Sound — 6
Five Finger Death Punch, metalcore/nu-metal-influenced groove metal act, returns with sophomoric release 'War is the Answer'. 'The Way of the Fist', the band's first full-length release (produced by Logan Mader of Machine Head), garnered a great deal of attention; particularly when their singles 'The Bleeding' and 'Never Enough' earned radio airtime. Fronted by Motograter's Ivan Moody and Hungarian-born Zoltn Bthory, the band quickly became the face of a seemingly dead genre. The more infamous element of the band's sound includes the use of their clean vocals; often coming off as juvenile due to the lyrics concerning emotions towards lost love, politics, and other frequently-used nu-metal themes. At first glance, War is the Answer (WitA) doesn't seem to stray that far from their original sound. However, upon a complete listen, some may find themselves surprised (in glory or dismay) at the somewhat drastically different approach to this release. Without further ado, let's delve into this album track by track. 01. Dying Breed: my first impression of this song was... "BADASS!". Dying Breed immediately gave off the feel from their first album right down to the heavy, palm-muted main riff that plays throughout. And what's this? We can hear the bass!?!? Madness! In fact, the bass is rather loud on this particular track. To the point where it becomes difficult not to pick it up. The mixing in general for this track is rather good, to be honest. Much unlike their first album, each audio track is quite distinguishable and audible enough to make out the notes by ear; especially in the chorus (which, on their first album, was often mashed together into a mass of melodic sound barely audible enough to understand). And with that in mind, the riffage is - yes - rather badass from the verse to the pre-chorus to the pre-solo lead. And on top of that, the vocal pattern is catchy and loud. Like the opening track to their last album, the lyrics aren't nearly as nu-metal as the rest of TWotF. To top it all off, the solo is quite amazing. A perfect fit to this perfect opening track. 10/10 02. Hard To See: the first single released from this album, Hard to See employs clean vocals throughout almost 100% of the song. The verse isn't particularly interesting but the chorus (this song lacks the pre-chorus often used in the FFDP song formula) is a winner with three guitars doing something entirely different (if not much; the left-panned guitar only hits two notes in fact). The vocals are tolerable considering the lack of harshness. The (almost) only screamed/growled part delves into the song's (badass) breakdown which, in turn, goes into the, again, rather fitting solo. This track is mostly chorus and, with that in mind, it's somewhat weaker than the opening track, but it's still one of my favorites from the band. 9/10 03. Bulletproof: again, we're greeted with a main riff treated as the verse. While not particularly groovy (it does have some bar-ending palm-muted filler similar to some of the more popular tracks from their first album), it is rather satisfying and ends with a bar of snare fill to lead into the (badass) pre-chorus. The vocals in this song are rather good and the lyrics in the chorus aren't as whiny as TWotF. In fact, the lyrics in this song are (badass)! 10/10 Yes! I welcome this change FFDP has gone through! It's not that significant, but the mixing is better, the vocals and lyrics are better, and everything is far more audible in general! FFDP didn't dissapoint with this release! UNTIL... 04. No One Gets Left Behind: all right! That's a (badass) opening lick! Some nice-sounding tapping with some low-register rhythm... well... the rhythm's a bit cheesy sounding... wait... why DOES it sound so cheesy? Wait! No! They're not! They wouldn't! (Moody, vocals matching the guitar: 'NO ONE. GETS LEFT. BEHIND!') NOOO! Blasphemers! How dare you pull a Dethklok on us and make the vocals match the guitar?! NOOO! The first word in the pre-chorus is 'POLITICIANS'?!?! Are you kidding?! Sigh. And on top of that, the chorus lyrically sounds like some track from TWotF. Meh. Fourth track and they already tossed a crap song in there. What the hell? Did he just say 'Hurrah!' and 'Hut! Hut!'? Was he watching a football game when he wrote this? Ugh. The guitar is rather static aside from the leads and are particularly uninteresting for the most part. But FFDP will redeem themselves, right? It's just one bad track. A Place to Die wasn't particularly good and that was just the fifth track. Moving on! 6/10 05. Crossing Over: uhhhh... clean guitars? ...Okay... guess this is the WitA equivalent of The Bleeding, hm? Guess we gotta have one of those... and it's not even three minutes... I can deal with this... wait a minute... does this sound like COUNTRY to anybody else? Were they listening to country music prior to this?! Woah! Already?! The chorus sounds like another track?! The first word sounds like Hard to See! Very creative, guys! Duplicating choruses! On top of that, the guitar mixing is TERRIBLE in this song. It's sounds dull and terribly distorted. I could've recorded something better-sounding here at home with my Line 6 and no mixer. And the solo is a total bore. Ignoring this track. 4/10. 06. Burn It Down: are you sh*tting me?! The (badass) post-chorus riff from the song The Way of the Fist is practically the opening riff to this song?! It sounds exactly the same! That riff was classic! How could you?! Sigh. Hm. So we get the verse riff and the chorus riff both before we actually hear any vocals? Repetition for the win, FFDP? At least the vocal pattern in the chorus is kind of cool. And yet again, we get some uninteresting soloing that repeats itself too often to even be called a solo. And I know this band frequently has long solos but this one is pushing it. The only memorable part is at 2:56. It also transitions back into the chorus nicely. But honestly.. this song is practically two riffs, a long solo, and a mass of boring. 