Following a triptych of increasingly impressive albums, there are some – and we most likely are in the minority – who believed that Five Finger Death Punch somewhat lost their way in 2013, with the overly-ambitious double ‘The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell’ set – a duopoly which, while their most successful collective commercial outing to date, seemed to be a case of quantity over quality and could easily have been trimmed to half its ultimate length.
Thankfully, FFDP have taken a somewhat more compact approach to this follow up, with 11 songs on one CD (well, 14 if you decide to go down the ‘deluxe’ version route!). And the first thing which strikes you both how aggressive and deeply personal ‘Got Your Six’ is, especially in its lyrical content and delivery by Ivan Moody. Lead single, ‘Jekyll And Hyde’ – the lyrics for which were recorded direct from voicemail messages the singer sent to guitarists Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook – sees him spit lines like “There’s just so much God damn weight on my shoulders / All I’m trying to do is live my mother fuckin life / Supposed to be happy but I’m only getting colder / Wear a smile on my face but there’s a demon inside” with a spine-chillingly cold viscosity. Or try the open defiance of “I never did / And I still don’t give a shit / I’m such an outcast / You swore I wouldn’t last / I got news for you / This ain’t my last dance” (‘Ain’t My Last Dance’) with their middle-fingered salute to the mainstream music media and those who wrote off, and continue to write off, not only FFDP and bands of their ilk but the entire metal genre as a whole.
But, these aren’t just empty words, albeit ones spat with visceral determination. Musically, the band are equally defiant and in-your-face, with precise performances from Bathory, Hook, Spencer and Kael: the two guitars weave and mingle effortless, bouncing off each other with fluidity, yet with the right aggressive edge needed to mark that of the vocals, while the bass and drums are tight and methodical, with the former in particular suitable subtle in its interconnection with the album’s overall musical themes.
The opening invitation to “Charge” on the lead off title track leads into a hard-hitting statement of intent, which at the same time combines huge melodies with its tensile throwdown, and layers light and darkness to superb effect, making this one of the most impressive opening tracks you’ll hear on any album this year. The aforementioned single introduces a nu-metal edge to the hardcore intent of its predecssor, Moody’s vocal all the more effective for its electronically-transmitted manner, and counterpointed by a massive, punchy main riff guaranteed to snap necks at 500 paces. There are moments of breakneck speed but also beautiful counterpoints of deep reflection, such as the bridge on the title track and the towering, morbid introspection of ‘Digging My Own Grave’.
In a way, ‘Got Your Six’ is very much both the antithesis and the companion to the above referenced ‘The Wrong Side…’ project, as the diversity of sound with which FFDP experimented on the latter is very much evident within the grooves of this latest offering, as the band reference traditional metal, hardcore (see the title track for some real throwdown-inducing moments), nu-metal (‘Wash It All Away’ and ‘…Last Dance’ are very much examples of this, especially in the latter’s Slipknot-esque bridge) and the heavy groove of the likes of Lamb Of God and MachineHead (e.g ‘Question Everything’ or the literal “fuck you” of the stonking closer, ‘Boots And Blood’), while at the same stamping their own identity all over each and every moment of every track.
This 15th annum of the 21st century has been an excellent year for heavy metal and metal albums. With ‘Got Your Six’, Five Finger Death Punch have produced an album that will stand proudly near the top of many people’s end of year “Best Of…” lists.
Got Your Six / Jekyll And Hyde / Wash It All Away / Ain’t My Last Dance / My Nemesis / No Sudden Movement / Question Everything / Hell To Pay / Digging My Own Grave / Meet My Maker / Boots and Blood
Recommended listening: Ain’t My Last Dance
‘Got Your Six’ is released tomorrow (Friday 4 September) via Eleven Seven Music.
Five Finger Death Punch play Wembley Arena, with Papa Roach, Devil You Know and Eskimo Callboy, on Saturday November 28.