Three albums into its young career, Five Finger Death Punch has achieved heights, accolades, and respect that most bands only dream of. With that of course come the naysayers, elitists, and whiners. Those latter are the fools who fuel singer Ivan Moody’s fiery lyrics and can’t-keep-me- down attitude: “I give a rat’s ass what you think about me – I’ll dot your eyes and cross your fuckin’ teeth!” With “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1“, Five Finger Death Punch will continue its climb to the now somewhat rarefied air of arena headliners.
The band, which also includes founders Zoltan Bathory (guitar) and Jeremy Spencer (drums), along with lead guitarist Jason Hook, and bassist Chris Kael, wastes no time reiterating their collective message of rising up and pushing onward, with the opening track, “Lift Me Up.” The album’s first single also features legendary Metal God, Rob Halford of Judas Priest. This song alone defines the band’s temperament, attitude, and sonic signature. They could stop after this song and consider the album a success, but fortunately there are 13 more tracks to come. Well, in honesty there are 10 more tracks, plus three repeats with special guests.
This is what sets the tone for Volume 1; a band that has found its voice and is able to welcome others in to add their own flavor and magic. Talents as varied as Soulfly’s Max Cavalera and Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta to In This Moment’s Maria Brink and rapper Tech N9ne. The latter appears on a metallized cover of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out”. While Five Finger makes it pack a punch it remains perhaps the album’s one throwaway track: Nice but not necessary.
Brink appears on both versions of “Anywhere But Here”, one of the record’s standout tracks. The duet version is easily the better of the two, and we have been waiting for she and Moody to collaborate since red tape kept him from performing on In This Moment‘s “The Promise” (which ultimately ended up going to Otherwise frontman Adrian Patrick).
“Watch You Bleed” opens with a short acoustic interlude before diving into a chugging beast that is a template for the Five Finger Death Punch sound, while “You” slides into a hardcore groove. We get even more of the band’s hardcore edge on “Dot Your Eyes”, where Moody wraps his rage around your throat. That barely contained hostility spills like blood between the caustic riffs and larynx shredding vocals of “I.M.Sin”. Meanwhile Zoltan’s rhythmic right hand onslaught sets off ”Burn MF”. Spencer performs like an unhinged beast throughout this album, as he always does, but this is some of his most vigorous stick and skin work.
The band slows it down for the emotive title track which finds Moody trying on some of his more introspective lyrics. ”M.I.N.E. (End This Way)” continues fuels the and feeds on the angstier side of Death Punch.
“Diary of Deadman” is one of the album’s more intriguing tracks and something of a departure in overall style, but still very much in their wheelhouse. It is arguably the album’s hidden gem. Hook gets some nice fretwork in on this track.
Jasta adds his voice to a second version of “Dot Your Eyes” while Cavalera” brings the brutality on a second version of “I.M.Sin”
As they did with their previous two records, “War is the Answer” and “American Capitalist“, 5FDP returned to Las Vegas to record with producer Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, In This Moment). The chemistry is so apparent it makes one wonder what “Way of the Fist” might have sounded like with him in the fold.
Every performance on the album hits the mark. Jason Hook adds some tasty and infectious solos. Chris Kael’s bass work is perhaps a bit too buried in the mix for my taste, but his style blends perfectly into the group’s signature.
The bottom line is, "The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1" picks up where the previous three albums left off. If you like or love Five Finger Death Punch you will embrace this album with two fists. If you are among the “haters” nothing here is likely to change your point of view.