Review by Cat Andrews
Five Finger Death Punch (5fdp) are one of those bands that are like Marmite; you either love them or you hate them. They also happen to be rather successful at the moment, which pretty much guarantees the cries of “mainstream” and “sellout”.
The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell is a little unusual in that it is a double album being released in two volumes. Apparently the band approached the record company with the idea of a double album and got refused, so sent them what they have deemed their best material to date and asked the company to choose what to drop. This is a double album. Also worth noting as you scan the track listing is the number of guest vocalists who appear.
Lift Me Up starts off with the almost signature Death Punch sound that involves insane drumming and chugging rhythm from Zoltan Bathory, and even though it sounds very similar to some of their previous tracks it is forgivable, particularly when none other than Rob Halford comes in with a stunning guest performance on a song that will quite possibly get stuck in your head for at least a few hours.
From this point on, for me at least, things got a little bit strange. The tracks are good, and I enjoy listening to them. It’s all exactly what is expected of one of the most successful metal bands at the moment but there is a sense that I’ve heard them somewhere before, with that somewhere being a dancefloor around 2005. It’s not as if they’ve directly ripped off riffs, but on more than one occasion I found my attention drifting while I tried to figure out just who it was that it sounded like. The influences behind the music are in places blindingly obvious, but it doesn’t come across as a straight rip and manages to maintain their own distinctive sound.
Watch You Bleed is a lot more electronic than I would have expected from 5fdp, but once the mild surprise had worn off I found myself singing along, before nodding my head along to You. It is the title track which mellows the tone, a heartfelt, powerful ballad that showcases Ivan Moody’s vocals in a similar way to Crossing Over.
Just when things have calmed down Burn MF (you can guess what the MF stands for) blasts out. This song is a three and a half minute non-stop rage that makes up for it’s lack of meaningful lyrics with pure enthusiasm. It’s the type of song that will instantly spark circle pits at a Death Punch gig and have the Knuckleheads going insane.
The pattern of two heavy, angry songs followed by a more melodic vocal repeats, this time featuring Maria Brink from In This Moment on Anywhere But Here. There are two versions of this on the album, and the duet works wonderfully. End This Way is another that seems to speak of the writer’s personal flaws and the breakdown of a relationship, and quite possibly the album could have ended there.
Unfortunately it continues with the chosen cover version – 5fdp have previously done splendid accounts of Bad Company and From Out Of Nowhere – is a rather disappointing choice in my eyes. LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out has been made a lot more brutal, and features the guest vocals of Tech N9ne, but in all honesty I just wanted to press the skip button.
Diary of a Deadman seems to be Wrong Side of Heaven’s answer to Canto 34, but instead of being merely instrumental it contains spoken word parts, forming something of a showcase for the band members’ talents with lots of changes of style and tempo. Jason Hook’s lead guitar really does come into it’s own here.
The rest of the playing time is taken up by repeats of earlier songs including those guest vocalists I was talking about earlier. With names like Max Cavalera (Soulfly) and Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), it seems a shame that these are tagged on the end almost as an aside as opposed to taking prime position.
It might be a sign of the times that this album seems to be a CD of separate tracks with very little flow. The transitions between thundering fight music and lamentation of a tormented soul feel a bit too sharp at times but this is still a very listenable offering. There is a decent mix of heavier, aggressive sounds alongside radio friendly songs that you wouldn’t feel too guilty about playing in front of the non-metalhead family.
Overall this is a solid Five Finger Death Punch album. It doesn’t break the mould, and I’m not sure that Volume 1 shows any real maturation or progression from their previous offerings. In some places the solos feel a little forced, as if they’re only there because “we should put a solo in”. If you like 5fdp already, the chances are that you will like this album, if you don’t then I doubt there is anything on here to convince you otherwise. I’m looking forward to what Volume 2 will bring.
Rating: ***½ / 5