After weathering personal and professional storms the group is prepping a major comeback.
Five Finger Death Punch's Zoltan Bathory says the group's just announced new album, F8 — coming Feb. 28, with the lead single "Inside Out" also just released — is the work of "a different band."
It's certainly comes from a band that's weathered quite a bit during the past four or so years. Prior to 2018's And Justice For None the heavy metal quintet went through a pitched legal battle to escape its old label, Prospect Park Records. After the album's release, meanwhile, frontman Ivan Moody's very public struggle with substance abuse took him to rehab several times, with Bad Wolves' Tommy Vext filling in briefly on some tour dates. Then drummer Jeremy Spencer had to leave the band for health reasons, replaced, amicably, by Charlie Engen.
The good news, Bathory tells Billboard, is that FFPD, now on Better Noise Music, has emerged in its best shape ever. "Here we are — everybody's sober, everybody's ready to work and focused," the guitarist says. "There's a lot to say, a lot to prove. It's like a new band, in a way. It's progressing. It's rebirth. It's transcendent. When I listen to this album, it's the same sound, the same band — but it isn't. If you really listen to this, it's not the same band — for the better, both musically and lyrically."
Produced by Kevin Churko, who's helmed five of FFDP's album, the 13-song (plus three bonus tracks) F8 is intense but dynamically more varied and more melodic than the group's other outings, with greater comfort in gentler fare such as "A Little Bit Off" and "Brighter Side of Gray" and anthemic, stadium-sized choruses throughout. Moody is in particularly strong voice, while his lyrics are the deeply confessional work of a man who calls the album his "absolution."
FFDP — with four platinum and six gold albums, more than three billion streams and 22 Mainstream Hard Rock Tracks to its credit — has also announced April and May tour dates with Papa Roach, I Prevail and Ice Nine Kills to follow a European outing with Megadeth and Bad Wolves. Before a recent show in Columbus, Ohio, Bathory was bursting to tell us nine things we should know about the upcoming album.
— While previous FFDP releases such as War is the Answer, American Capitalist and And Justice For None have taken some lead from current events, F8 is "about the band. There's no political or social commentary. It's not about what's happening in the world. It's about the band — what we went through and who we are as people now, at this moment, who we are as a band at this moment. It felt like we survived a tornado so to speak, a Category 5 with all the chaos around us. So it's very much a personal record."
— F8 is particularly personal for Moody, whose lyrics alternate between reflective, remorseful and angry. "Ivan was in a very difficult situation," Bathory says. "He went back many, many times to rehab. At moments he looked like he was not gonna make it, that he was gonna be another 'rock star' that didn't make it. We lost Chester Bennington. We lost so many of these guys, some of them personal friends, and Ivan was almost one of them — a couple times he did die and has to be resuscitated. He literally said, 'This album is everything that happened in my life leading up to this record.' He calls it his absolution."
— The silver lining of the drama is that it gave FFDP time to be prolific and accumulate a substantial amount of material for F8. "We had a lot of songs to choose from," Bathory says. "When Jason (Hook) shows up with 20 songs and I show up with 20 songs and Ivan shows up with a bunch of stuff, it really gives you the opportunity to be like, 'OK, let's put these through the filter' and take all those ideas and decide, 'OK, this is really the best of the best material that we can write.' It was like a perfect storm, in my opinion."
— The tumult also gave the band and Churko additional time to develop the songs once they were chosen, according to Bathory. "Some of these (songs), this is like the fifth version 'cause we had the time and the focus. We were like, 'We know this can be better. Let's go back and do this again and listen to it for a month' and then, 'Y'know what? I think it still can get better…' So technically we could rework this record over and over until we felt like, 'This is done. This is what it should sound like.' On previous records we didn't really have that option."
— Bathory and Hook also had more opportunity to work out guitar parts for the new album than they'd had before. "The last few years the main focus was saving the band, putting out the fires and the constant issues. There was always distractions," Bathory explains. "Now that the chaos has disappeared Jason and I can really concentrate on each other and each other's playing and how we can complement each other. We can really now work even closer and focus more, and that relationship got better because the circumstantial noise and constant tornado went away."
