5FDP: Zoltan Bathory’s Guide To ‘War Is The Answer’
Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Zoltan Bathory gives Metal Hammer an exclusive guide to every track on the band’s new album, ‘War Is The Answer’! Read our track-by-track preview here!
1) DYING BREED
“You know, we didn’t have an awful lot of time in which to make the new record, and this was the last track that Ivan added his vocals to. That’s why we originally had it down as a bonus track, because it was being worked on right at the end of our schedule… but when we heard the finished thing, we knew it had to go on the album. Track One!
“In a way, it’s a bit like ‘Ashes’ on the first album – 196 bpm, really fast, a heavy aggressive track with a great melodic chorus. It really was the missing piece of the puzzle…”
2) HARD TO SEE
“This one was our original choice to open the album, and now of course it’s the first single & video. It was maybe the seventh or eighth song that we recorded, and it was pretty obvious that it should be the first single.
“Y’know, radio is pretty conservative here in the States so I guess we could have led with one of the slower, more obviously cross-over tracks, but that’s really a path we didn’t want to go down, to launch our campaign with a slow song…
“Actually, it’s something of a miracle that radio plays our music at
all – I mean, ‘The Bleeding’, which had huge exposure here, isn’t exactly a ballad, but it made a powerful statement both musically and lyrically, and I think ‘Hard To See’ is the same… a wolf in sheep’s clothing!”
“When I’m writing music for the band, I usually like to start with a drum beat. I ask Jeremy to give me a few rhythms, then I come up with riffs based around those – I just keep playing until someone shouts “That one!”, and that’s exactly what happened with ‘Bulletproof’…
“Once the song was complete musically, we gave it to Ivan to add the vocals and the lyrics, and that’s usually the way it works with us – we finish off the music first, although this time around, because of the tight deadlines I mentioned earlier, we had three different work-stations going at once. I was mainly working on the rhythm parts and Jason (Hook) was focussing on the solos – he did most of those, and that was absolutely fine with me, cos I’m a BIG fan of his playing. There’s no competition between us on that front.
“We wanted the start of the album to be really powerful – ‘Dying Breed’, ‘Hard To See’, then ‘Bulletproof’, no respite there, and then…”
4) NO-ONE GETS LEFT BEHIND
“I’ve always had a strong connection with the military. I grew up in military bases, I like military movies, and we have a lot of fans who are serving in the forces.
“I guess what I’m really interested in is the concept of ‘heroism’ what it is that gives someone the balls to stand in the front line when the bullets are flying. People who have the capacity to do this generally have a very strong bond with other people in the same situation. Adversity creates a genuine feeling of brotherhood, and actually, that’s something I can detect amongst our fans – they stick together, they look after each other in the mosh-pit, they’re just a very dedicated bunch…
“‘No-One Gets Left Behind’ is an old military saying, like ‘Death Before Dishonour’, so I guess this is a continuation of that track on our first album… Oh, and the radio broadcast you can hear is taken from the transcript of a medical evacuation that we were given by one of our
fans in the forces – the code names, the numbers, it’s all real…”
5) CROSSING OVER
“A possible future single, I would say, and the first time the record breaks down. When we put the 13 songs into a final sequence we were very conscious of wanting to create a genuine flow with the music, so it was important for there to be a breathing space at this point.
“Lyrically, it’s one of my favourites, a very dark song – not a full-on ballad, not a pretty composition, and with quite a simple structure, which again we worked hard to achieve. At one point, the song was
a bit more complex in nature, but when we heard how great Ivan’s lyrics were, we knew we had to simple things down so as not to distract the listener, to allow the weight of the words to come through.
“There’s also a really blazing solo from Jason – there’s some pretty abrasive playing there, and that helps to give the song a more aggressive overall feel…”
6) BURN IT DOWN
“Ivan is very much the middle finger of the band, and this track proves there’s no danger of him running out of anger!
“When he came to put the vocals down, his actual words were: ‘I’m gonna torch it!’ And that’s where the title came from! Ivan The Arsonist! There’s no singing here, this is full-on rage from start to finish, but for all that, it’s still pretty catchy…
“You know, Ivan will always be an outcast, a rebel – show him something regulated or controlled, and he’ll have a problem with it…”
7) FAR FROM HOME
“We’d been kicking this song around for over a year, and we did record an early version of it, but somehow we couldn’t quite get it to gel. That can happen with songs – you’re not sure about them to start them, and then they grow into something special, which is really what happened with ‘The Bleeding’… I mean, that only just scraped onto the first album!
“Then Kevin (Churko, producer) heard ‘Far From Home’, which is kind of a ballad I guess, and he encouraged us to work on it some more, and today of course I’m really glad we did. We changed the structure, added some strings, and generally moved the track up to a whole new level.
