Five Finger Death Punch
10 October 2011
by Hugh Platt
Do you remember those news stories last week about that Australian academic study into the links between music listening habits and depression? As per usual, plenty of media outlets misinterpreted the reports findings, erroneously stating that the study had claimed that heavy metal caused depression (when the report said nothing of the sort – it was the media that saw charges of causality when the report merely offered correlation). It did get me thinking about Five Finger Death Punch though. Firstly, because the metal media’s misplaced ire and hysteria is exactly the kind of cheap-heat, no-brain rabble-rousing you come to expect from a genre so painfully quick to embrace and reward a band peddling music so chronically stupid as Five Finger Death Punch.
And secondly, it’s because after examining the lyrics to American Capitalist, I’m more convinced than ever that their frontman, Ivan Moody, might actually be suffering from some genuine mental illness.
I’m not saying “insane” as in, “Wow, this guy is crazy-intense frontman!” I’m saying “insane” as in “Wow, this guy has some deep-seated psychological and emotional problems that he has unfortunately been put in a position to live out by way of being the frontman of a more than million-selling metal band”.
The album’s overall themes – that of the struggle to attain success, as well as the negative aspects that the realisation of Ivan Moody’s American dream has created – could’ve been spun as an intelligent commentary on the duality of (American) capitalism, had been placed in the hands of a more talented band. With Moody at the helm, instead it comes off as wildly schizophrenic in its inability to stick to a solid emotional tone – sometimes even within the course of a single song.
From the track ‘Menace’ we have a chorus that preaches a conflicted message of isolationist self-determinism: “I’m tired of trying to please the world that spins around me // This time I’m doing it for me and me alone // I don’t need anyone, don’t think I ever did // Not trying to be selfish, just doing what I know”. It’s a message that finds mirrors in several tracks across the album, not least the dog-eat-dog rhetoric of ‘Back For More’. But then at at other moments, Moody seems to not only proclaim his desire to transcend the trappings of wealth that his band’s success has brought him, such as with the chorus of ‘Generation Dead’ for example: “It’s a life I’m forced to live // I’ve got nothing more to give // Take it away // Take it away // I don’t want it anymore”. Is this Moody attempting to play to crowd? To channel the fears and aspirations of him ultimately less well-off audience? Or is it because he’s a witless berk?
Five Finger Death Punch confused matter even further when they try to pull off what I can only be described as “nu-metal power ballads”. The emotional co-dependency of ‘Remember Everything’ (“If we could start again // Would that change the end?”) and spurned-teen’s-livejournal-level angst Moody seems to wallow in during ‘Wicked Ways’ (“You’ve got an evil wicked way about you…..I hate you!”), seem directly at odds with the individualistic only-the-strong-survive messages of so much of the rest of the album. The only slight modicum of enjoyment I can gleam from it is imagining the musclebound form of Ivan Moody writing the lyrics for these songs, crying quietly in the corner as he repeatedly slams his giant, ham-sized fist into his own crotch.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this means we’d already reached the ultimate depths of idiocy this record has to offer – but that’s only because we haven’t gotten to ‘The Pride’ yet. The verses see Moody recount a list of what I truly fear he sees as the pinnacles of American civilisation:
“Johnny Cash // And PBR // Jack Daniels // Nascar //
Facebook // Myspace // iPod // Bill Gates //
Smith and Wesson // NRA // Firewater // Pale Face //
Dimebag // Tupac // Heavy Metal // Hip-Hop”
….and then follows it up with a chorus that seems to be entirely made up of those supposedly-inspirational one-liners you see printed on those Affliction-ish t-shirts so favoured by MMA fighters. It turns ‘The Pride’ into a two-pronged celebration of stupidity – the clumsy rhyming of the most materialistic excesses of bland consumer culture, followed with a comically macho chorus that’s practically kissing it’s own biceps.
Watch the video to ‘Under and Over It’ by Five Finger Death Punch:
On the album’s final track, ‘100 Ways To Hate’, Moody has already pre-empted my criticisms. “Hate the way you pussies talk shit, hiding on the web // Just the fact you think you know me makes me fucked up in the head”. No matter what Five Finger Death Punch may think, this pre-emptive defence of their work isn’t a prescient deflection of said criticisms, nor is it a get-out-of-jail-free card for their failings, based around the fact they recognise the avenues of their critics’ attacks. No, it’s a bullish, posturing defence of stupidity – that 5FDP’s failings are as evident to them as they are to me speaks volumes of how big those failings are. That they draw attention to them through a clumsy attempt to turn that criticism back on those who make it, merely speaks volumes about the character of 5FDP.
Okay, I will admit this much – Five Finger Death Punch are not bad musicians, per se. The four men who play the guitars, bass, and drums on American Capitalist do so in a capable, if rather unimaginative fashion, but they certainly do so no better or worse than any of the two dozen other popular-yet-forgettable American metal bands that are currently plying their trade to willing parking lots of young, impressionable American males via the Rockstar Mayhem Fest at the like. With Disturbed having finally reached the point where their mutual dislike of each other has overcome their mutual love of big, hulking piles of cash, there’s an obvious opening at the head of this crowd for a band as chest-thumpingly formulaic as Five Finger Death Punch to step into. But it says so much of metal’s shallow tastes and even shallower attention spans if metal fandom at large choses to elevate this bunch – and Ivan Moody’s lyrics – to that higher platform of success. We’re better than this.
Sounds like: Creativity taking a back seat for 40 minutes of moronic “lyricism”
Top tracks: The Pride – if only for how ludicrously dated any song namechecking Facebook and MySpace will be.