Five Finger Death Punch - Fillmore Irving Plaza, USA - 23/10/08

27 Nov 2008

"the religion damning lyrics seemed to resonate deeply with this crowd, who clearly loved the outpouring of musical hatred..."

Five Finger Death Punch

In many ways, the scene at the Fillmore Irving Plaza Thursday night was identical to any other heavy metal show. Hundreds of long haired, black t shirt-clad youths milled about the bar and hallways, proudly displaying tattoos and piercings, gamely nodding their heads to the double bass beat of opening act In This Moment. The typical gender ratio for a metal show was in play as well, with approximately 1 girl for every 15 guys. Even the t-shirts were predicable; a healthy dose of Slayer, Pantera, and Metallica shirts, as well as a conspicuous number of 2008 Rockstar Mayhem Festival shirts, this past summer's Slipknot-headlined tour, whose August second stage featured Five Finger Death Punch's last local performance.

But this was not going to be just another generic metal concert, full of indistinguishable guitar riffs and guttural screaming. Five Finger Death Punch has exploded onto the metal scene in their two plus years of existence, and despite having just one EP and less than 15 songs in their entire catalogue, the band has inspired legions of die-hard fans with heavy yet catchy songs, no doubt helped by their "metal-as-it-gets" band name. The group also comes with significant street cred as well; frontman Ivan Moody is the former vocalist for nu-metal group Motograter, and both guitarist Darrell Roberts and drummer Jeremy Spencer paid their dues in 80's shock metal band W.A.S.P.

As the minutes ticked down to the 10:15 start time, chants of "Five Finger!" floated over the gathering crowd, inevitably answered by screams of "Death Punch!" Hyped up teens practiced their bodyslamming moves as everyone manoeuvred to their chosen spot for the show. Some fans staked their positions off to the side or back, well out of the way of the frothing mosh pits that would appear with the first crunch of a distorted guitar. Others pushed to the centre of the floor to claim prime moshing territory. Come showtime, the band took the stage in the darkness, and immediately launched into their first song, 'Ashes'. A perfect example of their well-honed metal songwriting, the track features brutally heavy verses, with a harmoniously and soulfully sung chorus of "Everything I touch/ Turns to ashes."

Their second song, 'Salvation', featured more riff-intense verses with another beautifully sung chorus, the religion-damning lyrics of which seemed to resonate deeply with crowd, who clearly loved the outpouring of musical hatred. The juxtaposition of the songs' melodic segments served to make the heavy parts sound even heavier, a classic metal tactic and no doubt a significant reason for Five Finger's rapidly growing popularity.

Vocalist Moody handled his audience masterfully, joking around between songs, referencing the New York Giants' Super Bowl championship, and regularly encouraging fans to "tear this fucking place apart." During a nine minute rendition of 'The Way of The Fist', the band's anthemic ode to physical violence, Moody stopped the song after the second chorus, and with only a single drum beat keeping time, told the pumped up crowd that if they didn't want to get hurt, "now is the time to get the f**k out of the pit." He then ordered every girl to vacate the centre of the floor as well; when two female moshers refused, he first announced that he would not be responsible if they got hurt, and then proclaimed that the first person to punch either girl "would have their asses kicked by us." Still with only a single drum beat behind him, he instructed the crowd to respond to his lyric of "I'm taking back control..." with screams of "With my knuckles!" With the crowd now pumped up and ready to explode, the band launched back into the song, and anarchic mosh pit mayhem ensued, to the screaming delight of fans inside the pit and out.

The band also surprised the concert goers with a cover of Bad Company's 'Bad Company', starting off true to the mellow song's soft and spacey verses, but quickly "metalizing" the 80's hit, screaming the final word of the chorus's lyric "'til the day I die" over and over in true heavy metal form. Encoring with their breakout hit 'The Bleeding', Five Finger Death Punch aptly demonstrated why they are one of the fastest rising stars in the heavy metal world. Like most of their other songs, 'The Bleeding' features haunting vocal and guitar melodies buffered by brutally screamed lyrics over sledgehammer riffs and pounding double bass drums, culminating in the memorable and gut-wrenching lines of "I'm better off without you/ You're better off without me."

Guitarist Darrell Roberts shone the entire show as well, masterfully playing screaming solos and lead guitar lines that show off his hair metal roots, a welcome bucking of recent trends in metal that eschew the importance of guitar solos in favour of strictly sludgy, downtuned riffage. The entire band was a tight, disciplined machine that belied their relatively new appearance on the scene. Despite playing for only an hour, there was no doubt that Five Finger Death Punch ruled the night. As the legions of battered and sweat-drenched fans shuffled towards the exits, t-shirts and other merchandise were selling quickly, and exhausted moshers still responded to the screamed chants of "Five Finger!" with "Death Punch!" During their few years of existence, Five Finger Death Punch has built their fan base while touring extensively with the likes of Disturbed, Korn, and other top-selling metal bands, and judging by Thursday's gripping performance, they are only a short time away from headlining arena shows for tens of thousands of fans on their own terms.

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