Five Finger Death Punch

support In Flames + Of Mice & Men
author PP date 20/11/17 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

From the 800-capacity The Rock in 2009 to a Copenhell headline slot and Royal Arena in 2017. To call Five Finger Death Punch's rise to metal royalty a meteoric success is an understatement. Much can be said about their simplified, metal-for-the-masses expression that brings out the oft-derided Volbeat segment, but it's one that sells a lot of tickets and guarantees a party no matter what day of the week it is. Despite the steep 488,- DKK ticket price for floor tickets on a Monday night, a sizable audience has gathered to the multipurpose arena, where the top floors have been cordoned off and the stage brought forward about 1/3 of the way to create a more intimate feeling. That's perhaps the best part about Royal Arena: the organizers can easily adjust the size of the venue and thus avoiding a half-empty feel for shows like this that have only sold around 5k tickets (based on a very rough estimate). Exactly what Copenhagen has needed, especially since the sound has been excellent for every show I've attended here so far.

Of Mice & Men

Of Mice & Men

Tonight's opening act is Of Mice & Men, who delivered a convincing performance at this year's Roskilde Festival on the Pavilion stage. They're part of the latest wave of young metalcore stars that also reads among it bands like The Word Alive and I See Stars, and have shown no signs of slowing down despite losing original vocalist Austin Carlile earlier this year. Vocalist Aaron Pauley might not possess nearly as much range as Carlile did, but he compensates through delivering eardrum-bursting, monstrous growls and shrieks all the way through. The crowd is clapping early as the band demonstrates mastery of the big stage by spreading wide out and still appearing tight, and through an impressive, flashy light show that predictably results into a sea of horns after each song. There's a sense of dominance to their presence on stage - whether it's due to them asking us to clench our fist together and fist pump, or the way they rock out on stage - but it is unfortunately diminished by their barrages upon barrages of metalcore in the same tune that ends up sounding monotonous in an echoing venue where most people haven't shown up yet. When the band air a few melodic sections with clean vocals and the like, they are quite interesting, such as on a brand new song that they play towards the end of their short set, but right now it does feel like the band should consider investing in a new vocalist to give their set better variety. Coupled with a static stage show that feels uneventful aside from the lights, there's much room for improvement for Of Mice & Men tonight.

6

In Flames

Metal purists haven't appreciated In Flames' gradual but certain steering away from their twin-guitar Gothenburg melodeath origins for the past decade-and-a-half, but it sure has brought them a lot of fans since then. Tonight, they are in a co-headliner role with Five Finger Death Punch and determined to outperform the knucklehead metallers at every front, starting from songwriting prowess to the audiovisual show. Let's start with the latter because the lights & video setup that In Flames have brought with them is the greatest I've seen to date with a wide margin, which says a LOT considering I've seen more than 1500 live performances over the past 15 years.

In Flames

To start out with, the band opens with "Drained" by playing behind a giant, translucent curtain with ingrained 'In Flames' highlighted in different colors, depending on the background light. In practice, you can see the band perform through the curtain, where their drummer and keyboardist are each on their own, massive elevated tower, and the guitarists, bassist and vocalist Fridén are spread out on stage floor. It's a spectacular effect to start out with, but things are only about to get better from here onwards. Once the curtain drops, it turns out that every element positioned on stage is essentially constructed out of thousands upon thousands of small LED lights, effectively creating a multitude of video screens of different sizes behind and amidst the band. Better yet, because of their different positioning depth-wise, it creates an awesome 3D effect that few other bands have thought about when orchestrating their visuals.

In Flames

On those screens, we get everything from circulating red lasers to mental asylum cells (with three-dimensional depth), to jailhouse texture, skull videos, rotating lyrics explosions, and much, much more. Each effect seems more spectacular than the one before, leading into an audience that is completely spellbound by what is happening on stage. With the whole thing topped off by a giant, red-eyed evil crowd doll hanging from the rafters, and amazing lasers traversing the venue, the end result is a mindblowing, awe-inspiring benchmark of what is possible with today's technology. Let's just say that it feels like the production cost of all that feels like a million dollars at the very least, and certainly, a new benchmark for other bands to emulate. 10/10 for the visuals alone, to say the least, and no wonder why the band asks the crowd to put their phones away and go analogue tonight to pay attention.

As for the show itself, the band traverses a fairly balanced set focused on their post-2000's discography, airing a few golden oldies from "The Jester Race" and "Clayman" in the process. New album "Battles" is in focus with six songs from the record, but otherwise the albums from "Reroute To Remain" onwards get a couple of cuts each. The trio of "Take This Life", with its thrashy, high-energy riffs, "Trigger" and old classic "Only For The Weak" provide an early highlight and a schooling on melodeath of the classic variety, but even the newer songs sound solid with great sound in the venue. "If you've been with us for quite some time, this is for you. It's been 22 years since we wrote this song", Fridén announces before "Moonshield" from the 90s, which is a melodeath classic if there is one. But it's also a song that goes a little over the head of most Five Finger Death Punch fans by the looks of it.

