Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: Five Finger Death Punch, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, volume 2

On public release on 19th November, my copy of Five Finger Death Punch's new album, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, volume 2, arrived early that morning, the music accompanied by a live performance DVD and a coupon for a free T-shirt. I'd been looking forwards to hearing this since seeing FFDP live at Aftershock earlier in the year, and had avoided listening to the album streaming the week before, preferring to wait until the recording was truly and physically here. (No matter how high-def the radio or streaming is, I still prefer a solid, physical recording for my archive.)

Why "Volume 2"? Because they had so much good material it didn't all fit on Volume 1 (released July 30th). And because the two volumes fit together: not as a concept album or a major theme, but just because the songs all work together and fit together and flow together.

Ivan Moody and Jason Hook, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
Ivan Moody and Jason Hook, FFDP, Aftershock 2013

They have fast become one of my favourite bands of all time. Hard to imagine that, this time last year, I'd heard very little of their music. (And how I'd missed out. Why? Remind me to find that article I wrote a while back, about only finding music in the USA when you know what to look for because no radio station is going to introduce you to it. Remind me to reminisce about Old Grey Whistle Test and John Peel and others, and to once-again acknowledge that my roots are showing.) Anyway... Five Finger Death Punch's music is intense, deep, angry and very, very real. It's not commercial and it's not-at-all shallow; there are musical depths that many heavy metal bands wouldn't ever dare to plumb. Jeremy Spencer's powerhouse drumming, Zoltan Bathory's virtuoso guitar, and Ivan Moody's vast vocal range make sure of that.

I've had "Cold" playing on repeat for hours now. It's a classic. It's a song that I'll listen to for a very, very long time. It's melodic and it's raw and it's Moody.
Ivan Moody, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch, performing at Aftershock Festival

If you assume that you know the character of Five Finger Death Punch from a few song titles, from the words "American Patriot" and "War is the Answer", and haven't taken it any further... you're missing out on something wonderful. And you may also be missing the subtleties of some dry, almost British humour...

I am so very glad that I had the opportunity to see these guys live in Sacramento this year, at Aftershock. Absolutely obvious that each and every member of this band is a master musician.

Final track on WSHRSH-vol2 is The House of the Rising Sun. Five Finger Death Punch take some liberties with the lyrics--New Orleans becomes the City of Sin, which makes sense today, where New Orleans is synonymous with Katrina, not houses of ill repute--and it's a song that so many people have tried to make their own, from Woody Guthry to the Animals to Bob Dylan and Tracy Chapman. But this new version is stunning. It's made new again, like it was made new by the Animals; and it's a classic all over again. And as a classic, it also embodies all Five Finger Death Punch's trademarks. If you've never heard them before, start right there.

Lots of press around Five Finger Death Punch this week: an interview with Jeremy Spencer in Rhythm magazine (along with an interview with another great drummer, Ian Mosley of Marillion); a front-cover and article in Metal Hammer magazine (intriguing interview with Zoltan in this one). Look out for more. And thank goodness for the British music press (which also dominates the magazine stands here in California).

Chris Kael, bass, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
Chris Kael, Five Finger Death Punch, Aftershock 2013
(I do have to remember to think before singing along to the Five Finger Death Punch songs playing in my head. There are times when it's fine and appropriate to do so. There are times when doing so will get you fired.)

If you like Five Finger Death Punch, you should also check out Gemini Syndrome, who have been touring with them this year, and their album Lux.

(All photos in this article copyright Alison Toon and taken at this year's Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, California. More photos from Aftershock can be found at in the Toon's Tunes music photo gallery )

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