REVIEW: "And Justice For None" By FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH
Groove Metal/Prospect Park/Released May 18, 2018
Love 'em or hate 'em, Five Finger Death Punch has been the most dominant modern metal band of the past decade. One of only a handful of metal acts that can still headline arenas, get heavy radio rotation, and sell albums past the gold mark. Their mix of groove metal grit and take no shit lyricism has found a foothold with fans worldwide despite heavy criticism for a repetitive sound, lackluster songwriting, and a polarizing front man in Ivan Moody. Due to a legal battle with their record label, And Justice For None marks the longest gap in between albums for the band though previous album Got Your Six only came out three years prior.
Five Finger Death Punch has been criticized for supposedly rehashing the same album since their 2011 record American Capitalist. Though with their latest record they do try a new thing or two. Keeping with the band's penchant for covers, And Justice For None holds two. One is a rendition of The Offspring's hit "Gone Away" which the band did a solid job of. The FFDP version is slowed down and made more dramatic keeping in line with the band's own original ballads. The other is of the Kenny Wayne Shepard classic "Blue On Black". This cover is not as strong as the band's beefed up, hard rock take on the track drains the emotion from the song and replaces it with a stumbling swagger that feels too "cock rock" for such an emotive song.
As for the original tracks many familiar traits from the band's previous albums make a return. The heavy trio of opening tracks are very similar to each other with groove-centric riffing, a simple driving rhythm, and tough guy lyricism. The first two tracks, "Trouble" and "Fake", may feature some of Moody's worst lyric writing of the band's career. "Trouble" holds a so-so chorus for a hook and is built around the old phrase of "I don't look for trouble, trouble looks for me". And "Fake" is a much worse offender lyrically with "mother fucker" being used 36 times among the three choruses along with other iterations of the word "fuck". In the song Moody expresses disdain for a person in a juvenile fashion using lyrics that sound as if they were finished in under five minutes. "Top Of The World" while still simple lyrically, is less cringe than the previous songs and features an enjoyably catchy chorus. A quality guitar solo courtesy of Jason Hook is also a nice plus.
"Sham Pain" may be the highlight of the record with it's lyrics having a bit more weight with its comments on the band's year leading up to the album's release. Call out's are levied against TMZ, music site Blabbermouth.net, and the band's own label Prospect Park. All of which who've criticized the band in one way or another. The distinct tone of the riffs and the strong chorus also make the track a stand out. This is contrasted with another song later in the record that had potential to be a stand out, "Rock Bottom". It doesn't sound like a typical FFDP track and is much heavier instrumentally than most of the band's work. Though once again, Moody's lyrics kill the track with its opening verse going:
I ain't your bitch, I ain't your boy
I ain't no god damn motherfucking toy
I'm not dead, I'm still alive
You don't like it you can go ahead and die
The writing comes off as lazy with the same, tired, tough guy posturing of much of Moody's lyrics. And weakens what could've been a quality mosher.
The latter half of the record is surprisingly ballad heavy. While ballads have always been present in the band's records, they've usually came with more power than the tracks presented here. And with more quality. "When The Seasons Change", "Stuck In My Ways", and "Will The Sun Ever Rise" are all softer, throw away tracks with little memorability. Mid-album piano-ballad "I Refuse" is only notable for it being one of the softest songs in the band's whole discography and a seemingly conscious shot at a radio hit. It's so soft that it may even turn off some of the band's most devoted fans.
And Justice For None is possibly Five Finger Death Punch's weakest album to date. Despite a sound that has changed little over the years, each album the band's released has had several quality moments that give insight into their high level success. But beyond "Sham Pain" and a passable cover in "Gone Away", the band's seventh record is marred by cringe-worthy songwriting, bland riffs that lack inspiration, and an overabundance of snooze fest ballads for a metal band. While FFDP has always and will always have their critics, And Justice For None provides more legitimate fodder than ever before for haters to use.