Five Flavour Fruit Punch, Five Finger Butt Plug, Nickleback For Juggalos; call them what you want, but I am an absolute mark for Las Vegas’ biggest Metal band, Five Finger Death Punch, and their Melodic chorus/Pantera-verses/Blunt-ignorance formula. It just always hits the spot somehow.
That being said; two out of their last three albums have been weaker than their usual standard, and a lot of high profile intoxication, protracted label legal issues, loss of a key member and an on-stage meltdown plastered all over the media have somewhat tainted the band’s rising-star vibe.
Its nice to say however; that their latest album, their eighth studio album, 2020’s F8 (Fate), sees the band clear-headed, sober and once again delivering the goods. You can hear singer Ivan Moody venting all that aforementioned baggage on the excellent tune “Bottom Of The Top” which is one of the highlights musically and lyrically. The quality of song-writing here is a lot stronger than their …And Justice For None record, and the performance is a little less robotic. That album had the air of disharmony about it, whereas F8 sounds like a band really gelling and coming together. For those who like the band at their faster and heavier, “This Is War” & “Scar Tissue” are the standout moments. If you prefer the band doing ballads and poppier moments, it’s the acoustic with electro-drums “A Little Bit Off” that you need to check out.
This is their first album without their key drummer Jeremy Spencer, who was such a big part of their sound, its hard to imagine the band without him. (I recently read his autobiography, and it’s a bit of a depressing tale of addiction, infidelity and recurrent erectile dysfunction that gives a good insight into the inter-band relationships, but definitely signposted that he wasn’t going to stay in the band forever!). Charlie Engen takes the drum throne this time around, and is a capable replacement, but maybe lacking a bit in personality on this particular record. I think much like Slipknot’s Jay Weinberg, it will take until the next album until we really see his potential. I don’t reckon you’d want to make too many waves on your first appearance.
I saw the band live just before this album was released, and it was absolutely glorious. I had been following them since their sophomore record had just been out and they were only starting to get noticed, and have been a day one purchaser on most of their albums to date, and it was amazing to see them not only playing arenas, but utterly captivating them. They dropped some new material from this record and it fit in perfectly with a hits-laden set. ‘Inside Out’ in particular feels like it will stay in their live set from now until retirement.
Its not hard to imagine that in the future, F8 will be looked back upon as one of the band’s better albums. Its not a Dr. Feelgood style new beginning, but it is a focusing and strengthening of the existing formula with simply better songs. (Does that mean its their Razor’s Edge? I don’t know…)
I’m not usually in the habit of booking two concerts a week apart. There was a time between the ages of 12-18 when I went to about one a year, and 18-25 when I went to about one every 2-3 years. However; as I explained in my last post, I really wanted to see Slipknot after falling so in love with their new album, but the tickets sold out in less than a second. I thought I would book this as a consolation prize. (Then as things turned out, I ended up going to both, a week apart!).
Now I wasn’t expecting too much from this gig. I’ve been a Megadeth fan for about two decades now, but based on all the live albums they can be hit and miss live. I’d also seen Megadeth before, and Dave’s vocals were never the best live as he has to concentrate on such blistering guitar parts. Considering all we’ve been reading about Dave’s health recently, particularly as it involved the throat, I thought the singing would probably suffer even further and he also might not be in the best of spirits. Add into it that this was a short support slot instead of a nice long headliner and I was expecting a nice-enough evening out, but not a game-changer, like recent concerts at this very same venue from Parkway Drive, Ghost or Slipknot had been.
I’d also never seen Five Finger Death Punch before, despite being a fan of theirs for over a decade. Don’t get me wrong, I’d tried to see them live before. They played Manchester twice when I was there, and I queued at the box office in person both times due to an issue with Ticketmaster not recognising my address the first time and just out of habit the second time. Unfortunately the tickets were sold out each time. They’d also played Download Festival before too, and almost tempted me to commit, but I was always too afraid to go before I finally took the plunge in 2018.
I didn’t really know what to expect from FFDP live though, as the podcast I listen to always calls them an amazing live band and the next big festival headliner, but Blabbermouth was always full of stories about their singer having a breakdown on stage or their drummer being high or similar problems, and their live album, Purgatory Tales From The Pit or that bonus Live DVD that comes with ‘Wrong Side Of Heaven Part 2 both aren’t very good. (But that’s just a bonus material, so you never know).
