With four consecutive top three albums on the Billboard 200 and over 1.7 billion Youtube views, Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) is the reigning heavyweight champion of heavy metal.
The band defended that title Friday, releasing "And Justice for None." The album's title clearly references Metallica's 1988 breakthrough record "And Justice for All." The sound is a product of FFDP's tired formula that makes wannabe badasses swoon.
The band uses that ability immediately. Though the opening lyrics, "I never look for trouble/Trouble looks for me," is an invalid excuse in the principal's office, "Trouble" will undoubtedly become an angry adolescent anthem.
The next track is appropriately titled "Fake." Without compunction, FFDP uses Slipknot's signature pinch harmonics, accompanied by galloping drums and brink-of-explosion vocals channeling Corey Taylor. Lyrics address recent plights the band experienced.
The third song is not the charm. "Top of the World" soaks in sarcasm. Lead singer and songwriter Ivan Moody boringly growls about his unrelenting disgust with flakiness and religion.
However, the last track sounds like "Stairway to Heaven" compared to "Sham Pain." If the Grammy Awards create a Worst Pun of the Year category next year, this is the prohibitive favorite to win.
The atrocious title captures the song's essence. A tasty riff is squandered by Moody quasi-rapping about the annoyances of fame, before realizing in the chorus, "I'm living the good life." Cheesy backing vocals do not help matters. Overall, "Sham Pain" is the album's worst track.
After a testosterone-injected cover of Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 1998 hit "Blue on Black," original material returns with "Fire in the Hole." The image-rich song sounds like it would appear on Blackbeard's playlist.
"I Refuse" detours from Angst Avenue to drive toward radio stations. Clean vocals, lyrics about perseverance and an emphasis on melody should get this song airplay. "When the Seasons Change" follows suit.
After another meat-and-potatoes rocker, the album literally hits "Rock Bottom." This whiny tune borrows Slipknot's sound again, while Moody harshly shouts at conformists. That cliché's coolness died with Kurt Cobain.
Regardless, the lyrics "Rock bottom/I got nothing left to hide/Rock bottom/I got nothing left but pride" will likely be chanted by red-blooded, blue-collar behemoths.
The album ascends from "Rock Bottom" into its zenith. FFDP's cover of Offspring's 1995 song "Gone Away" outdoes the original. Thunderous drumming and an ominous guitar perfectly embodies the apocalypse unraveling in the narrator's broken heart. Moody nails the theme of mourning premature death with strong, morose, clean singing and enraged screams.
Great vocals are not repeated on "Bloody." Naturally dipping in the deep end of the baritone pool, Moody expands his range. The effort yields an awkward mix of vocal fry, unnatural high notes and Moody's familiar growling. As a result, "Bloody" feels unnecessary.
When the ear bleeding stops, Moody asks "Will the Sun Ever Rise?" Though an answer is not provided, listeners find a masculine track suitable for "Sons of Anarchy."
The standard track listing ends there. However, as pitchman Billy Mays would say, "But wait, there's more!" Two bonus tracks sweeten the deluxe edition deal.
The tempo quickens on "Bad Seed." In this eye-rolling tune, Moody screams a version of "I'm just a bad seed" 12 times. Other overused metal lyrics, such as "Inside I tried to survive," deter originality. The generic riff does not help.
"And Justice for None" concludes with "Save Your Breath." Moody uses the song as a weapon against religion.
Considering the lyrics "Priests and politicians/Crime masked by religion/Faith with no Contrition/Bring on the Hatred and "Save my breath/Because no one is listening," Joel Olsteen will not be covering this tune anytime soon.
In fact, this whole album will skip church service. However, it will be worshiped by macho men looking for an adrenaline boost on the bench press or speedometer.
Ultimately, listeners are reminded that FFDP cannot fill the void in metal musicianship Pantera created after disbanding in 2003.