Sound — 7
While the earlier installment released mid-2013 received generally favorable reactions from fans and critics alike, the second half of the "The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell" has yet to prove itself - so let's sit down and have a listen. First off, you have to approach Five Finger Death Punch understanding that they are basically "party metal." By "party metal" I mean that they are just a few shades too heavy to be called hard rock, while their lyrical themes are the same type of lyrics as a lot of their hard rock and radio rock contemporaries. "The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 2" has a total of 12 tracks with a total runtime of just over 40 minutes. The last song on the album is a cover of "The House of the Rising Sun," which is the only cover song on the album. The first single from the album was "Battle Born," which was released in September 2013. Zoltan Bathory or Jeremy Spencer would be the MVP from the album, but it is a toss-up on which it would be. With that being said, Jason Hook delivers some lead-work that is better than he has done in a while on this album, but not enough to outweigh the rhythmic masterpieces created by Zoltan and Jeremy. The album opens up with the track "Here to Die," which essentially takes an up-tempo metal groove and adds some slightly sarcastic lyrics to create a really catchy break-up song. "Weight Beneath My Skin" has some seriously good drumming going on, as well as the exact right balance of rhythm to maintain a groove-heavy feel despite the plaintive lyrics. The guitar solo was also fairly memorable in the realm of Jason's lead playing. "Wrecking Ball" has the most memorable riff from the album, just immediately in the intro. The song kind of comes across as a sequel to "Under and Over It." "Battle Born," while being the lead single from the album, is probably my least favorite from the album – though the little arpeggiated riff is kind of catchy. "Cradle to the Grave" is up next, and it is reaching really hard for a specific "epic" feel, which it doesn't quite get in my opinion, but the rhythm guitar and drums kept me listening. "Matter of Time" has several cool little things going on with cadence throughout the track. "The Agony of Regret" opens up with the sound of drums mimicking a heartbeat and an acoustic guitar playing a really catchy little riff. The lead guitar plays a melody line behind the acoustic intro that reminded me of older bands like the Shadows for some reason. The track is instrumental, and a really strong track. "Cold" is trying really hard to be anthemic, with piano and string accompaniment building up slowly to include guitar and drums. "Let This Go" has a really cool drum/rhythm guitar intro, and builds from that to do some cool syncopated type stuff with the rhythm and vocals. "My Heart Lied" is a standard "rocker," which honestly seems like it was possibly just a space filler (or at least I didn’t get the appeal of this song). "A Day in My Life" has a really heavy riff and some growled vocals. It is actually one of the stronger tracks on the album if you were grading the tracks solely on groove. "House of the Rising Sun" is actually one of my favorites from the album after my first listen because of the differences between it and the original, and the lead guitar work. They definitely breathed some new life into their cover.
Lyrics — 6
Ivan Moody has a relatively distinctive voice for FFDP's genre of metal, which serves them well. Ivan definitely has the range to go from clean lyrics to a half-growled metal vocal with little trouble. As a sample of the lyrics, here is the first verse, pre-chorus and chorus from "Battle Born:" "Once upon a time I swore I had a heart/ Long before the world I know tore it all apart/ Once upon a time there was a part of me I shared/ years before they took away the part of me that cared/ I've been a thousand places/ and shook a million hands/ I don't know where I'm going/ but I know just where I've been/ I've flown a million miles/ and I've rode so many more/ every day, a castaway/ a vagabond/ battleborn/ battleborn." These lyrics aren't earth-shattering, but they are solid and fit with the music.
Overall Impression — 7
At the end of the day you have to realize that FFDP is essentially a "feel good" heavy metal band - to metal what AC/DC is to hard rock. In that role, FFDP are doing their job well. They aren't necessarily treading new musical ground, and even when they show musical growth it is in easily digestible increments. I don't think this is their best album, or even their best album this year, but it is still a fairly solid release for the genre. I would suggest listening to the tracks and buying them individually and get the ones you like. Standout tracks from the album, for me personally, were their cover of "House of the Rising Sun," "The Agony of Regret," "Matter of Time" and "Wrecking Ball." The lead single from the album, "Battle Born," was my least favorite song from the album.