By Ellen Eldridge
The way bands like Five Finger Death Punch pack a powerful punch inside a pop melody takes listeners by surprise. Remember, pop refers to popular so calling a band like Five Finger “pop” shouldn’t be considered an insult. Bands seeking a heavier audience, or bands wishing to check in on some political agenda, generally hope to stay under the radar of the ignorant masses. But, sometimes these bands create powerful sentiments set to accessible music.
The name of the album fits well with themes of American greed, standing up for independence, and staying true to oneself emanating from the well-named American Capitalist. The line, “I don’t want to regret who I’ve become” succinctly surmises the concept of the entire album. So many of the lyrics match ideas of not needing anyone else, standing up for who one is, and fearing the definition of an American. “I’ll take the sanity, you take the fame” screams that the songwriter attempts to mend the lifestyle with the original creative goals. The power to draw in an audience of thousands of screaming fans comes from the ease of equating “the fame” to whatever we asked for and decided we didn’t fully understand.
“The Pride” crunches like a weak animal in a lion’s mouth. Zoltan Bathory’s guitar work tears through the song like flesh, and the chorus, “I will not be forgotten; this is my time to shine. I’ve got the scars to prove it; only the strong survive,” makes me wonder if this shouldn’t have been the first single, but it recalls similar sentiments from the first single released, track two on American Capitalist, “Under and Over It.” The melody contained in the “hey, yeah, yeah, yeah” layered vocals works well against the dynamic drumming.
The line, “Step away from the ledge, I’m coming down,” pulls the theme and the respect of the listener in “Coming Down.” These songs will sound awe-inspiring live, and the vision of fans pointing back at the stage, singing along, screams forth from the harmonies.
Ripping power chords don’t always signal that a guitarist can’t play a shred solo; Bathory can do both. Drummer Jeremy Spencer keeps the double bass thunder flowing without overwhelming the songs, and the vocals stand out cleanly when most needed. The accent on the chorus ending with the song title, “Generation Dead” slides into the solo after the bend, and all the guitars noticeably relax for the line “It’s a world I’ve grown to know, unforgiving and so cold, take it away….”
The first half of the album contains the songs where American Capitalist works best. That isn’t to say that the songs on the second half don’t contain moving solos and decent lyrics; they just fall shorter. “Wicked Ways” pumps the listener with its repeated question, “Who do you think you are?” but only answers the anger with the line “You’ve got an evil, wicked way about you.” The empowering feeling in “If I Fall” gives its listener the ability to connect because the simplicity of “If I fall I’m taking everybody down,” but it doesn’t resolve, it repeats.
What drives my unrepentant love for Five Finger Death Punch is the power in an emotional connection to the lyrics and the way the music rises and falls in line with those emotional sentiments.
“100 Ways to Hate” tries to close American Capitalist with a heavy, angry emotion. Its staccato lyrics, “I. Hate. You. And everything you stand for,” dissolve into empty descriptions of “numerous wasted chances.” The vocals and backing rhythms pound, while the backing harmonies encourage, but then the album ends, abruptly. Perhaps, this is what the band wanted, and the statement of a circling inability to resolve the qualms of American greed and fame is best pronounced with an angry, violent, and abrupt ending.
Five Finger Death Punch play The Tabernacle on November 14.