Now, in my head I was telling myself I was there for Megadeth, and that Megadeth should have been headlining. I’d been a fan of them for longer, I like them more, and they are legendary and more important to the history of metal. You can find at least 3 Megadeth albums in almost any list of best-ever-metal-albums, but you rarely if ever see any ‘Death Punch in any such list. Megadeth have a reputation for musos at times due to their technical guitar work, and ‘Death Punch have a tough-guy image which isn’t always a positive thing. I think they have a credibility problem among the over-35s. I guess that’s why they’ve been doing things like having Rob Halford guest on a song and taking Megadeth out as a support act. They’ve definitely got the youth vote down, but a lot of people still look down their nose at them.
Don’t get me wrong I like them, I like them a lot (I’ve reviewed every single one of their albums on this blog, and given all buy one a positive review) but I always feel this tiny sense of shame about liking them. Along with Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine they are one of the bands I’d be kind of afraid to wear a t-shirt of, for fear of some snobby elitist making fun of me. Now, I know that’s ridiculous, but sometimes I can’t help myself. Usually I can get over it. For example; when I grew up, in the Nu Metal era, Hair Metal was the most uncool and non-credible thing you could ever lower yourself to listen to, and I got over that mindset pretty easily and own dozens and dozens of hair metal albums now. But still… sometimes, against my better judgment, the 13 year old part of my brain rears its ugly head and sometimes worries what the ‘real fans’ will think of me, despite the fact that academically I know its all nonsense anyway, and as comedian Brian Posein very neatly put it ‘’Metal is not a competition.’’
There was, as it goes, also a third band on the bill. They were called Bad Wolves, but I arrived late due to work and missed them entirely. Not even the last song. Not one second. Not even the Cranberries cover that the internet keeps talking about. By the time I got there after work, Megadeth were already sound-checked, banners up, and there was just enough time to go to the toilet, with only three tracks over the speakers between me getting through security and when they got on stage.
(Come to think of it, last time I saw Megadeth, I missed their support band as well. Is it a Megadeth thing? Hmmm…)
Bladder now empty, Megadeth took to the stage, and I enjoyed myself a lot. One of the all time great bands and I was lucky enough to see them for a second time. It has been seven years since I last saw them and everything about my life is different, from where I live to the career I am in, to the fact that I am married and a father.
I was very grateful and pleased to get to see Megadeth again. There were a few downsides though; first off, the sound was a bit muddy. Dave’s vocals were super low in the mix and I had to strain to hear anything. (I guess that’s better than jarring bad vocals, but still). The hi hats were also too low if we’re getting pedantic. Secondly; I don’t know if its just were I was stood, but considering I was more interested in Megadeth than ‘Death Punch, there was a lack of audience energy around me for the first half of the show. This is one of the most important bands in the business. Nobody was singing along to ‘Wake Up Dead’ for goodness sakes, which is tantamount to a crime in my book. Bizarrely, they didn’t even sing along to ‘Trust’ which was one of the biggest sing-longs when I saw them last time. Its not a great feeling when you are having way more fun that everyone around you. Thirdly, the aforementioned length of the set. I mean, how do you do a short setlist when you have so many albums and almost all of them are crazily good? (To be honest, I could see them perform their first six albums in their entirety and still hunger for more. I’d be all like ‘Aw man, they didn’t play ‘’Blackmail The Universe’’ or ‘’Endgame,’’ I wish they had longer’)
But these are minor complaints. I enjoyed the show. And when they played tracks off of Countdown To Extinction the crowd sang along, so its not like there was no enthusiasm from the crowd. Although the sound mix wasn’t perfect you could hear all the guitar parts, which is what you need most from Megadeth. And of course, I think we can all cut the vocals some slack given the recent health issues. Also, although it was short on time, they packed it with hits and even threw in a few deep cuts from Rust In Peace and one song off the new album.
I’ve been looking on SetlistFM, and found out that on this tour, the setlist was pretty set in stone, but there is always one song per night that could change. For example, they’ll always play nine of the same songs they played tonight, but there is one spot where you can get something different, such as ‘She Wolf,’ ‘A Tout La Mond,’ ‘The Conjuring,’ or ‘Mechanix.’ Tonight we got ‘Mechanix’ which I was chuffed for, as it was one of my favourite songs and they didn’t play it last time I saw them. I have very fond memories of ebing a teenager and failing to master it on guitar or drums, but having much fun in the effort.
