Album Review: Five Finger Death Punch - "American Capitalist"
Balanced on the precipice of widespread fame with the engine running, Five Finger Death Punch has released their third album, “American Capitalist” to the world. There are certain universal truths of all 5FDP releases, and those haven’t changed; Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook’s combined guitars will push the envelope for grit and distorted destruction, while the rest of the band operates in that framework. Additionally, the songs will be brimming with concepts of spite, defiance and personal perseverance.
Right off the bat with the furious title track, “American Capitalist” is filled with plain language and pop culture remarks that make the album’s message of individualism and inner strength first and foremost.
Right after the title cut finishes is “Under and Over It,” which continues the foot-stomping rhythms and throws down an audacious gauntlet. Ivan Moody’s distinct vocal timbre lends itself to his idiomatic style beginning with this song and carrying through to several others. His abrupt, bitten off lyrics are high on brevity and attitude, leaving no ambiguity for just how angry the band can be. This same trick comes to bear in “The Pride” which may be metal’s curious answer to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
Just after the typically atypical 5FDP fist-raised rally song “Coming Down,” “American Capitalist” rolls into its bona fide gem, “Menace.” “Menace” has a distinct, up-tempo cadence incorporated inside a machine gun gallop. All of that is layered over with snarling guitar and incessant rhythm to create a non-stop feeling of momentum, akin to a runaway train. The track could have been, and perhaps should have been, the song for every boss battle in every “Devil May Cry” video game. For all that’s right with “American Capitalist,” “Menace” is the cut that truly makes you turn your head and pay attention. It comes on like a whirlwind and is gone before you know it.
In fairness, it should be noted that there are a few songs on the back half that don’t quite bring the hammer like the front half does. “Back for More” and “If I Fall” sees 5FDP test the boundaries of their capability to write hooks and dramatic choruses by slowing down the action between verses and attempting to embrace the listener on a more accessible, emotional level. In layman’s terms, these songs border on poppy. They’re not bad, and in fact are subject to the same well-practiced construction and execution, but they don’t hit like the other cuts, and perhaps don’t hit like the band intended.
The spectators standing on the sidelines saying that Five Finger Death Punch has sold out are probably inevitable. It’s undeniable that "American Capitalist" has sections that are more radio-ready than their previous efforts. Still, that hardly constitutes "selling out." Rather, that criticism seems to be a by-product of the band's success, as they try to capitalize (pardon the pun) on their two gold albums.
*-Begin Rant-* Anytime a metal band begins to gain some traction among the general populace, the boo-birds flock, ready to cast disdain. This represents arguably the stupidest paradox in metal, one that we as metal fans must recognize: how are going to complete our binding mission to prove to the uninitiated that metal is superior to all other music when we crap on anyone who opens the window for us to make the case? Stand united, metal fans! We have suffered increased ridicule, scorn and marginalization for our loyalty to the underground, and perhaps it’s musical payback time. Trust me, in 2004 when the Boston Red Sox became the bandwagon team du jour, the old, loyal, long-suffering fans didn't trust or enjoy the influx of fair-weather friends. But they certainly didn't blame the Red Sox for it. Paramount to that, the sound that Five Finger Death Punch is being accused of selling out to hasn't been widely popular in at least five or six years. To sell out now, the band would have had to either start wearing makeup, felt vests and tight jeans (Black Tide might be getting there...) or heaven forbid, start rapping. Stay true to your roots, friends, and don’t forget where it began. But don’t automatically turn your back on success. *-End Rant-*
The only truly awful misstep on "American Capitalist" is the misbegotten ballad "Remember Everything." After three years of writing for this site, my opinion on ballads should be more than clear, but the mere fact that the song makes an emotional appeal is not the problem. Rather, the nature of the song is apologetic and fragile, standing in screeching contrast to the rest of the album's chest-pounding bravado. Ouch.
The album’s kicker, the high-octane and overblown “100 Ways to Hate” is a fantastic cut, and just might make you grin. It evokes those feelings that we all get when that one group of obnoxious or annoying co-workers gets your blood pressure up, your eye starts twitching, and you’re prepared to lose your job telling them how you feel about them. Not about them as professionals, or about their job performance, but all the things you hate about them as people. Moody spits his bile so fast, and the rhythms are so sinister that the song is magnificently cathartic. Plus, now Five Finger Death Punch has told us that there’s one more way to “hate” than Megadeth suggested there were ways to “die.” Just sayin’.
Other than that, the occasional poppy chorus on “American Capitalist” is easily overlooked when balanced against Jeremy Spencer’s continuous pulverizing percussion and the devious, overdriven harmonies of Bathory and Hook. There is zero reason that Five Finger Death Punch won’t be able to add this solid effort to their portfolio and continue their march to the top of American metal. “American Capitalist” is a fine album by talented musicians.