I’ve been a Five Finger Death Punch fan since 2007’s Way of the Fist. Unlike some of the die-hards, I thought 2011’s American Capitalist was a huge step forward for them, musically and lyrically. With that in mind I was excited and nervous for this new album The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol. I. Excited because I was hoping they’d continue where they left off. Nervous because it was going to be a double album, and the band was starting with that whole “We just had so much great music we knew we had to put out two records” nonsense. When it works, it works brilliantly (Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti), and when it doesn’t, the results can be disastrous (Use Your Illusion I and II, anyone?), or barely one good record’s worth of material spread across the two (Melon Collie…from Smashing Pumpkins). So here we go with Vol. I from 5FDP, with Vol. II coming out sometime in the fall.
I already reviewed opener “Lift Me Up” featuring Rob Halford when it first came out, and I really liked it. To be honest though, the rest of the album is hit and miss. There are the bludgeoning riffs, and Ivan Moody’s angry vocals that fans have come to know and love, and of course there are the melancholy slow numbers that rock radio will undoubtedly beat to death by early fall.
After several listens, some of the good stuff like “Lift Me Up”, “You”, and “Burn M.F.” is found early on in the disc, along with one of the worst songs, the radio-friendly ballad “Wrong Side of Heaven”. It even comes with the requisite God and the Devil on my shoulders crap. Oy.
“Watch You Bleed” is interesting with its acoustic intro before it turns into something heavy. This one kind of grew on me. “You’re a fucking poser!” is the first line of “I.M. Sin” and it only gets worse from there. How long can these guys write about the same things over and over? And who is this person Ivan Moody has been angry at for four albums now??
One of the album’s bright spots comes in the form of “Anywhere But Here”, a duet with In This Moment’s Maria Brink. It’s a good song, made better by her presence. This is one of three songs that feature two versions, one with just Ivan, and one with a guest star, but two of the duet versions are much better, especially “Dot Your Eyes” featuring Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. I am NOT a fan of that band, but his vocals work on this version. Max Cavalera shows up on the aforementioned “I.M. Sin” and even he can’t save it.
“M.I.N.E. (End This Way)” is another godawful slow radio song that I’m sure the teenagers will flock to, saying things like “OMG! This is my life!”, or something. Just terrible. But the worst misstep is their ill-fated cover of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” featuring Tech N9ne. Yes, you read that right. This is another one of those times where I was ready to take a header out of my second story window after hearing it. WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?? I pray they don’t perform this at Mayhem Fest on Sunday. Last song “Diary of a Deadman” starts off promising and then the spoken-word vocals begin, just killing any momentum it had.
So, to recap, I actually enjoyed six of the new songs, and pretty much hated the other five. The cool thing is that with the deluxe version, you get a second disc of live material, which I always love. I just wish the studio stuff was better, and I hope Vol. II has better writing. What will ultimately work in Five Finger Death Punch’s favor is the strength of their live shows (and they are killer live), coupled with their ability to write anthems for disaffected teenagers, and beer-swilling wrestling fans.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Lift Me Up”, “You”, “Burn M.F.”