I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase Guilty Pleasure. It’s oft used to describe bands and artists that haven’t got quite the right amount of critical cachet to be really cool, but they are the ones that, almost despite everything, bring a smile to your face and a gladdening to your heart. Let’s take the much derided, critically mauled, defiantly not cool but couldn’t give a monkeys, Five Finger Death Punch. Here’s a band that, for some, fall squarely into this guilty pleasure camp- there’s unquestionably a no-one-likes-us-we-don’t-care mentality underpinning much of their fan base; to their detractors, there is no pleasure, merely guilty as charged: they are a bunch of charlatans. Opinions are unlikely to be shifted by the release of their latest album.
“The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1” (the last bit is important, kids: there’s another slab of this stuff coming later this year) is the fourth album from the American band, the follow up to the patchy “American Capitalist”. Depending on your point of view- ambivalence not usually a sentiment when it comes to Five Finger Death Punch– the latest album is either spectacular and spectacular value for money (14 tracks and more guest stars than an Elton John Post-Oscars party) or the most risible, gut wrenchingly awful record this year.
Weirdly, I am ambivalent about Five Finger Death Punch– I generally can take or leave them- so the arrival of their new album had me feeling curious, if not jumping with metaphoric joy at its arrival. Opening track ‘Lift Me Up’ with guest vocalist Rob Halford pretty much sets the tone for much of the rest of the record- hard riffing, big choruses, bombastic lyrics, absurd No one’s going to take me alive mentality: Five Finger Death Punch have a formula that they clearly believe works for them and they are resolutely sticking to it. If you like that then the rest of the record is probably going to appeal as well. Five Finger Death Punch have clearly got a load of friends too; their hard work and constant touring has clearly endeared them to many in the business and, proof positive, you get a bit of Max Cavalera on the sprightly ‘I.M. Sin’, Jamey Jasta is all over closing track ‘Dot Your Eyes’ like a rash and In This Moment‘s Maria Brink on ‘Anywhere But Here’. It’s not all glorious though: the cover of LL Cool J‘s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ is merely perfunctory. Where LL was laser sharp and energised, this version is a bit, well, lumpen and punch drunk’, I’m afraid. Notwithstanding, as with previous Five Finger Death Punch outings, you also get the big, please-don’t-leave-me-baby ballad in the form of ‘Wrong Side of Heaven’. And, right across the record, there’s a bucketload of hard riffing, more profanity than Goodfellas and some good, technical playing. Fine then, as these things go.
“The Wrong Side Of Heaven…” is not going to change your point of view about Five Finger Death Punch. If you like ’em, you’re going to like this record; in fact, you’re probably going to like it a lot. If you don’t like Five Finger Death Punch this record is going to send you into paroxysms of hatred and bile, your spleen being vented quite volubly about how derivative/cliched/clunky/pointless it all is. Both sides of the argument are likely to be right: they are a bit obvious and a bit cartoon-like, I suppose, but I quite like that fact that they get up the nose of the self appointed cool kids of the metal fraternity that self appoint themselves to determine what it is I’m supposed to like/not like. You pays your money, etc.
At the end of the day I’m left with an overriding feeling: Five Finger Death Punch are the fast food of heavy metal. It really does depend on whether you like a bit of cheese in your hamburger.You know that it’s bad for you, you know that you shouldn’t do it; no really, you shouldn’t, but for that short explosion of time, and very occasionally fast food can taste really, really good. Yes, I would like a large fries and a coke. An artery clogging 6.5/10.