Five Finger Death Punch @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – 28 March 2014

Formed in 2005 with a name derived from classic martial arts cinema, L.A. melodic rock machine Five Finger Death Punch are not the extreme metallers some might assume.

It’s strange how a name can conjure up the idea of a band being brutally hardcore, which has definitely been the case for Five Finger Death Punch. But if you weren’t already aware – the mass of excited, fresh-faced youngsters who make-up a good proportion of tonight’s sold out audience, gives you a better idea about where this band are in the metal marketplace.

Since the release of their debut album ‘The Way of the Fist’ (2007), followed by ‘War Is the Answer’ (2009) and ‘American Capitalist’ (2011) Five Finger Death Punch have progressed rapidly to achieving  massive success. Releasing ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell’ Volumes I and II during 2013, along with a triumphant run of arena shows supporting Avenged Sevenfold – the band are currently embarking on their most expansive headline tour of Europe to date.

‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!’ makes for a great intro before Five Finger Death Punch bounce into action across the Academy stage with ‘Under and Over It’ – a song inspired by internet rumours of a drug addled lifestyle and  the suicide of vocalist Ivan Moody.

Suffice to say Moody is alive, well and far from addled, as the clearly focused, energetic frontman bounds around. “This is what I’ve been waiting for!” he tells an electrified room full of death punchers, as the band lead into ‘Burn It Down’ with Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook letting loose some incendiary riffing.

The ever-popular ‘Hard To See’ is followed by ‘Lift Me Up’ during which Moody wears a Villa shirt, presumably handed up amongst the numerous flags and other paraphernalia. I’m not sure the guy realises how close he could be to dividing his audience here, but all seems to go well regardless of any genuine support for the claret and blue he may have.

An engrossing first wave of thunder allows time for a breather, as Moody explains his “two rules”. The first of which is having respect for pit security who “are here to stop you falling on your ass!” He continues: “If you come over – don’t punch them, don’t kick them and if you grab their balls .. at least leave your number!” His second rule is a far simpler instruction: “Let’s have some fun!” prior to the epic cover of ‘Bad Company’.

Bassist Chris Kael is a beast of a live performer, who along with hard hitting drummer Jeremy Spencer is the rhythmic glue that holds Five Finger Death Punch together. He’s a pretty scary looking guy, so it’s lovely to see this big presence of a man, happy to ham it up for photographers, as he consistently pick attacks his bass, locking everything together.

A well timed “It’s fuckin’ hot in here!” from Moody precedes an introduction to the raucous ‘Burn MF’. This is a crowd pleaser and a half with the chorus: “burn motherfucker, burn motherfucker, burn!” Let’s be honest, anybody with a little metal in their veins can’t pass that one up!

The set rolls on with a healthy mix of melody and aggression, Moody displaying his vocal versatility through ‘Remember Everything’, an acoustic version of ‘Coming Home’, the LL Cool J cover ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ and ‘Far From Home’. There’s even a snippet of Oasis’ ‘Champagne Supernova’ for the ultimate crowd sing-along.

There is plenty of in-your-face material which suits the circle pit enthusiast very well, but it’s far more bouncy than brutal. Finishing with ‘The Bleeding’ I’m aware that my knowledge of Five Finger Death Punch was minimal until tonight, but after such a direct and dynamic performance, I’m eager to hear more from such a quality live band.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

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