FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH – F8
Better Noise Music, 2020
Alternative Metal/Groove Metal/Hard Rock
Normally, I don’t review metal albums so close together, but sometimes the universe throws something your way that you just have to comment on. Five Finger Death Punch have bestowed their eighth album upon the world and it’s…. well it’s something. The album is called F8, pronounced “fate,” and that should tell you everything you need to know about it. FFDP is the kind of band that thinks naming an album F8 is clever and a good idea. And they make music for the kind of people who believe the same thing.
If you can’t already tell, I didn’t really like this at all. And I know it’s the popular thing to hate on Five Finger Death Punch. But before you write me off as just another hater, please allow me to at least try to explain why I don’t like it. And yes, I’ll go beyond the fact that I think FFDP is the favorite band of the guy whose favorite movie is any of the Fast & Furious movies after Tokyo Drift and now thinks that F8 of the Furious would have been a better title.
As usual with my negative reviews, I will try to start with something that I like about the album. On F8, FFDP move away from the groove metal of their previous albums and lean even harder into alternative metal. Whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit that alt metal can produce some seriously badass riffs, and a few show up on this album. “Full Circle,” “Bottom of The Top,” and “This Is War” in particular have some riffs that just absolutely rip. There’s no denying that the members of FFDP are talented, Jason Hook and Zoltan Bathory especially. It’s just a shame that their talents are often undercut by other things.
The most glaring of those things, as is typical with a Five Finger Death Punch album, are the lyrics. And even more frustrating is the fact that the songs with the worst lyrics, are the ones with the best riffs! Yes, yes, people hate on FFDP because of the “tough guy” lyrics and image, but it’s getting to a point where they’re almost a parody of themselves. The first verse of “Living The Dream” clumsily name drops comic book heroes and has a robotic vocal effect when Moody sings the name Iron Man. “Bottom of the Top” hints at self-awareness with lines asking if the song is metal enough, heavy enough, and destructive enough, but then turns right back around to the same defensive, tough guy rhetoric.
Even the slower moments on the album, when they’re not just fading into the background, put the blame on other people and never on the narrator. This is music for the guy who drives a lifted pickup to the gym and tries to start a fight when he’s confronted about dropping weights and grunting too loud. I’m not saying music can’t be cathartic, but if your response to any kind of hardship is to throw up defenses and shout “This is war!” you should probably consider getting professional help. Even the angriest emo songs have some kind of self-reflection in them. And I don’t care who you are, no metal band that wants to be taken seriously should use the word Google in their lyrics, let alone sing it with harsh vocals!
Good grief, I could write another paragraph on the lyrics, but I need to move on to other things. A slightly smaller issue I have with the album that probably wouldn’t bother most listeners is how inconsistent the mixing is. I think this album has some of the lowest guitar tunings the band has ever used, but the production doesn’t do it any favors. Things are compressed to hell and sap any definition from the guitar tone. Yeah, it sounds heavy, but there’s no texture. Along with that, the drum mixing seems to change from song to song, and where certain instruments sit in the mix changes too.
Overall, this album… just… it isn’t good. There are some cool riffs, but even the tracks with them are hamstrung by bad mixing and cringe worthy lyrics. The quieter songs are forgettable and I remember the louder ones for the wrong reasons. With this new stylistic direction, I keep finding similarities with Demon Hunter. Depending on your opinion of that band, this is either like Demon Hunter but bad and with awful lyrics and they say fuck a lot, or it’s like a worse version of Demon Hunter with awful lyrics and they say fuck a lot. When I imagine a FFDP fan, I see a guy who wears a Realtree hoodie all year, spits tobacco out the window of a rusty Camaro IROC-Z, and tries to race people at every red light. I guess as long as those people exist, we’re going to keep getting FFDP albums like this.