The premier league of metal is a fight. Only the strong survive and there are often casualties. Those that are strong will bounce back - often to fight harder and dirtier to ensure victory. In the boxing ring of 2018, Five Finger Death Punch are a prize fighter with a glint in their eye. They want to hurt you. They will hurt you. And you will probably thank them for the experience.
The band returned home to Las Vegas in 2017 to work with longtime producer and tag-team partner Kevin Churko on this, their seventh full-length studio album. ‘And Justice for None’ is a progression in their quest to challenge convention and be honest in their view of the world around them. What spewed from the studio was a mature, no holds barred production that is full of opinion and emotion.
The line up of Ivan Moody (vocals), Zoltan Bathory (guitar), Jeremy Spencer (drums), Jason Hook (guitar), and Chris Kael (bass) have endured the difficulties experienced by most groups experiencing unprecedented success. That said, they are true to themselves and deserve the respect of a critical music industry who must surely rely on bands of this stature.
The tracks on the album flow from radio friendly drive time songs to the down right furious (that no mainstream station would touch with any pole - barge or otherwise). That blend makes for an interesting product that will entertain the fans of old yearning for angry metal- but will also feed the minds of those who like to get the grey matter working.
The opening upper-cut ‘Fake’ delivers a snare-driven intro that moves swiftly into a full blown lyrical attack on those who lack authenticity. The listener could be excused for reflecting on their own personality listening to songs like this as questions aren’t necessarily asked but answers are provided with a shovel to the back of the head. This is as subtle an opener as you would expect from FFDP but there are different things to come.
‘Top of the World’ is a chunk of metal that growls and shouts at you over its short journey. The trademark spoken sections remind the listener of what FFDP do best in hammering home the point. If the band name didn’t persuade you of their intentions, then songs like this surely will.
‘Sham Pain’ is a shuffling riff-fest that oozes with class. The play on words in the title is clever and adds a dash of humour in an otherwise thought provoking track that pulls no punches in calling out the doubters. There some painful lines in the song that will bring a sobering view of life in the rock n roll fast lane and Moody is on form in his delivery.
‘Blue on Black’ employs a classy acoustic guitar that builds to the full band entering the ring in the choruses. The song touches a nerve with the subject matter and evidences the intelligence of the band and their ability to weave their views into their work. The delivery is sharp without being crude and is another example of telling a story with no dubiety in the message.
‘Fire in the Hole’ is a return to a more brutal approach and has a nu-metal tinge that smacks of Slipknot’s style or perhaps even Rammstein - such is the flow and tribal essence. Spencer’s double kick drumming drives the song only pausing for breath in the gang vocal bridge that will no doubt feature in any live performance.
‘I Refuse’ is a haunting track and starts with jarring piano chords providing another introspective piece that bares all in its honesty. The frankly wonderful guitar solo played acoustically is a surprise and works perfectly within the ballad. A beautiful song that is surely the stand out track on the album regardless of its deliberate avoidance of the ubiquitous power chord.
‘It Doesn’t Matter’ is an in-grown toenail of a song and its meant to be. The song challenges and criticises those whose deeds are pointless given they are a mere ‘pawn within the game’ - describing futility perfectly.
‘When the Seasons Change’ returns to the acoustic guitar and has a laid back feel that almost feels like an alt-country track. This radio-friendly song sends a positive message about being there for someone and employs a beautifully played solo that nails the mood. As the song reaches its end, there is a more uplifting feel that is given extra shimmer by a brief string section lurking under the main parts of the song.
‘Stuck In My Ways’ maintains the slower cadence of the album and is a personal statement delivered with another crescendo that features a solid blend of guitar work and concrete rhythm section.
‘Rock Bottom’ moves in a different direction from the rest of the album and is an angry, almost furious work in lyrical content as well as musical delivery. The drumming is raw and the vocals are shouted with a forceful story told in its short 2.32 track length. The band are well known for their consistent view that they will say what they want regardless of the impact and this is a fine example of that approach.
‘Gone Away’ is another heart-squeezer and has a contemporary feel that’s strengthened by a simple piano intro that builds into another power play that doesn’t need to rely on tempo to pass the message. Listeners will recognise the track as a cover of the band’s contemporaries ‘The Offspring’. The song nods to the original but delivers a fresh take in approach. The guitar solo is a beauty and is a formidable foray up the fretboard delivered with feel rather than fury.
As the album arrives at its final tracks, ’Bloody’ is a stab in the abdomen with a rusty knife. The staccato phrasing contrasts with the vocal delivery that focuses on telling the story rather than being caught up in the pace of the music. The song writing in this track is evidence of the band’s ability to explore emotion and the human foibles present in us all.
Closing track ‘Will The Sun Ever Rise’ is an evocative track with a slower, passionate feel telling a powerful story through the use of acoustic guitar in the verses. The song is given the 5FDP signature spoken passages and radio vocal parts to add depth of emotion. The acoustic falls away however in the choruses where the guitars and band lift the attack and this is heard best in the majestic outro.
There have been mixed responses to the first few singles released from the album. There is a stark contrast between the slick commercial feel of ‘When the Seasons Change’ and the fuming ‘Sham Pain’ and ‘Fake’. These releases are clever however, as they hook the fans of old whilst drawing in newer less familiar fans to be. The album is a success in my view as it oozes heart and mind - opting to draw on personal tribulation and values thus ensuring there is an undeniable honesty in every track. Give it a listen. You’ll likely nod in agreement at the words of the slower songs and when you’re done with that - you’ll stomp your feet, squeeze your fists and grit your teeth at the sonic assault of the tracks this massive talent are best known for.
‘And Justice For None’ is released on 18th May and is available in two formats a regular release, and a deluxe release featuring three bonus tracks. You’ll find the album at the usual outlets but if you really want to experience that ‘Punch’ then you should check their website for live dates. If the UK tour is anything to go by, they are stronger than ever!
You can follow the band here -
Track Listing -
Top Of The World
Blue On Black
Fire In The Hole
It Doesn't Matter
When The Seasons Change
Stuck In My Ways
Will The Sun Ever Rise
(The album's deluxe edition includes three additional bonus tracks, 'Trouble', 'Bad Seed' and 'Save Your Breath’).