those willing to headbang to some absolute steamers, as well as take in a few catchy pop-rock ditties, F8 is for you.
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