9 Years Ago: Five Finger Death Punch Release Their Debut Album ‘The Way of the Fist’
Sometimes you have to look backward to move forward, and on July 31, 2007, a new band with old-school metal leanings named Five Finger Death Punch emerged on the scene with their debut disc, 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 is it that I’m 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 going back in time, the bands that I grew up on and what inspired me about those bands … there was a time when you couldn’t be in a band if you couldn’t play, so that was a thing. You know Iron Maiden and all those bands, those were the bands that I listened to and those were the bands that inspired me to pick up a guitar, so I kind of wanted to go back to that time.”
One by one, Bathory started to float his musical idea to others. Drummer Jeremy Spencer, bassist Matt Snell and Motograter vocalist Ivan Moody all found an interest in the music, as well, and soon Five Finger Death Punch was born.
Moody stated, “When Five Finger Death Punch came around, I couldn’t say no. It is EVERYTHING I ever loved about metal!! True, dominating, BADASS unforgiving METAL!! Everyone who heard it understood why I have to do this, and gave me their blessings and best wishes. I am putting my undivided attention, and full efforts into Five Finger Death Punch. And believe me when I say, IT’S F—IN WORTH IT!!”
W.A.S.P. guitarist Darrell Roberts, who joined FFDP after the album was recorded, added in 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 to play music in years.”
With Moody in tow, the band had just the right vocalist to take them to the next level. Having turned 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’re gonna know. You’re gonna know it’s Five Finger Death Punch as soon as you hear that voice and that’s what legends are made out 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 putting on a show that he’s some tormented angry guy. He’s the real thing and you can’t fake it.”
When it came time to hit the studio, Bathory and Spencer took on producing duties, but called upon Soulfly guitarist and industry vet Logan Mader to mix the album. “He can create the sound and the mix you want without influencing it,” explained Bathory. “He’ll say, ‘Tell me what you want and I can make that happen,’ and that’s the greatest feeling walking out from a studio and there is no list of ‘Why? If I could have? Should have?’ — there was none of that. We left the studio jumping around like ‘Yes!'”
The first song to garner some attention for the band was “The Bleeding,” a track that was vital in first bringing the group together. “‘The Bleeding’ was the fish hook of this band that I got all these guys with,” stated Bathory. Moody told The Pulse of Radio, “When I first heard it, I sat back in my chair and almost cried. I mean, it came so naturally. Cause at the time, you know, I had just separated from my ex-fiancee and with Motograter separating, it was a real tragic time. A good friend of mine had just passed. There was not a more opportune 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 tacked on to the band’s reissue of The Way of the Fist. Thinking of the fans, the band worked out a deal where those who had already purchased 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,” said Bathory. Moody added, “We were really excited about the song, and rather than waiting 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 penned while Moody was recovering from a throat issue that sidelined the band from touring. “When I was laying on my back, I was getting emails from fans for one, actually mad at me for having my throat go out,” Moody told The Pulse of Radio. “And not to mention, once we did start working in the studio, it just started coming to me that, here we are, you know, shuffling this material back and forth and the label of course always has their fingers in it … it just got to a point where I was like, you know, when does it become enough? When can I just not give away any more of my soul and it’s acceptable?” The song connected with fans, climbing to No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock Chart.
Still going strong a year after the album’s release and now bolstered by the disc’s re-release, another newly added track called “Stranger Than Fiction” also got some solid play for the band. Starting like a ballad and showing a softer side of Moody’s voice, the track seemed like a major curveball, but after the first 20 seconds, the heaviness and brutality that fans had come to expect from FFDP kicked in. Released in September, 2008, the track jumped into the Top 20, peaking at No. 16 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
Other highlights on the disc included the rapid-fire title track and the album opening “Ashes.” Bathory told me of “The Way of the Fist,” “It’s one of those songs that you have to look at the mosh pit and see what happens. It’s extremely fast and very technical. It’s one of my favorite tracks and live it’s just crushing.” As for the lyrical content, Moody stated that the song was his way of releasing pent up aggression.
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 fights. “We recorded this song and Ivan decided in the middle of the recording session that he needs to go and have a big party, which he didn’t wake up from for three days maybe. But he went to town, rock ‘n’ roll style and we had the studio booked and we got really pissed off about it,” stated Bathory in 2007. “But we started text messaging back and forth and I’m like, ‘Dude, you are a black belt in screwing up.’ And that 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 crazy man and Ivan walks that line.”
It was an amazing 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 as a headlining band by 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 Album chart, but eventually climbed to No. 107 and has been gold certified.
“We did pop open a couple of cold ones,” said Bathory, upon cracking the Top 200 with their debut. “But we know there is a long road ahead of us.” As we’ve seen over time, that road to the top has been a fruitful one for the band and it started with the groundwork laid by The Way of the Fist.