Five Finger Death Punch – on the wrong side of heaven, but doing just fine

Ahead of next week’s metal gig of the year – when Five Finger Death Punch share the stage in Dublin's O2 with the mighty Avenged Sevenfold – 5FDP guitarist Zoltán Báthory talks to The Irish Times

What a year it has been for Five Finger Death Punch. Your collaboration with Rob Halford on Lift Me Up has boosted your profile to a whole new level. The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1 went to number two in the US Billboard 200 and the second volume which has just been released also went to number two. So how does Volume 2 differ from the first album?
It's a very interesting question. The feedback from the fans for the first album has been great. A lot of them have liked the second album better for some reason. The second one is a little bit darker, a little bit heavier, but the albums are pretty close to each other. Having two records in the same year within three or four months of each other and doing the same business is pretty crazy.

We were lucky that the label allowed us to release two albums. These two albums are probably the best material we have ever written. This doesn’t really happens. A lot of guys aren’t selling records these days but we managed to do it with both these records.

Why did you record two albums rather than one?
We had just so much material. We couldn't decide. When you write the record, you usually write a lot of songs and then you pick your best songs and you make one record out of it. In this case, we were kind of doing that. We wrote a lot of songs and we wanted to pick the strongest songs and make it into one record.

We were trying to carve out what is good and bad. We simply couldn’t decide. Every time we were trying to get rid of a song, we realised we couldn’t. It was a good problem to have so many songs and we told the record label that we loved the songs and we wanted to put them all out. Luckily, the label thought the same – they came back a week later and saw the point that there needed to be two albums, not one. They allowed us do both records. The only question was whether we would put both albums out on the same time or stagger it. We decided to stagger it.


How did you persuade metal legend Rob Halford to record Lift Me Up with you?
We saw an interview that Rob was doing and he was asked what was his favourite band was and he said that he loved Five Finger Death Punch. We knew he liked us. When we were in the studio, we were listening to Lift Me Up and we thought it had a Judas Priest kind of vibe to it.

And one of us said “let’s reach out to Rob, he likes Five Finger Death Punch”. It was a long shot. Rob Halford is the Metal God. We sent him the material. He loved it and he came to Las Vegas to record it with us. It was a lot of fun. When we were in the studio, we were saying to ourselves that at least we did this and we could die happy!

You are touring with Avenged Sevenfold who are probably the biggest contemporary metal band in the world. Are they a model of where you want to be at?
Avenged Sevenfold are ahead of us by five or six years, but we are putting out records nearly every year. We're catching up. I think it is a great bill for heavy metal fans. We share a huge fanbase. In the United States, we have almost caught up to them now. If I was to pick a role model for a band, I would say that role model has to be Rammstein. When I hear them I think "holy shit". They are the bands that really push it out when it comes to the live shows. Don't get me wrong, but we love Avenged Sevenfold.

Avenged Sevenfold seem to attract a lot of hatred from heavy metal fans who think they are not the real thing. What do you think?
It's a really weird time. We're the first generation of bands that have to deal with the internet. The internet was just growing up at the start of the 2000s. We're probably the first generation of bands where anybody who has an anonymous opinion can voice it. If you are really looking from where the hate is coming from, you will find out that it is a small number of very vocal individuals who usually troll the internet with anonymous names. These are people that just talk shit behind an anonymous identity. Everybody gets hate nowadays.

We are doing something that is fairly accessible music, it is not extreme metal. So we are going to get more popular and go on the radio. Automatically fans of extreme bands would see us as having sold out. It is kind of ridiculous. Avenged Sevenfold are the same band they were since day one. We too are doing the same thing as when we started. It’s not like we are making a jazz-pop record.

You have an album called American Capitalist. Is there a strong political dimension to your music?
We were always a band that wanted to push boundaries. When the Iraq war came, the record was called War is the Answer. We didn't pick a side. We're not politicians, but we wanted to push a couple of buttons.

We can't preach, but we can ask questions. I can't tell fans what to think, but I can ask questions. On American Capitalist, we did the same thing. When we were recording, pretty much the whole world was in a financial meltdown. We wanted to sort out a couple of things. There is a weird thing going on, not just in the music industry, but generally that anybody who is successful attracts a lot of jealousy and hate. The capitalist system is probably the best we have got. This is closest to nature. A free market economy, the strong survive, if you work harder, you get further. There are certain things in the system that works, but we wanted to point out how bizarre it is that success attracts such hatred. It is bizarre and it is global.

This new record also has a point. It is about the fact that everything is just an opinion. The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell means that every time you are right, you are somewhat wrong and visa versa. What you are thinking may be acceptable, but, in a different society, but in another culture, it might be completely unacceptable. Who is right and who has the right to decide who is right? Can you trust your own instincts?

You were one of the highlights for many fans at Download Festival last summer. What can fans expect from your show in Dublin?
You can expect a lot of energy. It is still not our show. We are coming back in March with a headlining show. That's a whole different show. Our playtime is somewhat limited. What we can and cannot do on stage is somewhat limited, but we are playing some new songs. We haven't been in Dublin for a long time. This band is always the band that leaves everything on stage. It's always high-end energy so that we are not just hanging out on stage. We see this as a precursor for our 2014 headline tour in Europe.

Five Finger Death Punch's new album The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 2 is out now. Five Finger Death Punch support Avenged Sevenfold in the O2 on Tuesday, December 3rd

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times