Two years ago, there was good reason to wonder if Five Finger Death Punch was on the ropes as a band.
During a European tour in summer 2017, the band essentially held an intervention, sending singer Ivan Moody home, hoping that this trip to rehab would help the vocalist beat a long-running alcohol addiction that had reached life-threatening proportions. The band brought in Bad Wolves singer Tommy Vext to fill in for the remaining dates on the European tour.
To say this was a difficult, stressful and just plain scary time for the band would be an understatement.
“It’s really heartbreaking because think about it,” guitarist Zoltan Bathory said, recalling the morning he, drummer Jeremy Spencer, guitarist Jason Hook and several other members of the band’s inner circle woke up Moody to get him on a plane for the trip to rehab. “This is somebody that we dug the trenches with together. Obviously, that (intervention) was the (last-ditch option). We tried everything, and you come to the conclusion that listen guys, if we don’t do this, he’s going to die. He’s going to be one of the headlines.”
The incident that finally forced the band’s hand happened onstage the night before. As Moody revealed in a 2018 interview with radio station WZOR in northeast Wisconsin, he had been drinking throughout the European tour and got so wasted the previous night that he was awoken by his personal assistant telling him he had 10 minutes before he was due onstage.
By the time Moody arrived, the band had pulled Vext onstage to sing the opening number, “Lift Me Up.” Moody walked on stage, stood behind Vext and announced to the crowd that this would be his last show with Five Finger Death Punch before dropping the microphone and walking off stage. Facing legal repercussions if the show was cut short, Moody and the other band members resumed and finished the show, but the damage was done. The group had reached the point of no return with Moody.
“So we had to come to this conclusion that listen, we as a band have to threaten him that we’re going to take away the last thing that he loves, the band,” he said. “And it’s a bluff. We didn’t want to do that, but we had to say that. We had to say, ‘Listen, if you don’t this now, you’re done. You’re out.’
“And also there was a fear that if this doesn’t work, this is the last card in my hand. This is my last card, and I’m going to throw this on the table and if this doesn’t work, if he doesn’t care and he’s not going to go to rehab, then we’re going to lose him. He’s going to be gone.”
Gone as in dead.
Two years later, Bathory can look back on that time with a sense of relief and gratitude. Moody fought back against his addictions and today is clean and sober (as are the other members of Five Finger Death Punch).
The band toured extensively for much of 2018 and this year and is back for a fall run of arena dates. In addition, Five Finger Death Punch is finishing a new studio album due out next year.
It will be the eighth full-length effort from the band, which has become one of the most popular heavy metal-hard rock bands going, with all seven previous studio albums having gone either gold or platinum.
Bathory says not only is Moody like a new man and excited about his life and his music, the band as a whole has re-emerged better than ever and is completely hitting on all cylinders.
Not surprisingly, much of the new album finds Moody, who is the band’s primary lyricist, chronicling his struggles with alcohol and his journey to recovery and sobriety.
“He came through hell. He came back. And that journey, that message is there in the lyrics,” Bathory said. “A lot of it is about that, his experiences of what happened to him when he was down, how people treated him. He came back, and how people doubted him, that he could come back. And when he comes back, the world is different and he has a different attitude. He can process what happened as a person. So all of those phases, lyrically, are definitely on the record.”
The shows this fall don’t figure to include songs from the next album. Instead, the group unintentionally crafted a greatest hits set list.
“It was pretty funny, actually. Yesterday we were talking about how about we just play our hits.” Bathory revealed. “And we go into the set (list) and we go, ‘OK, I guess we’re playing one song that wasn’t (a hit).’ It was just funny because it was a conversation and not a plan. Then we realized ‘Oh, we’re already doing it.’ But it’s a good problem to have, right?”
And it’s a small problem compared with the challenges Moody and Five Finger Death Punch overcame to get to this point.