Between songs, Dave did a speech in which he announced he was now, quote, ‘’100% cancer free’’ which was a nice moment. I deal with a lot of death a misery and disease at work so its nice to see it work out for someone. There were lots of nice moments. Hey, for not headlining, they sure did have a good light show. Hey, this new guitarist Kiko from Angra, is quite good. Hey, I guess they don’t have a lot of time, but they sure are making it count, with all the unmissable tracks like ‘Wake Up Dead’ ‘Hanger 18’ ‘Holy Wars’ and ‘Peace Sells’ all represented. Dave seemed in a very good mood all night, very amused by the Vic Rattlehead actor who came out towards the end, and coming out for extra applause after it ended, to briefly playing air guitar to a Sid Vicious song.
Overall, while not the world’s best concert, very far from poor. I had a good time. (I’ve been really spoiled these last two years, with the showmanship of Alice Cooper, the fun of Volbeat, the satisfaction of Slipknot, the much anticipated Libertines, and the love-those-songs good times of Corrosion Of Conformity).
Next up, it was time for Five Finger Death Punch. I really didn’t know what to expect. I could go either way really.
When they took to the stage the crowd went really wild. I knew they had a big fan following, even if the critics are snobby about them, but boy I was not prepared for how wild the crowd went for them. All the enthusiasm that was missing for Megadeth, they had in spades for ‘Death Punch. The sing-alongs were so loud, the cheers so energetic, it was crazy to see just how much people loved them. I mean, I am a big fan, with all their records, singing all the choruses and most of the verses to all the songs tonight, and I almost felt like a bit of a fraud, (like…wow…why don’t I love them that much?). Based on tonight’s crowd reaction, I have a feeling that once there is a generation-change in the critics, then this band are going to be classified as one of the real big names in metal, the way Slipknot and System Of A Down are now, even though they were the new upstarts lacking credibility with the old guard when I was young.
Speaking of Slipknot, rather strangely, singer Ivan Moody made a little speech about how he was similar to Slipknot’s Corey Taylor because they both survived overdoses and didn’t take shit from anyone, which seemed a bit weird, but then he also did a good speech about sobriety. And he sang happy birthday for a little 13 year old kid and got everyone to shine their phones/lighters to represent birthday candles. He also did a bit about what an honour it was to meet Dave Mustaine and how important So Far, So Good, So What was to him as a kid. I was really impressed with him as a front man, he seemed like a really warm, genuine and humble guy. Which is interesting, as I always had him pegged as being a big douche, but I guess addiction may have had a big part in that, or maybe press misrepresentation (I mean, they have at least three songs about how he is misrepresented by the press, and played two of them live tonight).
There was a moment, during the power ballad ‘The Wrong Side Of Heaven’ when he said how he didn’t like to talk about his lyrics and preferred the fans to make their own interpretation. Now, this is where I got a bit sceptical. I mean, they aren’t Tool. These aren’t mystical esoteric songs with triple meanings. Most of the songs, in my mind, essentially boil down to swearing whilst threatening to beat someone up. In my mind, if you mix Limp Bizkit’s ‘’Full Nelson’’ and Pantera’s ‘’Five Minutes Alone’’ threats with Slipknot’s ‘’Surfacing’’ swearing, then you get 99% of Five Finger Death Punch lyrics. Turns out, in actual fact however, that the song was actually about his dead grandmother. Who knew? I guess I was being a bit of an elitist too. My bad. I’ll work on that.
They played a really great setlist tonight, with about 2-3 songs from every album, plus one new song from their upcoming next album F8. They played a mixture of fast songs, groovy heavy songs and then a few quieter tracks in the middle for balance. They played most of the big singles but a few deeper tunes. I was over the moon to hear tracks from the first two albums like ‘Never Enough’ and ‘Burn It Down’ and I was excited to hear the new song ‘Inside Out.’ I even enjoyed the cheesy country cover ‘Blue On Black’ live, which I was initially sceptical of when I first got And Justice For None.
