For Fans Of
Note: this review is for the deluxe edition of ‘And Justice For None’ as that’s what I was sent by the label.
Late last year, Five Finger Death Punch released a greatest hits album called ‘A Decade Of Destruction‘, a release that only served to highlight just how awfully repetitive their music is, over the course of six full-length records within the span of a decade no less. But love or loathe ’em, Five Finger Death Punch are one of the biggest rock/metal acts on the planet currently, so they can kinda get away with a “Best Of” release. So kudos to the group for achieving the kind of massive success they’ve cultivated, as I can definitely respect the capitalistic endeavours there, but zero kudos for the actual music here on this album as it’s bad with a capital B.
I had a small glimmer of hope that the American outfit might’ve changed things up and pushed their sound forward, as I wanted things to be different this time around; wishing the Las Vegas act would prove me wrong and create a fresh-sounding record. Yet I knew deep down going into ‘And Justice For None’ that their trite Pantera-meets-Nickelback sound would return in mind-numbing droves. And disappointingly so, I was disgustingly correct in that assumption. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you again. Fool me six times, however, and deep shame upon me for giving you so many benefits of the doubt. (Disclaimer: I actually quite liked their debut, 2007’s ‘The Way Of The Fist‘).
As is always the case, Five Finger Death Punch mix nu-metal, groove/alt-metal, and hard rock together to create the bottom-feeding sound they’ve beaten the world over the head with for years now. To the point where I stop myself from calling their seventh LP “new”, as while its moniker and song titles are different, it’s far from new in sound or approach for the band. What with the same old production, riffs, guitar tones, formulaic song structures, childish lyricism, and melodramatic performance from frontman Ivan Moody all present and accounted for.
To be fair, though, the band have embraced heavier ballad sensibilities and sprinkled in some minor blues-rock elements too. Yet these make little difference as it all amounts to just another Five Finger Death Punch release to throw on the ever-growing pile of these fuckin’ things. Truly, ‘And Justice For None‘ is tangible proof that Five Finger Death Punch ran out of ideas long ago.
Across this brain-cell killing record, when Moody isn’t making what amounts to vaguely edgy Facebook updates (“You’re a fake mother fucker, I hate you mother fucker“), he waxes lyrical about his own stubbornness, his various public stunts, and how he’s made out to be the bad guy by detractors and the media alike; giving the impression that beneath all of that bullshit, he’s a caring and often misunderstood man. Which is what album opener ‘Trouble’ deals in; how old mate doesn’t look for trouble, it’s trouble that finds him, ya feel?
Cue the eye-roll for this dude having the sheer ego to know he’s acting like a bastard but not wishing to change any of it because, uh, um, he wasn’t the one looking for trouble…? Look, I can be a cunt, absolutely, but that’s on me – not other people. Unlike how Moody seems to frame such matters at various points on ‘And Justice For None‘.
I’m sure that for most die-hard “Knuckle Heads”, this lyrical approach will probably make for an interesting narrative hook courtesy of a ‘conflicted’ singer from a band they love. And fair enough if that applies to you reading this review right now. But in my case, it does nothing to instil any confidence in a band already regurgitating a drearily tired metal sound when their frontman is self-aware of all these personal issues, yet seemingly does nothing to alter that course. Instead, blaming others and talking about how it’s all shit flung his way because of the loner wolf path he’s chosen to walk. Oh, please.
To ease up for a second, there is the odd moment or two where we do receive some powerful songwriting and emotion that, in perhaps another distant timeline, Five Finger Death Punch would’ve made better use of.
In one such rare instance, we have the album’s fourth track, ‘Sham Pain‘. This bonafide standout focuses on the real heart of the frontman from inside his own world and details his various struggles with the band’s glamour and fame lyrically. It’s interesting and honest stuff, I’ll definitely give it that, and the song musically delivers Moody’s thoughts in a compelling way too where we get these darker, brooding groove-metal verses nicely contrasted with some really pretty sounding melodic choruses. It’s a surprisingly good track, even if it ill-advisedly fades out in the middle of a guitar solo for its finale, but it’s a small victory nonetheless.
[The below music video for ‘Sham Pain’ is dumb and cringey, I know. But the visuals and “story” overall serve to reinforce the theme and intent of the track well enough so I can more or less live with it].
One big issue I have with ‘And Justice For None‘ is that it inconsistently jumps back and forth between metal and a softer, slower ballad-like/”cock rock” style; making it all very jumbled. This issue isn’t helped by the band’s recurring trend of including covers on their albums – whether they properly fit into the record or stick out like a sore thumb be damned. In this case, two songs get the full FFDP treatment.
