Review: Five Finger Death Punch - Afterlife
Afterlife is the ninth studio album by one of the biggest bands in the world, Five Finger Death Punch. That’s right, THE WORLD. I know their album covers look like a Facebook ad parody or a shirt you buy at the Pilot truck stop which might make you think their success is America exclusive, but they headline festivals all across this blue planet.
The title supposedly comes from the near-death experience founders of the band Ivan Moody of Motograter fame and Zoltan Bathory, but I can’t help but see how it applies to the entity that is this band.
They parted ways with drummer Jeremy Spencer before 2018’s F8 and this is their first without guitarist Jason Hook since their early days. I can’t speak for how those men internally influenced the FFDP sound but in the 4 years since Jeremy left he’s released a dozen records between multiple projects so something was ringing up there.
As for Jason Hook, since leaving Five Finger he’s launched a few projectss most notably the chart-topping smash “Blame It On The Double” country-rock collaboration with Tyler from Theory of a Deadman and singer/songwriter Corey Marks. But his absence is absolutely felt on this record whether for better or worse.
Hook was replaced with Andy James, but that’s only because Dimebag isn’t alive to do it. I’ve said it many times: if Darrell was here, he’d be in this band and on an album called Afterlife he probably should have been on it anyway! James is no six-string slouch himself, but focus has shifted from the heavy metal riffage and solos that was FFDP’s signature sound for so many years, to the rhythms and textures. There is a crazy amount of production experiments. Now, is that because Hook is absent or is it because nine albums in you want to try something different?
The collection was written primarily by Zo Bathory and vocalist Ivan Moody with producer Kevin Churko. Churko feels both on paper and in headphones like a full member of the band with how many production elements are integrated.
They definitely try everything here. “Times Like These” is reminiscent of F8’s huge radio dominating “A Little Bit Off” but then you have something like “Judgement Day” which sounds like it’s trying to get on the soundtrack of the same name with Moody rapping over Linkin Park programming and guitars compressed beyond recognition which I bet is a highlight for many.
“Thanks for Asking” is more new territory with some Casio keyboard drum beats and acoustic guitars that cleverly blends into an unplugged intro of “Blood and Tar” which is closer to what fans know from the band and almost has an In Flames / Soilwork European main riff. It’s really cool and unexpected. One thing you can’t take away from Afterlife - you don’t know where it’s going even if you don’t love where you end up. Like when “All I Know” starts with whistling like the bastard rebellious son of “Moves Like Jagger” – and hey, that was a hit too!
I’d say the biggest glaring issue on the album is a matter of James’ presence as he is an absolute shredder but really only gets to show it on the aforementioned “Blood & Tar” or single “I.O.U.”
I’m ignoring the most important part of this album and band – Ivan Moody. He might paint his face like Wilson the Volleyball from Cast Away but he also connects with an audience and a listener in a way many can’t. The lyrics on here I’m sure he considers poetry but when it comes down to it “ticky tickey tasket, time to fill the casket” isn’t gonna win a Pulitzer but it’ll definitely get an arena screaming at the top of their lungs not unlike Hatebreed.
And speaking of Hatebreed and hardcore, one thing I’ve always said about Ivan is that he is sincere, so whether or not you believe what he’s saying, he definitely means it. There is a moment on what should have been the closer “Gold Gutter” where my man does something I loved on my hardcore and metalcore albums of the early 2000’s: THE RECORDED MOSH CALL.
Speaking of moshing, if you aren’t pitting the Target Dollar Spot when “Roll Dem Bones” hits the breakdown 2 minutes in, check your pulse! And your pockets! Because I probably took your keys.
Five Finger Death Punch haven’t reinvented the wheel or themselves with Afterlife, but they’ve made an album with songs that are heavy as hell while being accessible to the mainstream and takes risks...like a Ferris Wheel. So welcome to the circus.