They put on a good show too, with an even bigger light show than Ghost had. They had their big mascot back drop, lots of pyro and guitarist Jason Hook rose up into the sky at one point. Several songs featured very large quantities of confetti, and even though they aren’t a theatrical band, Ivan had some mini-costume changes throughout the show (such as switching between a top-hat and cane for ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ a t-shirt that said ‘I hate me 2’ for one of their more self-deprecating songs, and Fred Durst style baggy outfit at the start).
The sound was good. Much better than it had been for Megadeth. Not quite as good as say Slipknot, Parkway’ or Ghost from recent times at the same venue, but pretty damn good. The actual musician’s performance was also good. Zoltan and Jason played great leads, bassist Chris Kael had a lot of physical presence and handled the backing vocals enthusiastically, there was a very entertaining and not boring drum solo from new-ish drummer Charlie Engen (I still find it weird that Jeremy Spencer is gone, he was always one of the most in the press members of the band and the person’s face I see in my mind’s eye when someone says the band’s name).
This was a great night overall. I know that beforehand I was sort of expecting this to be a let down after what a great run of concerts I’ve had lately, but I’ll be danged if tonight wasn’t great as well. I was extra impressed due to aforementioned the weird psychological prejudice I have about them and fear of judgement from snobs. It sounds like sort of a backhanded compliment, but I was extra impressed none-the-less. You expect the ‘70s and ‘80s legends to be amazing, but its always nice when bands from the last 15 years or so can match or succeed the greats. It gives you hope for the future of the genre. Highlights included ‘Under and Over It,’ ‘Wash It All Away’ and the final song, and their best song, ‘The Bleeding.’ (‘Burn MF’ was also notable for how much pyro they set off during it).
That’s all for tonight folks. Luckily for my bank account, I don’t have any more concerts next week, so this will be the last concert post for a while, but I will be going to catch Bay Area Thrash legends Testament and Exodus, with support from Death Angel in a few months, so you’re not quite safe from gig reviews just yet.
Dependable as always, the American Heavy Metal band Five Finger Death Punch return in 2015 with their sixth full-length studio album, Got Your Six, showing no signs of fatigue, letting-up or diminishing returns. The band have released another barn-storming collection of stompy, groovy, catchy melodic Metal equally as high in quality as the best of their existing discography to date.
Five Finger Death Punch are the kind of slow-evolution band that don’t mess with their formula too much, if you liked their previous albums then you’ll love this because its pretty similar sounding, but with enough of a twist that it doesn’t get boring. Its not suddenly a jazz record or a dubstep album, but that doesn’t mean you’ve heard it all before.
The production job by Kevin Churko is excellent as usual, the man just gets this band and how they should sound. The musicianship is strong, with the lead guitars better than ever, singer Ivan Moody stretching himself and exploring new vocal ground, and the rhythm section delivering the same kind of powerful post-Pantera stomp the band is known for just that little bit better. The drums are a little bit more flashy, the structures are a little bit more advanced, but it still grooves. Performance-wise this record is one of their most intense and exciting performances since their debut album, there’s a renewed enthusiasm and a bit of a harder edge than the last two or three records… its just got a little bit more of an umph.
Highlights include the excellent and varied Title Track, as well as the fun and fast-paced ‘No Sudden Movements’ which has a different feel than you’ve heard from the band before, as well as the very fun ‘Boots And Blood’ which is honestly one of my favourite songs the band have come up with to date. There’s also a fun little acoustic guitar solo in the middle of ‘Question Everything’ which is a delightful surprise and makes it stand out on the album.
Sure, the artwork is cheesy and the lyrics are adolescent (even I can’t defend them), but when the music is this good, the songs are this catchy and it sounds like a million bucks… who really cares? This is a damn strong, damn entertaining and completely reliable band, and Got Your Six is among the best of their output to date. If you hate them on principle it won’t change your mind, but existing fans need not hesitate for a moment – Got Your Six is excellent and worth a place in your collection without question.
If you can, try and get yourself a copy of the edition with bonus tracks by the way, because for my money, the bonus tracks are even better than the majority of the album… more in the direction of The Way Of The Fist; ‘You’re Not My Kind’ in particular is an excellent song and one that draws my attention. If there’s a negligible price difference, opt for that version.