There is a very important reason why Five Finger Death Punch has essentially become the face of metal in America. In many ways, their outward appearance personifies every stereotype that pop culture makes about the modern-day metal listener, just as much as their music matches the preconceptions made about metal by most non-metal listeners. The group’s first two albums, The Way of the Fist and War Is the Answer, were chock-full of meaty riffs, wild guitar solos, guttural screaming vocals, and emotionally-charged lyrics about individualism, rage and darkness. As the group’s album sales went through the roof, the face and voice of metal invaded the tranquility of pop culture America and refused to leave. War Is the Answer was cemented on the Billboard 200 for 92 weeks following its debut at #7, which is a nearly impossible feat for a metal band in the era of downloaded music. It was only logical to believe, therefore, that Five Finger Death Punch’s third album would be just as popular and do similarly well.
How unfortunate, though, that the third album, American Capitalist, is not on par with the group’s previous work. Saying it’s not on par isn’t even an accurate description, though. The album isn’t wholly bad – in fact, there are plenty of good things to say about it. But the things that are wrong with American Capitalist are so glaringly obvious that they’re hard to ignore and harder still to forget.
In the interest of fairness, the positives of American Capitalist are consistent with what is expected of Five Finger Death Punch. The metalcore-groove fusion is just as strong as on their earlier material, with the same precision guitar work and drumming. Ivan Moody’s raw vocal prowess still makes him one of the most distinct voices in metal. The requisite softer tracks on the album, “Coming Down” and “Remember Everything”, are among the best pseudo-ballads the band has written, while “Menace” is easily the heaviest, most aggressive song of the group’s career. Additionally, there are a good number of other songs, like “Generation Dead”, “Back for More” and “Wicked Ways”, that are akin to the first two albums and will remind listeners that this is still the same band.
That reminder is desperately needed, too, because most of the rest of the album is a confusing, unfortunate mess, and almost all of it has to do with the lyrical content. Although less than half of the album experiences lyrical problems, the songs that suffer are bad enough that they drown out the positives of the rest of the album. The title track of the album is entirely about how being a capitalist is a good thing and the “American” thing to do, while “If I Fall” matches that message by saying that those who fail or lose should ensure that everyone else suffers in the same way. “100 Ways to Hate” blatantly attacks internet critics and local bands looking for a shot, placing them in the same group as groupies and fake friends that are after money, and “The Pride” is a laughable, yet also horrible attempt at re-creating the style of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, all while proclaiming the greatness of the American Dream. The worst of the group, though, is lead single “Under and Over It”, wherein the band makes the claim that they haven’t been changed by money and fame, and all the stories about them being changed are false accusations. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be ironic, given the ridiculous pictures in the liner notes, the disgraceful album art, or the shameful music video, but the song is unnecessarily boastful at best, and a horrifying lie at worst.
American Capitalist is not a terrible album, but it’s definitely a regression for Five Finger Death Punch. After starting out well on The Way of the Fist and taking two steps forward towards excellence on War Is the Answer, the group has taken three steps backwards with this new album. For all the good things that can be said about the album, there are just as many bad things to draw the listeners’ attention and ire. Unfortunately, with the blaring message of how great America and capitalism are, the band has also lost their ability to relate to the average metal fan, which these days is a teenager or young adult struggling through high school or college and/or trying desperately to find a job. If this album was released nine years ago, I could understand why the band would choose such a message. But in this day and age, American Capitalist is just an unnecessary and irritating reminder that the American Dream is out of reach for most of us and will remain that way forever.