“Now I would say it’s a potential single, but quite a way down the line…”
8) FALLING IN HATE
“You could call this the equivalent of ‘Meet The Monster’ from the first album – a heavy, grinding, nasty riff, greasy and aggressive.
“In rehearsals, we were playing the song in a more measured way, but that gave it too much of a ‘doomy’ quality, which we didn’t really want. However, the moment we speeded it up a bit, everything fell into place. The only trouble was, the breakdown section in the middle already featured a double-time riff, so once we decided to quicken the pace, it made that section even harder to play!
“I think it’s the ugliest breakdown I’ve ever heard!”
9) MY OWN HELL
“This is another track that we’d been playing around with for a while. It was going to be a bonus song at one point, but it turned out so well – so primal, so stark – that we decided to include it on the album…
“Lyrically, Ivan has taken a highly personal approach throughout the record, something Kevin Churko encouraged him to do, and it’s particularly true here. Ivan really is a wild man – I mean, we recently went off to play our first ever shows in Australia and Japan, and he turned up at the airport with just his passport and the clothes he was wearing! We were going to be away for two weeks, but he didn’t really care, he was just living for the moment…
“I think there’s probably a part of him that would like to lead a more normal existence, and then there’s another part that doesn’t want to be anchored, that needs to rebel. I mean, I lived with Buddhist monks for years, so I know how liberating it can be not to have possessions to worry about, so there’s a conflict going on here – between the so-called ‘normal’ life and a completely different way of living, and that conflict is at the heart of this track…”
10) WALK AWAY
“You know, it’s rare to come up with a song that is so complete, and I don’t say that with any sense of ego.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not really the writer of the song, I’m just the vehicle for the music, but I’m really delighted to have channelled something like this – a number with the potential to touch people’s lives in a powerful way, and that’s an ancient and a primal thing, and actually quite a tough thing to do…
“I think the song is pretty forceful from just a musical point of view, but when you add in the vocals and the lyrics, it takes things to a whole new plane. Ivan is dealing with relationship issues in the lyrics, and he’s certainly loaded with ammo on that subject, you can tell he’s singing straight from the heart…
“Sometimes in life, the stars all align and a bit of magic is created, and I certainly think that’s the case here…”
11) CANTO 34
“Funnily enough, it was Ivan who really pushed for there to be an instrumental on the album! He said that he just wanted to hear us play, to just shred it, so that’s what we did!
“However, it’s not a typical instrumental in that we decided to retain a strong sense of structure, to still go down the verse/chorus route, only with the guitars doing the work. Will we play it live? I’m not sure about that, as Ivan is such an important factor in keeping the energy levels up onstage, but I guess if we were playing a longer set we might…
“As for the title, well, ‘Canto 34’ is the last round of the ninth circle of hell in ‘Dante’s Inferno’, and as this was the last track we worked on and the record was pretty much a journey through hell to make, lots of pressure, loads to do and not much time to do it in, we thought it highly appropriate!!”
11) BAD COMPANY
“Ivan really liked the lyrics to this one – it’s a cover of a track originally recorded by Bad Company back in 1974.
“To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the song at first, but we played it live for a year or so, and now I’ve become a fan, and I have to say I’m really pleased with our version. At one point, it was pencilled in as a
B-side or a bonus track, but happily it came through strong enough to make the final cut…
“I guess it’s not an obvious track to take on, it’s more usual for bands
like ourselves to cover a pop number and make it heavier, but I’m glad we didn’t go down that path. For me, Ivan’s performance here is one of his very best on the whole of the album – there’s no way we could have left it off!”
12) WAR IS THE ANSWER
“The riff is something I had to take out from another song; it just didn’t seem to work there, but I really liked it musically and I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I ended up writing a whole new track around it – that happens quite a bit with me…
“In terms of the melody, I envisaged there being a big chorus, that kind of thing, but Ivan had different ideas! When he’s angry about something, he just can’t go down the ‘singing’ route, he needs to lash out vocally, and there’s no question that he really lives and breathes the emotions he’s singing about. Several times during the recording
of this one, we had to stop him hitting the wall because it was being picked up by the mic!
“As for the album title, it’s a phrase we’ve had up our sleeve for some time, and I’ve been talking about it a lot in interviews. In fact, some-body just said to me: ‘If war is the answer, then what is the question?’, and I guess the answer to that is ‘life’! Basicially, you’re fighting against something or other right from the start – fighting for survival with pretty much everything against you, and there are occasions when the only really appropriate response is to punch someone in the mouth!
“It’s a pretty involved subject once you really start to think about it, and this record covers it all – the deeper meaning and of course the more shallow one too!”
5FDP will hit the road with Shadows Fall for a full UK tour. Click here for dates and tickets!