Five Finger Death Punch are ready for battle.
Their new sophomore album, War Is the Answer, is locked and loaded with twelve tracks of raw epic heavy metal. Released September 22nd 2009 via Prospect Park/EMI, the record's deafening battle cry will undoubtedly rattle the genre to its very core and pull listeners deep into this War. Many were surprised to see the meteoric yet steady rise that 5FDP undertook in the last two year, and that was just the beginning.
5FDP have embarked on quite the journey to reach this point. The Los Angeles quintet's assault on heavy music began in 2007 with the release of their hit debut The Way of the Fist. After forming a "dream team" of metal musicians, the band self-funded the album- producing it entirely themselves. Death Punch eventually signed with The Firm/ Prospect Park. After months of relentless touring-including a show-stealing set at 2008's Mayhem Festival-Five Finger Death Punch became the hottest new band in metal.
Hot as hell, in fact: sales for Fist have exceeded 335,000 in the U.S. alone, while Death Punch grabbed features in publications such as Revolver, Kerrang!, Guitar World, Billboard and Metal Hammer. Plus, Fist spawned three top ten singles on active rock radio-"The Bleeding," "Never Enough," and "Stranger Than Fiction." Each single grew very organically in popularity, inexplicably turning a metal band into one of the most-requested artists on rock radio. Capping off the Fist cycle in style, Five Finger Death Punch won the 2009 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Award for "Best New Band." However, it's all been simply a prelude to War.
Five Finger Death Punch has fine-tuned their songs more than ever, and their sound has progressed immensely on their latest offering. Guitarist Zoltan Bathory puts it best: "We've matured but we're still the same band. Maybe we've gotten closer to traditional metal on War Is the Answer."
Looking to surpass their DIY debut record, 5FDP decided to enlist some big guns for War. The band produced the album alongside world renowned producer Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne), and attracted legendary mixer Randy Staub (Metallica) to the project as well. Also, the band had grown together as people, performers and songwriters. Singer Ivan Moody relates, "We tried to keep the basic ingredients but expand the sound at the same time. We spent two and a half years on the road together, and these guys have become closer to me than my biological family."
The result on War is an expansive collection of unbridled melodic metal. Tracks like "Bulletproof" illustrate Five Finger Death Punch's diversity, switching from spellbinding chorus to neck-snapping solo in a flash. "Burn It Down" is a nihilistic exploration in pure rage-a new storyline with the same popular characters from The Way of the Fist. Meanwhile, "No One Gets Left Behind" is an up-tempo crusher that leaves room for lyrical interpretation. "You can take it literally, or as an underlying theme we often talk about," relates Zoltan. "We are all soldiers in this human tribe. We used to fight together against the elements of nature to survive, but today that tribal bond is completely forgotten because there are six billion of us now. Does that devalue human life?"
The band has been known for their intense guitar playing since day one, and War kicks it up several notches. Jason Hook joined the fold in 2008, lending an uncanny repertoire to the fold.
"Jason's rhythm playing is very similar to mine," says Zoltan. "We have our signature sound all over War Is the Answer. It's a heavy machine gun style of playing. There are more solos because we wanted to utilize Jason's talent. We still focused on writing great songs though because those stay around forever."
The songs on War will certainly stand the test of time, and the emotions encapsulated in them are extremely tangible. Ivan confronted many of his own demons, waging war through words. The singer says, "It's a more personal record. On War Is the Answer, the band encouraged me to write from the heart. There is a lot of stuff, as painful as it may be, that I tried to project on this album that I didn't get a chance to on the first record."
"Walk Away" is an especially poignant song. The band incorporates acoustic guitars for a haunting, heavy sound, and the track's infectious, heartfelt chorus makes it a surefire single.
"On ‘Walk Away,' I wanted to wash my hands of this particular relationship in my life that has gone sour. It's a cleansing. I really did put my heart and soul into this entire record-no matter how hard it was. You have to expose the most ugly and raw parts of your life to really convey anything."
Ivan conveys true pain in his lyrics across the entire album. He pulls no punches, especially on the powerful "Crossing Over." His touching, episodic narrative propels the song under melancholy, melodic guitars. The entire album plays out in cinematic fashion with drama and true tension in every note. He continues, "We wanted to make an album that was going to feel like a major motion picture and not just an artsy B-movie."
"Hard to See" could be the soundtrack to that epic. Ivan goes on, "The politics of the music industry have baffled me since day one. 'Hard to See' is me lashing out at the industry. I'm so tired of being pulled in every direction and being told what to do. The song is about melding into the industry and learning the politics so we can be freer as artists."
The band's live show is more incendiary than ever. At the start, Five Finger Death Punch destroyed stages alongside Korn and Atreyu on The Family Values Tour 2007 and with Slipknot and Disturbed on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival 2008. Since then, they've had numerous successful headline jaunts in the U.S. and in Europe, with many more to come.
About their international appeal, Zoltan offers some insight. "If you really dig down to the roots of the music, American bands are groove-oriented and based on rhythm and blues. European bands grow up on classical music because it's very much embedded into that culture. Five Finger Death Punch has both of those roots because I'm from Europe, and Ivan and the rest of the guys are American. We're a truly international metal band, and that fact separates us."
The album's title sums everything up for the band right now. Zoltan elaborates, "War is the nature of man; it's always been, and it'll never go away. War has many different manifestations so it doesn't have to be taken literally, but that urge to conquer is embedded in our genes. We were not meant to live our lives caged in cubicles."
Ivan follows, "I think everyone has their own personal battles whether they're religious, political or family-oriented. To us, The Way of the Fist was a swift punch to the face. War Is the Answer is the answer to that first album. You listen and you know we have to keep fighting. You can never just give up and throw it to the wayside. It shows a sign of weakness and we don't plan on doing that anytime soon."
In the end, this record is for the people. Ivan concludes, "I want fans to be as proud of War Is the Answer as we are. We're not going anywhere. I want people to realize that this is from our hearts. I want the younger generation of musicians to realize if you stick to your guns and put forward the militant foot, you can get there. This band isn't afraid of anything. We will go out there, sweat, bleed and experiment-that's everything I've looked for my entire life in a band. Mankind is nothing but a cluster of opinions and nobody knows the real answers. However you can move, even change people through music. That's power and real art"
Indeed, Five Finger Death Punch are poised to take over the landscape. When it comes to how, there is no question-War is the Answer.