— New drummer Engan, from the progressive metal group Scale the Summit, made an impact on the "progression" on F8 that Bathory speaks about. "We call him Professor Charlie. He has a master's degree in percussion, so when it comes to Charlie I can throw out weird time signatures… really progressive patterns and really advance music stuff, and he doesn't have to think about it. He says, 'OK, here you go.' There's nothing he can't do. We can do crazier stuff. If you listen to the drumming on the album, it's pretty intricate."
— Rest assured, however, that F8 does not take FFDP too far off the course. "We're never gonna be a progressive metal band or jazz fusion or anything like that," Bathory says. "Obviously we are a band that has a sound, so basically it's how do you keep your sound and progress after seven records. Musically we didn't really go away from the center too far. It's big arena anthems, big songs, just more focused and better, maybe. We can incorporate some really tricky drumming and intricate patterns and other stuff, but not so much that it detracts. We have fans who don't want to figure out the mathematical equations between the rhythm patterns; They just want to rock out and have a good time and sing the choruses."
— "Inside Out," with its orchestrations and pummeling ferocity, is representative of exactly what FFDP hoped to achieve with F8. "There are some songs on the album that are very obvious; If you listen to them you'd say, 'OK, that's a hit song right there,'" Bathory says. "But we ended up picking 'Inside Out' because it's not the obvious song; It's a little heavier, even risky because some radio stations may say, 'Well, it's a little too heavy.' But it's truly a snapshot of a band that kind of sounds the same bus is not the same band, so it probably represents the record best. It's the first thing people will hear of this new, reformed, transcendent band. It's important to us that fans hear that immediately, that they hear something that's a little different."
— With a heavy slate of touring ahead, Bathory is confident that FFDP will maintain its current equilibrium. "Ivan is doing the work. He looks 10 years younger and he's full of energy. He's better than he's ever been. He's 100 percent conscious and he's razor sharp, and there's no circumstance where I could see that he would fall off the wagon. He loves sobriety. He loves how this feels. He loves his new life so much I can't imagine he would jeopardize it in any shape or way."
The F8 track list:
2) "Inside Out"
3 "Full Circle"
4) "Living The Dream"
5) "A Little Bit Off"
6) "Bottom Of The Top"
7) "To Be Alone"
8) "Mother May I (Tic Toc)"
9) "Darkness Settles In"
10) "This Is War"
11) "Leave It All Behind"
12) "Scar Tissue"
13) "Brighter Side Of Grey"
14) "Making Monsters" (Bonus track)
15) "Death Punch Therapy" (Bonus track)
16) "Inside Out" (Radio Edit) (Bonus track)
Five Finger Death Punch's North American tour dates with Papa Roach, I Prevail and Ice Nine Kills goes on sale Dec. 6, with a Citi card presale starting Dec. 2 and promoter, venue and radio presales on Dec. 5. Dates include:
April 8 — Sunrise, FL @ BB&T Center
April 10 — Duluth, GA @ Infinite Energy Center
April 11 — Pelham, AL @ Oak Mountain Amphitheater
April 13 — San Antonio, TX @ AT&T Center
April 14 — Ft. Worth, TX @ Dickies Arena
April 16 — Houston, TX @ Toyota Center
April 18 — Phoenix, AZ @ Talking Stick Resort Arena
April 19 — San Diego, CA @ Viejas Arena
April 21 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum
April 23 — Tacoma, WA @ Tacoma Dome
April 25 — Portland, OR @ Veteran Memorial Coliseum
April 27 — Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre
April 29 — Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
May 3 — Baltimore, MD @ Royal Farms Arena
May 5 — Worcester, MA @ DCU Center
May 6 — Newark, NJ @ Prudential Center
May 8 — Cincinnati, OH @ Heritage Bank Center
May 12 — Detroit, MI @ Little Caesars Arena
May 14 — Pittsburgh, PA @ PPG Paints Center
May 15 — Camden, NJ @ BB&T Pavilion
May 17 — Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
May 19 — Rosemont, IL @ Allstate Arena
May 20 — St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center