In Flames

Later, we hear a little anecdote about their sound guy Tom, who has been with the band for 20 years and who is turning 40 years old today, naturally triggering a happy birthday song dedicated to him from the whole arena. It's a brief pause from the audiovisual bombardment described earlier, but let's not kid ourselves: the focus tonight is very much on the light/video setup. On stage, the band is not that interesting. They're mostly standing still in their respective locations, but without the added visuals it's hard to imagine this set being as good as it feels tonight otherwise. They finish off with "The End", and we can all look back to an absolutely spectacular experience in terms of production value, but a little more lackluster performance otherwise. A good selection of songs with the production helps lift the set to a solid, good rating.

8

Setlist:

  • 1. Drained
  • 2. Before I Fall
  • 3. Everything's Gone
  • 4. Take This Life
  • 5. Trigger
  • 6. Only for the Weak
  • 7. Dead Alone
  • 8. Darker Times
  • 9. Drifter
  • 10. Moonshield
  • 11. The Jester's Dance
  • 12. Save Me
  • 13. Alias
  • 14. Here Until Forever
  • 15. The Truth
  • 16. Deliver Us
  • 17. The Mirror's Truth
  • 18. The Quiet Place
  • 19. The End

Five Finger Death Punch

Five Finger Death Punch

After the jaw-dropping audiovisual experience that was In Flames just before, Five Finger Death Punch had a lot to show up for. With eclectic vocalist Ivan Moody back in the fold after a battle with substance abuse and subsequent recovery, all signs point to a triumphant celebration of arena metal worth the full price of tonight's ticket. A huge curtain covers the stage during the introductory melody to "Lift Me Up", which drops down on command to the first heavy riff, revealing a scene setup that might not be as elaborate as In Flames but one that still qualifies as an impressive enough for a Royal Arena production. It's basically a giant skull with a metallic cross across the stage with red pipes on both sides of the stage. The only problem? It does the band no favours in distancing themselves from the dumbed-down, 'knuckleheads-only' vibe that their music emits. Basically, if you've ever seen a confederate flag, that's exactly what their stage looks like especially when the lights turn red, to an extent where it's absolutely not an accidental reference. Anti-Flag recently had something to say about that...

Five Finger Death Punch

Nonetheless, the sing-along that ensues from the very first chorus of "Lift Me Up" is thunderous, to say the least. It feels like the entire arena is singing along, and "Never Enough" continues along the same lines, coupled with a massive jump along that has literally everyone on the floor up on their feet bouncing up and down. On stage, Moody's microphone stand is a steel skeleton that makes most death/black metal band versions pale in comparison (except for maybe Behemoth), which he frequently uses as a platform of sorts to sing from. It's more of an exception to the rule, however, because if there's one thing Moody's good at, it's at traversing the stage back and forth and projecting his dominant stage presence to different parts of the crowd from all around the stage. If you've ever seen the way Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed fame oozes of pure testosterone and alpha male vibes on stage, that's pretty much how Moody looks like on stage tonight.

"Wash It All Away" features an equally massive sing along, completely defying the fact that it's a Monday night and cementing in place that yes, Five Finger Death Punch should indeed be playing Royal Arena instead of, say, Falconer Salen or other smaller venues. Not that the light show wouldn't suggest as much anyway: much like In Flames before them, lasers are in heavy use to create tricolor pyramid shapes in the air above us, which end up projecting dancing DNA sequences on the back walls. A cool effect to say the least. Then for the self-titled Bad Company cover, the band brings out a double-fret guitar to show off and bring some fans on stage to party. There's a kid with a flag on his face among others, but their contribution on stage is limited to a little dancing and that's it.

Five Finger Death Punch

"Burn MF" is basically knucklehead metal at its core. Moody's gorilla stomping on stage only enforces the redneck vibe of the song, and the red lighting behind them highlights the confederate flag shape to such an obvious extent that by now everyone should've realized what it's all about. Then it's time for, oddly, three acoustic songs: "I Apologize", "Wrong Side Of Heaven" and "Remember Everything", which of course draw deafening sing-alongs but break the flow of the set completely. After all, it's a heavy music concert we're attending, right?

Fortunately, things return to normal with "Coming Down", where the band's guitarist is armed with a guitar that shoots lasers out of its body into the crowd. Can't say I've seen that before either. Then "Jekyll & Hyde" encompasses Royal Arena in huge "oooyuoooyuooo" chants just before "Under And Over" sees Moody storm across the stage wearing a skeleton suit and a baseball bat. About that knucklehead thing....

Five Finger Death Punch

Tonight's final song is "The Bleeding", which is dedicated to Cecilia up front who has been in tears all show along according to Moody. The song finishes in a self-incited death punch chant, rounding off a solid evening of arena metal that offers not particularly much musically, but is always a fun show to attend. Tonight's winner prize obviously goes for In Flames for such a spectacular experience, but as usual, you can rely on Five Finger to deliver mass entertainment of heavy music variety in convincing fashion. In contrast, the Copenhell show was much better, having attended both.

Setlist:

  • 1. Lift Me Up
  • 2. Never Enough
  • 3. Wash It All Away
  • 4. Got Your Six
  • 5. Ain’t My Last Dance
  • 6. Bad Company
  • 7. Burn MF
  • 8. I Apologize (Acoustic)
  • 9. Wrong Side of Heaven (Acoustic)
  • 10. Remember Everything (Acoustic)
  • 11. Coming Down
  • 12. Jekyll and Hyde
  • 13. Under and Over It
  • 14. The Bleeding

Photos by: Lykke Nielsen

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