While 2020 has so far seen a number of long-overdue sequel albums from recent artists and comebacks from acts forgotten or disbanded in excess of 20 years ago, Five Finger Death Punch has been delivering new material on a consistent basis ever since 2007’s The Way of the Fist. Having switched labels from their longtime home at Prospect Park to Better Noise Music and lead vocalist Ivan Moody having emerged from longtime addictions, 5FDP returns with F8, a record proudly described by guitarist Zoltan Bathory as “rebirth” for the Vegas metal outfit.
Following the buildup string intro “F8”, the record jumps into gear with “Inside Out”, a crushing tune admittedly centred around Moody’s previous alcoholic battles. “Full Circle” is a tune completely made for the pit, true to the album’s promise to not get political while taking a dismissive stance to global events: “I know I’m never going to save the world/So I’ll sit here laughing as it all goes by.” “Living The Dream”, amidst its unrelenting heaviness gets a bit more involved: “It seems the path we’re on was paved with blood and sorrow/No thought about tomorrow/Just part of the machine.” “A Little Bit Off” is a little bit lighter in contrast, incorporating a poppy tinge over a comparatively acousticized backdrop.
“Bottom of The Top” brims from the outset with old-school thrashy Metallica vibes, taking a raging swipe at the many critics 5FDP has encountered throughout their career: “Is this metal enough for you/Is it heavy enough, destructive enough/Am I good enough for you/Am I tough enough or rough enough?” “To Be Alone” continues the heavy and features an impressive shred session from Jason Hook, with “Mother May I (Tic Toc)” taking aim at the cult of celebrity amidst a rampage of standard-issue stomp-riffing. “Darkness Settles In” scales back for a dose of that slow-and-emotional-yet-heavy-as-hell type of metal song (you know the type); “This Is War” meanwhile could not be any more opposite and offers up another bloody machine-gun footed mosher, every bit as brutal as its title would indicate.
“Leave It All Behind” veers into nu-metal meets hardcore, reminiscent of some of Korn’s cuts from The Nothing (“This Loss” in particular). Dispelling any confusion that 5FDP was covering the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Scar Tissue” is a memorable blast of pure aggression, due in equal parts to Moody’s lashing vocals, Hook’s tasteful soloing and Chris Kael’s finger-flaying bass work. “Brighter Side of Grey” ends the formal portion of the album by hauling out the acoustic once more, Moody sincerely priming and comforting a loved one in the event of his demise with a wonderfully melodic chorus to boot: “When the lights go down/know that I am never far away/When the sun burns out/I’ll be waiting on the brighter side of grey.” The riffs-and-pedals beatdown of “Making Monsters” is featured as a bonus track, as is “Death Punch Therapy”, dipping finely into Slipknot-esque heavy melodic flavour as a perfectly classy-yet-unrelenting closer.
Love them or hate them, Five Finger Death Punch do indeed pack a punch when it’s needed. It’s good to see that hard-edged, aggressive heavy metal continues to thrive and sophisticate when other genres have increasingly softened up, and that established bands such as 5FDP can pull themselves out of turmoil, make something of it artistically and consistently deliver- really, what would music be without that? F8, while at times formulaic demonstrates many of these qualities to a strong and carefully crafted tee that has made its makers clearly identifiable. More than that, it continues to prove why they are still a recognized name in metal today.