First is an “emotional” rendition of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s 1998 hit, ‘Blue On Black‘; a slight bastardisation of the original blues tune, jarringly appearing five tracks into the record with no sense of pacing. Then there’s a homage to The Offspring with the band’s take on ‘Gone Away‘, which isn’t all that bad. As I said in my review of ‘A Decade Of Destruction’ in 2017, it’s not terrible by any means. It’s actually one of the better songs present, capturing the emotion and heart of the original well enough whilst placing it within a larger hard rock format. Then again… I know for a fact that I dig this ‘Gone Away‘ cover over the rest as I enjoy The Offspring more than I will ever like Five Finger Death Punch.
One thing that makes ‘And Justice For None‘ very cheesy and quite hard to swallow seriously are the immature lyrics from Moody and his superfluous use of the word ‘fuck’ and its many variations. Like on the horrendous call-out song, ‘Fake’ – a song written after their legal dramas with former label, Prospect Park, thankfully saving us from getting this record last year. Which would be fine if the track had any real weight to it other than being a dime-a-dozen FFDP song in tone and style.
Which leads me to another big revelation about this LP: the band have flooded the market with so many iterations of their drab sound and songwriting formula over the past ten years that it’s now damn-near impossible for their arguably better songs to stand out. This record really is the repercussion of aiming for quantity rather than actual quality.
Getting right down to brass tacks now, let’s hit up the rest of the record.
The opening “one-two-three-fuck you” lyric of ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ is utterly laughable; so much so that it doesn’t matter, just like the rest of the song itself. For a track called ‘Top Of The World’, it’s main hook and chorus are anything but high nor being anywhere close to the top. The gang-vocal sections of ‘Fire In The Hole‘ are the most engaging part of the whole song, with the only mercy here being that it wraps up within three minutes. Any impact or memorability is further lost from these three aforementioned songs because they’re all no different from much of Five Finger Death Punch’s other Pantera/Nickelback/Stone Sour wannabe songs.
The piano-driven ‘I Refuse’ is a rather sappy tune where we see Moody delivering gravely vocals about refusing the life that he’s in and the “villain” role he’s been doomed to play; like he’s the vindicated bad guy in a shitty WWE pay-per-view event. Other than the lovely classical acoustic guitar solo that comes in halfway through, the song is pretty forgettable, which sums up the wider record.
Elsewhere, ‘Rock Bottom’ is one of the heaviest cuts available but has little else going for it, what with its mind-numbing rhythms, lifeless riffs, and overly repetitive choruses holding it back. Oh, and the “I’m not dead, I’m still alive/you don’t like it, you can go ahead and die” line in the first verse might just be one of the worst lyrics I’ve heard in 2018.
The melodic ‘Stuck In My Ways’ has some of the best riffs of the lot, and some strong lead guitar work towards the end of the track too. However, it arrives too little too late to really help matters. The electronic production and synths on ‘Bloody’ are actually a nice little touch for the band’s sound, yet I’ve heard that song’s chorus well over a dozen times before now in FFDP’s career that it’s still somehow losing all meaning. Then, by the time that ‘Bad Seed’ and ‘Save Your Breath’ – two giant-sized but ultimately bland, overly expected rock anthems – roll around to close up shop, much like yours truly, you may find yourself completely over this fucking thing. The very thought of listening to it one more time akin to some form of CIA torture.
People can talk shit about Parkway Drive becoming Euro-metal dad-rock all they want, but at least Parkway tried new things and grew away from metalcore to experiment with their sound. And while not perfect, the strong end-results of ‘Ire’ and ‘Reverence‘ really do speak for themselves. I’d much prefer to see a band being brave and willing to change – even if I don’t personally like said change – instead of a seemingly jaded group rehashing the same bloody album every two years like Five Finger Death Punch continues to do. But hey, as long as the money keeps flowing in, why bother changing or adapting, right?
Finally, as an old high-school chum once told me, “Well, Alex, at least Five Finger Death Punch are still listenable.” No! Every single band is technically “listenable”, Matthew, you complete and utter pillock. Some bands are just complacent and boring in their songwriting and creativity; bands such as Five Finger Death Punch. And would you look at that: an overblown and self-indulgent review for an even more overblown and self-indulgent mess of a record. How fitting.
2. Top Of The World
5. Blue On Black
6. Fire In The Hole
7. I Refuse
8. It Doesn’t Matter
9. When The Seasons Change
10. Stuck In My Ways
11. Rock Bottom
12. Gone Away
14. Will The Sun Ever Rise
15. Bad Seed
16. Save Your Breath
‘And Justice For None’ is out now.