6/10 07. Far From Home: same exact song length? You better have more than two riffs this time, guys... you're sorely dissapointing me.. truly... what?! Another clean song?! Well I guess it's better than Crossing Over. The vocals actually have a few neat parts, ignoring the lack of growls. And there's actually keyboard in this song like a couple of the bonus tracks from TWotF. Speaking of which, it's been evident since Stranger Than Fiction that FFDP's been listening to some Swedish metal such as In Flames or the like. This shows up again in this track. Naturally, this doesn't include the vocals... Anyways, we get a slow, rockish solo here going back into the chorus. Are FFDP trying to go hard rock on us? 'Cause I certainly haven't heard a lot of groove metal in here... actually, the only groove metal tracks on this album so far are Dying Breed and Bulletproof. 6/10 08. Falling In Hate: oh, man. That's some dirty riffage... Barely halfway through this album and I'm tired of listening to these dull tracks already. This is the first time I recall FFDP experimenting with atypical time signatures though. But really, they don't do a very good job of it. Vocals, guitar, and lyrics... all boring. Breakdown is the most interesting thing here. This track is barely worth listening to. 5/10 09. My Own Hell: all right, this opening sounds a lot more like FFDP. Bring it home this time, please, guys? Oh no... the verse sounds like a song by some goth metal band (likely Evanescence or Flyleaf) that I can't recall at the moment. What a terrible vocal pattern. But I'm not completely discouraged. The vocals in the chorus are pretty (badass). So is the breakdown. Pretty sick. The outro was quite the interesting decision. This track is at least worth a listen for those who want to hear the better tracks from this album. 8/10 10. Walk Away: ooh. This is more like it. Listen to that opening! Amazing!...'I'm sorry'? Sigh. Oh well. For another acoustic song this is rather good. It's the best on this album in my own humble opinion. The chorus' vocals and lyrics are rather complementory of the lead guitar. The solo doesn't match the rest of the song too well but it's still rather good regardless of the nod towards hard rock (especially during the acoustic bars completing it). Again, the song is mostly chorus but it's still one of the better tracks off of this album. 9/10 11. Canto 34: hm? An instrumental? That's new. And sadly, it might be the best track off of the album. No, that's too drastic. But it's definitely one of the best songs they've ever released. Definitely some Swedish metal influence in there. I could listen to this solo-oriented track several times over. 10/10 12. Bad Company: when I saw this on the tracklist prior to its release, I was praying my fears would remain unconfirmed. But no, we have more country-sounding crap on this album. This time, a cover of Bad Company's Bad Company. Amazingly, I like this piece of crap more than the original. With that said, I hate the track. It doesn't belong on an FFDP album as one of the main tracks. A bonus track, sure. But keep it away from me for now. 5/10 13. War Is The Answer: so this is it, hm? The conclusion to this 44,000-in-the-first-week-in-sales album? The title track War is the Answer... what can I say about this? I guess I'll start by saying that it sounds EXACTLY like Death Before Dishonor in the verse. In both guitar and vocals. The chorus sounds like it's trying to lean towards The Way of the Fist again. After this crap riffage we get a bridge LADEN with juvenile, angry lyrics. It just sounds plain immature and doesn't serve the same pumped-up, energetic, ass-kicking feel the angrier tracks from their last album did. The solo sounds like plain noise for the most part and ends similarly to Hard to See. So yeah. We have an unintersting closing to a generall uninteresting album. 4/10 Overall, this album gets a rather dissapointing 7/10 when averaging the track ratings out. But to be honest I feel this deserves something of a 5-6/10.
Lyrics — 6
What sets FFDP apart from most popular groove metal acts today is what kills them as a band, it seems. The formulaed approach does not work with groove metal as groove metal sounds get dull the fastest. At least for this release, FFDP didn't strive towards innovation or even improvement. This was hardly experimental either. It just wasn't them. Had this been a hard rock act with metal influence, this would've made 10x more sense. And this would've been an acceptable approach to classification had FFDP not self-classified themselves. What gets me is that FFDP often seems to bash metalcore bands for their use of whiny vocals when in fact FFDP sounds much whinier due to their lyrical content and frequent use of singing as opposed to growling. In fact, they have four songs on this album that are almost completely sung. Other groove metal bands such as Lamb of God, DevilDriver, or Chimaira are more riff-oriented than formula-based. If FFDP could follow less obvious patterns such as these bands, their sound might begin to evolve in a more respectable way (unless they just want to turn straight rock; in which case they've lost me as a listener). Would I call this album the mark of a sellout? Probably not? Does it sound like FFDP? Definitely not. I wouldn't want a TWotF 2, but something less standard and more refinement-focused to return my lost respect for this band. They seemed to be on the right track with their first three songs, but completely blew it out of the water by the next one.
Overall Impression — 6
Overall, the best songs on this album are Dying Breed, Hard to See, Bulletproof, Walk Away, and Canto 34. My Own Hell is listenable and No One Gets Left Behind is only getting there. Honestly, if the track list looked something like this: Dying Breed Hard to See Bulletproof Walk Away My Own Hell Canto 34 Succubus New Track New Track Stranger Than Fiction I would definitely be a million times happier. That is to say if the new tracks don't suck as bad as the rest as this album. This was a general dissapointment and, sadly, only half as good as their poorly mixed first album. However, it did provide some killers (e.g. Dying Breed, Bulletproof, Canto 34) that I like more than anything I've heard by this band, but it's not worth buying. Grab the better tracks off of your friend's iTunes, if that.