Sometimes you have to look back to move forward, and on July 31, 2007, a new band with old-school metal leanings called Five Finger Death Punch appeared on stage with their debut record, The way of the fist and shook up the state of modern metal.
“That point comes in your life when you kind of stop and look around and think, ‘What am I really trying to do? What kind of band do I really want to put together and why?'” Guitarist Zoltan Bathory told me in 2007. “I kind of realized that when you go back in time, the bands I grew up with and what inspired me about those bands, there was a time when you couldn’t be in a band , if you couldn’t play , then that was one thing Iron Maiden and all those bands, those were the bands I listened to and those were the bands that inspired me to pick up a guitar, so I wanted to go back to that time.”
One by one, Bathory began to float his musical ideas to others. Drummer Jeremy Spencerbassist Matt Snell and Motograter vocalist Ivan Moody everyone also found an interest in music and soon Five Finger Death Punch was born.
Moody listed“When Five Finger Death Punch came around I couldn’t say no. It’s EVERYTHING I’ve ever loved about metal!! True, dominant, BADASS unforgiving METAL!! Everyone who heard it understood why I have to do this, and gave me their blessings and best wishes. I’m putting my undivided attention and full effort into Five Finger Death Punch. And believe me when I say, IT’S WORTH IT!!”
WASP guitarist Darrell Roberts, who joined FFDP after the album was recorded, added his own statement“I knew I had to be a part of this band. They are f—ing brutal, extremely talented and the debut CD, The way of the fist, contains some of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time! I haven’t been this excited about playing music in years.”
With Moody in tow, the band had just the right vocalist to take them to the next level. After turning heads with his stage presence during his time with Motograter, Five Finger Death Punch knew they had a beast on vocals, but also the kind of performer guaranteed to command attention when it came to their live sets. “Ivan is the kind of singer you’ll know. You’ll know it’s Five Finger Death Punch as soon as you hear that voice, and that’s what legends are made of,” Roberts told me in 2007. “When you see him, it’s blatantly obvious that he’s the real thing. He’s not some guy up there showing that he’s a tormented angry guy. He’s the real thing and you can’t fake it.”
When it came time to get into the studio, Bathory and Spencer took on producing duties, but were called Spiritually guitarist and industry vet Logan Mader to mix the album. “He can create the sound and mix you want without affecting it,” Bathory explained. “He’ll say, ‘Tell me what you want and I can make it happen,’ and that’s the greatest feeling walking out of a studio and there’s no list of ‘Why? If I could have? Should have?” — there was none of that. We left the studio jumping around like, ‘Yes!'”
Five Finger Death Punch, “The Bleeding”
The first song to gain any attention for the band was “The bleeding,” a track that was instrumental in initially bringing the group together. “‘The Bleeding’ was the fish hook in this band that I got all these guys on,” Bathory said. Moody told The pulse of the radio, “When I first heard it, I sat back in my chair and almost cried. I mean, it came so naturally. Because at the time, you know, I had just broken up with my ex-fiance, and when Motograter left apart, it was a really tragic time. A good friend of mine just passed. There wasn’t a more appropriate time to write a song like ‘The Bleeding’. It’s probably the most personal song I’ve ever written .” The track reached No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
Next up for the band was “Never enough“, which arrived in July 2008 as a new song carried over to the band’s reissue of The way of the fist. Thinking about the fans, the band worked out a deal where those who had already bought The way of the fist album could get a free download of the track. “We’re all very close to the Knuckleheads and didn’t want to rip them off,” Bathory said. Moody added: “We were really excited about the song and rather than wait a year or two to release it on a new album, we figured we should get it out there for everyone to hear as soon as possible. “
The track was written while Moody was recovering from a throat problem that kept the band from touring. “When I was on my back, I got emails from fans for one, actually mad at me because I’d stuck my neck out,” Moody said. The pulse of the radio. “And not to mention, when we first started working in the studio, it just started to dawn on me that here we are, you know, mixing this material back and forth, and of course the label always has their hands on it.. . it just got to a point where I was like, you know, when is enough going to be enough? When can I just not give any more of my soul away and it’s acceptable?” The song connected with fans, climbing to No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock Chart.
Five Finger Death Punch, “Never Enough”
Still going strong a year after the album’s release and now bolstered by the disc’s reissue, another recently added track called “Stranger than fiction” also got some solid playing for the band. Starting out as a ballad and showing a softer side to Moody’s voice, the track seemed like a bigger curveball, but after the first 20 seconds the heaviness and brutality that fans have come to expect from FFDP Released in September 2008, the track jumped into the Top 20 and peaked at No. 16 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
Other highlights on the disc included the fast-paced title track and album opener “Ash.” Bathory told me about “The way of the fist,” “It’s one of those songs that you have to go to the mosh pit and see what happens. It is extremely fast and very technical. It’s one of my favorite tracks, and live it’s just crushing.” Regarding the lyrical content, Moody stated that the song was his way of releasing pent-up aggression.
Five Finger Death Punch, “The Way of the Fist”
Aggression also played a role in the crushing album opener “Ashes”, as Bathory revealed that it lyrically evolved from one of the band’s first struggles. “We recorded this song and Ivan decided in the middle of the recording session that he was going to have a big party that he might not wake up from for three days. But he went to town, rock’n’roll style, and we had booked the studio and we got really mad about it,” Bathory stated in 2007. “But we started texting back and forth and I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re a black belt in screwing up.’ And it actually became part of the lyrics and he wrote a whole song about this.” The guitarist added: “There’s a real line between a genius and a madman, and Ivan walks that line.”
It was a great start for Five Finger Death Punch, who caught their first big break on the Second Stage of the Family Values tour in 2007 and ended up headlining the end of their first album cycle. Along the way, they opened for Korn and Disturbed and also turned heads at the Mayhem Festival in 2008. As for that debut disc, The way of the fist had a modest start, debuting at No. 199 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, but eventually climbed to No. 107 and has been certified gold.
“We opened a few cold ones,” said Bathory, after cracking the Top 200 with their debut. “But we know there’s a long road ahead of us.” As we’ve seen over time, the road to the top has been a fruitful one for the band, and it started with the groundwork laid The way of the fist.