The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1
Music can be sensitive, existential, emotional and spiritual.
It can also be a blunt trauma to the head.
Five Finger Death Punch—a name plundered from martial arts movies of yore—is the brainchild of Hungarian-born guitarist, producer and martial artist Zoltán Báthory (which, speaking of names, might be the most metal-worthy moniker of all time). This five-piece act from Los Angeles unleashes a fistful of old-school metal wallop with frenetic, raging thrash rhythms melding with melodic solos that recall the genre's roots in the '80s but simultaneously bring to mind contemporary metal practitioners such as Slipknot and Disturbed.
Given the album's lengthy, spiritually evocative title—The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1—one might expect to find a mass of musings about the meaning of life amid all those pummeling power chords. And there are a few. More often, however, Báthory's crew delivers unfiltered, uncensored and uncontrolled blasts of rage.
Album opener "Lift Me Up" includes a vow to rise above life's woes ("I won't be broken/I won't be tortured/I won't be beaten down") followed by something almost like a prayer to find higher ground ("Lift me up above this/The flames and the ashes/Lift me up and help me to fly away/Lift me up above this/The broken and the empty"). "Anywhere but Here" ponders, "If there was no tomorrow/If there was just today/Would you make different choices/Or would you stay the same?"
"M.I.N.E (End This Way)" explores humanity's common spiritual ground and acknowledges that every person is seeking to find purpose and meaning: "Everybody hurts/Everybody bleeds/Everybody bends to fill a need/Everybody's born with their own curse/And I'm not alone/Everybody cries/Everybody breathes/Everybody wants to feel they're free/Deep inside, I know what I am worth/ … Every soul's aching for release/You're not alone."
"Diary of a Deadman" concludes the album with a spoken word confessional about a broken relationship that begins, "Looking back, I still have so many questions. So many things unanswered. Like, what did I do? Was there ever a moment you cared?" But …
That song also includes the dark declaration, "I still feel so much hate inside of me. Seems like you were just waiting for me to fail. I'm sorry I can't forgive you. Do you blame me? You never forgave me."
Many (if not most) of the other songs on this release ventilate that hate with the intensity of a flamethrower igniting everything in sight. "Burn MF" spits its titular insult, "Burn m‑‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑er" a bludgeoning 37 times, for instance. And frontman Ivan Moody growls, "There is nothing you can teach me in hell." Elsewhere on the song, he admits grimly, "My heart is frozen/My soul's been broken" and taunts, "Your life's been wasted/You'll die forsaken."
"You" accuses, "You—so dated/You—outdated/You—so fading away/You—can't take it/so fading away/You—can't take it/You—just fake it/You—are just in the way/I don't give a f‑‑‑ about you/I'm never gonna give a s‑‑‑." Meanwhile, "Watch You Bleed" darkly fantasizes, "I'd give blood just to make you/Just to watch you bleed."
"I.M. Sin" brags, "You may think you're God, but I am sin/I am sin, I am sin/I am sin, I am sin." Later, Moody threatens, "If there was ever a time you needed to walk the f‑‑‑ away, it's right f‑‑‑ing now, right f‑‑‑ing here." Similar f-bomb laden warnings punctuate "Dot Your Eyes."
Spiritually confused musings fill the title track "Wrong Side of Heaven," in which we hear from a man who thinks he's too bad for heaven but too good for hell. "I spoke to God today, and she said that she's ashamed/What have I become, what have I done?/I spoke to the devil today, and he swears he's not to blame/ … I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell." The result of being in that spiritual no-man's-land is an increasing sense of despair, likely leading toward the hell side of the equation: "I'm not defending, downward descending/Falling further and further away/Closer every day/I'm getting closer every day, to the end."
In the 1980s, Al Gore's wife Tipper co-founded the Parents Music Resource Center, which sought to help parents identify which popular albums contained content they should be concerned about. That resulted in the Recording Industry of America agreeing to place Parental Advisory stickers on albums with objectionable lyrics.
Listening to Five Finger Death Punch's latest, I couldn't help but ponder how Tipper and the PMRC might have responded to songs like the ones on this album if they'd been around back in 1985. After all, Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" made the group's so-called "Filthy Fifteen" list. Nearly 30 years later, its rebellious taunts feel practically genteel compared to a 5FDP song in which we hear the chilling threat "Burn m‑‑‑‑f‑‑‑er" almost 40 times.
Downward descending indeed.