Up to this point in my life I can honestly say that Five Finger Death Punch had well and truly flown under my radar. I would have seen them playing the Main Stage at Download 2012 but they pulled out and were replaced by Anthrax, which for me was incredible because I am a massive Thrash fan. Having now heard FFDP's latest effort, "The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volume 1", I think that this was an amazing stroke of luck for me because I would definitely have not enjoyed the 40 minutes or so of bland, unoriginal, radio-oriented "Metal" that would have been put before me. If by now you don't get what I mean, what I am saying is that this album is terrible.
In releasing "The Wrong...", FFDP sound like a band with an identity crisis. On the one hand they push a brand of Metal that is reminiscent of Rob Zombie with lyrical content that, in places, is so aggressive it reminds me more of N.W.A.. On the other hand, they have made a very clear effort to reach a larger fan base with a more radio-friendly sound. The songs on this record, at times, feel like a throwback to bands like Seether, with some incredibly linear song writing and an attempt to push anthemic choruses on just about every single song. The result is an album that feels confused, disjointed and just doesn't work that well.
I could focus on so many things on this record that are badly done but I will start with the lyrics. I think that Ivan Moody has an inability to write a sentence that doesn't include the words "fuck", "fucking", "shit", or "motherfucker". To get an idea of how often expletives are used it makes the use of the word "death" on Slayer's "Reign In Blood" album look very subtle indeed. Don't get me wrong, I have no issue with swearing but, in this case, it feels like FFDP are in denial about the direction their music is taking. It's like they have tried to disguise that they are pushing for more radio time by saying "fuck" a lot and I have to think that most Metal fans will see straight through it.
Moreover, I have already mentioned that the songwriting is linear but I haven't mentioned how this is so. Most of the songs on this album have an aggressive, Metal feel before pushing into a pre-chorus leading into, what should be, really catchy choruses. The whole process is designed for mass appeal. I'm not saying that FFDP should start writing music like The Dillinger Escape Plan but I was begging for a little variety in what was on offer. To make it worse, there are sections of some songs that don't even blend well and feel forced together, for example on "Dot Your Eyes"; If FFDP are going to present half-arsed song writing then they could at least have the courtesy to do it well.
Moving on to the guitar work and what I can say is that it is clear that guitarists Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook are more than able but they don't seem to want to show it a great deal. Songs like "Burn MF" do feature some semi-passable riffing but most of the guitar work is very forgettable. To be fair to FFDP the solos on the album aren't so bad, with Hook shredding his way through a good portion of the album. Despite this a lot of the solos feel like they are forced and predictable and are almost being done for the sake of it. I think that the solos would work better in different songs to be honest because in the context of this album they just don't work.
I constantly bang on about albums having a good flow to them to make them listenable as a whole. To their credit FFDP have at least attempted to do this on this record; the problem is they don't do it very well. They throw in ballad-esque tracks like "Wrong Side Of Heaven" that are littered with terrible lyrics and arguably are even harder to listen to than the other tracks. They have also added a cover for this album, which again reeks of the need to reach a mass audience. They could have chosen anything they wanted but they went for L.L. Cools J's "Mama Said Knock You Out". This, arguably, is supposed to be taken as a little tongue-in-cheek but given how the rest of the album sounds it comes across as the band being totally serious and therefore becomes the whitest thing ever since Scott Ian attempted to rap (sorry Scott).
I have already mentioned the radio-friendly aspect of this record and the production values reinforce this idea. Everything is super clean, this isn't always a bad thing but given that this is a "Metal" album I would have preferred things a little dirtier. A further issue is the annoying use of production techniques that are cliched to the point of being cringe-worthy such as "creative" filters and delay feedback; it is hard to describe these but if you hear the album you will see what I mean. These techniques are so overdone in more mainstream music that to hear them used so shamelessly on this record just makes things even worse and more frustrating. Put simply, this album is incredibly over produced.
I could hammer on about this album for a lot longer than I have but my overall point is to say that "The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volume 1" is not in any way a decent album. It reeks of a band desperate to reach mass appeal whilst trying to remain Metal and the result sounds confused. It feels like FFDP are in denial, on the one hand saying things like "What a fucking poser, that's all you'll ever be" and on the other writing songs that are so obviously aimed to be played on the radio that the lyrics almost feel autobiographical. I would advise that you avoid this album completely and as for Volume 2 all I can say is that I won't be giving it the time of day.