Released: 2013, Prospect Park Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
It is reasonably obvious to even the most casual observer that Five Finger Death Punch’s Ivan Moody is Very Cross Indeed about, well, a lot of things. Women, fame, fake people and non-believers have all felt the wrath of Moody since the band’s formation in 2005. The release of a new album (their fourth, and the first half of a double, with Part Two due for release in autumn 2013) begs the question then: has he mellowed?
The short answer reached upon listening to ‘The Wrong side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell’ is: nope. The album contains some fabulously aggressive, defiant and just plain grouchy lyrics; some drolly amusing, some inspiring, and some just plain fun. At this stage of their career FFDP have honed their signature sound, of which rage and aggression is simply part of it.
The album opens in bold fashion with ‘Lift Me Up’, featuring no less than metal god Rob Halford. It’s a daring combination but it really works; Halford and Moody’s throaty vocals blend together in such a way that each can clearly be heard, but they also harmonise brilliantly. Combined with a chugging riff throughout and challenging lyrics, this opening track really pins their colours to the mast in terms of quality and intent.
From then on the album is immensely enjoyable to listen to. There are some powerful ballads: title track ‘Wrong Side of Heaven’ with its introspective lyrics and succinct drumming, ‘M.I.N.E (End This Way), about a doomed relationship, and the anguished and rather maudlin ‘Diary of a Deadman’, which reads essentially like a suicide note, are scattered throughout the big, bold numbers.
There are also some wonderful guest vocalists, such as In This Moment’s Maria Brink on ‘Anywhere But Here’, another introspective number about running out of time (“if there was just today, would you make different choices?”). Brink’s haunting yet ballsy voice is a superb foil for Moody’s rather more gruff vocal style.
Then of course there are the ‘angry Ivan’ tracks that we’ve all come to expect. The likes of ‘Watch You Bleed’, ‘You’, ‘Burn MF’ and ‘I.M Sin’ all feature Moody in full-on ‘rage, roar, raaargh!’ mode, spitting out defiant and furious lyrics (such as the opening line in ‘I.M Sin’: “you’re a fucking poser!”. No room for misunderstanding there!).
The FFDP tradition of including a cover song is maintained on ‘...Righteous...’, with astonishing success. Their reimagining of rapper LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ is a stroke of genius, and so perfect for the band that the only question is, why haven’t they done it before now?! Their version is blazing, catchy and so, so good. They even drop in a nu-metal flavour with the inclusion of a rap (by Tech N9ne) and a wibbly-widdly guitar solo. This will without doubt be a huge moshpit-inducing, fist-pumping crowd favourite at future gigs.
For all of ‘Mama Said...’s fabulousness though, it must respectfully bow to clear album highlight ‘Dot Your Eyes’. With its clever word-play title, aggressive lyrics and ridiculously catchy chainsaw riff, it is an absolute ball-tearer of a number. It is simply, defiantly brilliant, certainly one of the best songs the band has ever written.
Finally, there are the bonus tracks, featuring different versions of three songs: Max Cavalera on another version of ‘I.M Sin’ (magnificent!), a more evenly split duet with Maria Brink on ‘Anywhere But Here’, and Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta sharing vocals on an alternative but equally explosive version of ‘Dot Your Eyes’. The inclusion of these tracks is a risky move, but a successful one, as each song really benefits from the extended guest vocals.
FFDP haven’t reinvented the wheel with their latest release. They haven’t mellowed, or ‘sold out’, or radically changed their modus operandi. What they have done is upped the ante with a collection of combustible, striking songs, peppered with rage and defiance and a sprinkling of introspection. The result is powerful and hugely enjoyable. Production-wise the album is concise and clear, losing none of its clarity when played at high volume (and how else would you listen to it?). The guitar solos in particular are a real treat; always interesting and varied and in keeping with the attitude of each song.
2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year to be a Knucklehead, with one FFDP album already released and another to look forward in a few short months. Will part two equal the quality and success of part one? Can FFDP hit the jackpot twice? We can only wait and see, and hey… If any of you ever meet the inimitable Mr Moody, give him a hug or something yeah? Or some Rescue Remedy? Only if he lets you of course...
Review by Melanie Brehaut