From the moment ‘Dying breed’ comes crashing in on the back of a chunky riff, it’s clear that this is going to be a very contemporary sounding album. That is not to say that it is specifically bad, but when one compares it to the masterpieces released by Chthonic, Paradise Lost or Katatonia recently it’s hard to imagine listening to this in ten years time, whereas those albums have tapped into a rich vein of a timeless quality that Five Finger Death Punch rarely even aspire to, let alone succeed. Heartily endorsed by magazines such as Metal Hammer, it is, perhaps, time for a more sober assessment of the record that everybody, apparently, is talking about.
‘Dying breed’ opens the album on a surging riff that is chunky and familiar to any who have caught up with Killswitch engage and their ilk. Equally the vocals are, predictably enough, throat shreddingly raw on the verse and then overtly melodic on the chorus. It’s a trick that is becoming a little tired, although it’s hard to ignore the fact that vocalist Ivan Moody is clearly very good at what he does. Setting the band further ahead of the pack is the soaring guitar solo that adds a touch of class, but it’s still a very safe formula for the band to be playing with. ‘Hard to see’ does, at least, pull away from metal-core’s scream-sing-scream louder equation, with a clean vocal throughout, but the hints of Linkin Park-esque electronica are less than welcome, even when the guitars do rage away more satisfyingly than that band ever managed. ‘Bulletproof’ opens on a fantastically heavy guitar riff along with thundering double bass drums and Phil Anselmo-esque muttered vocals which expand satisfyingly into a mighty roar for the chorus, only to splutter out in a welter of harmonised vocals that plague so many modern metal releases.
Competing for best track on the album is ‘no one gets left behind’ which is hard hitting enough and features a chunky bridge section that hints at a band capable of more than they offering on this release. ‘Crossing over’ is the obligatory ballad that will no doubt pollute MTV for months to come, but in truth it’s nothing Stone Sour weren’t doing seven odd years ago and they weren’t exactly original either. That said, there are some nice enough guitar flourishes (including a great solo) that elevate it a touch out of the mediocrity that it otherwise proclaims from every faux-agonized syllable. ‘Burn it down’ returns to the heavier pastures of the first few tracks, but, apparently having got over their desire to feature on every radio show in the Western hemisphere, it rocks a whole lot harder than anything previous with a grime-encrusted vocal performance that thrills as much as it surprises. ‘Far from home’ is equally surprising as it harks back to the days of Extreme and Poison with its un-reconstituted ballad structure and OTT strings. It’s a touch cheesy, sure, but it actually works far better than ‘crossing over’ as you get the impression that this is the kind of music the band actually listen to, rather than feel they should make.
‘Falling in hate’ offers a more complex guitar riff than the band have hitherto deployed, veering almost into Slayer territory but coupled with an off-kilter time signature that keeps the listener’s attention. Once again the vocals are harder hitting than in the opening moments of the record and the song is all the more successful for it. ‘My own hell’ is probably the closest the band come to Slipknot, with a seething riff coupled to schizophrenic vocals while ‘walk away’ is more of a hard-rock track than metal with a suitably distorted intro giving way to a heart-felt verse. It’s a catchy song, with a rousing chorus that doesn’t outstay its welcome. ‘Canto 34’ opens with interesting guitar sounds and then utilises a choppy central riff along with a pure old-school guitar solo to good effect and, it’s instrumental, which gives the band a good opportunity to show off their chops. ‘Bad company’ is a reasonable enough cover but Ivan Moody, as talented as he is, is no match for the power of Paul Rodgers and one has to question the relevance of note-perfect takes on classic songs anyway. ‘War is the answer’ closes the disc, in suitably heavy style, leaving you a little surprised at quite how little you can remember from the last hour of music.
So in the final assessment 5FDP is neither as good as everybody else seems to be making out, nor as bad as you might imagine. It’s a solid and well-performed slab of contemporary rock that will no doubt get a few spins on your deck / mp3 player / cd player before being discarded in favour of something with rather more substance and rather less style. The production is perfectly serviceable and the band has clearly spent a lot of time honing their craft, but in the end you can’t help longing for something more original. Whether they will become as massive as other reviewers have proclaimed remains to be seen, but 5FDP would be better served in taking their undeniable talent and actually writing some songs worthy of them, rather than pandering to the stylistically devoid metal-core masses with an album that shouts plenty but says very little. Disappointing.
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