Sometimes we think too hard about music. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t think about music- clearly some music is there for thinking about, long and hard- but sometimes we are guilty of ascribing “meaning” to things that are there purely for our entertainment. We can wrap ourselves up in hand wringing agonies about where the new album from “X” fits in the canon of hard rock and heavy metal, whether X has progressed or regressed as an artist, whether X is cool and whether X matters. I know: I do this all the time.
I was thinking about this paradigm when listening to the new record from American metal merchants, the do-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin Five Finger Death Punch. There have been a lot of column inches given over to Five Finger Death Punch over the course of the last 12 months; I too have been guilty of adding to that (virtually at least) paper mountain. Rarely can a band that have pulled themselves up by their own military bootstraps have fomented such a level of vitriol, praise, bewilderment, admiration all in one go. Weirdly, they have become a band that is very easy to love and loathe, often in equal measure.
When the first volume of The Wrong Side of Heaven… came out earlier this year I had decidedly mixed feelings about it; I think I described the band as a bit like a hamburger- you knew that it wasn’t that great and was probably bad for you but sometimes it was exactly what you needed. My initial view of volume one was one of a band trying a bit too hard. As an example, their cover of LL Cool J‘s Mama Said Knock You Out left me utterly cold. Time is a great healer though and I have warmed to it, and them, a bit more.
What’s become clear and very welcome this time around is that far from Volume Two being the afterthought, the will this do contractual obligation, Volume Two is every bit as strong as its predecessor and, in some places, its superior. If you want a reference point, it’s a bit like Guns ‘N’ Roses‘ Use Your Illusion Vol 2. FFDP may not have grandstanding ambition of Axl and Co but what they lack in artistic ambition they more than make up for in energy, verve and passion. As with its predecesssor, Volume Two is packed to the gunnells with solid riffing- like on Wrecking Ball; big chrouses-every single one of the tracks; the obligatory road weary anthem –Battle Born is sure to become an earworm for 1000s of you- and the now expected, interesting cover version- in this case The Animals’ The House of the Rising Sun.
I’m not going to suggest for one minute that FFDP are the best thing since bread came sliced- they aren’t. However, neither am I going to join that not very merry bunch of internet trolls who see this band as the devil incarnate. They patently aren’t that either. FFDP are heavy metal as circus and spectacle. The Wrong Side of Heaven Volume 2 is solid, tune laden heavy metal. No more, no less. And for that, and their frankly Stakhanovite work rate, we should praise them. Well done, gentlemen.