Prior to FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH's July 18 performance at this year's Rock USA festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, guitarist Zoltan Bathory spoke to the Rock 94.7 radio station about the band's upcoming eighth studio album. Asked to elaborate on his previous comment that the the follow-up to 2018's "And Justice For None" will be "a heavier" effort than some of FIVE FINGER's recent releases, Zoltan said (see video below): "It will be what it will be. At the end of the day, we are in a fortunate situation where [we can] take as long as we want to — we can be in the studio forever if we wanted to. But that's how it's turning out so far.
"When I'm talking about 'heavy,' what 'heavy' really means, I guess, heavy as in our… obviously, there are super-heavy bands," he continued. "We have a little pie that we belong to in the musical spectrum, and within that, the grooves — there are these big, nasty grooves that feel just heavier and grimier, and that's kind of what's happening. The energy of what's in the band now is affecting this process. And also, when you write music, you're thinking about the shows — how it's gonna sound onstage. So you combine that, and you get what's happening in the studio — so far. Obviously, at the end of the day, there are gonna be a bunch of songs and we'll assemble the record from that. So we'll see what it's gonna be. But my prediction is that it's gonna be a more robust record than we have [released] so far."
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH is recording its new album with its regular producer, Kevin Churko, the Canadian record producer/engineer and songwriter who works out of his private Las Vegas facility, The Hideout Recording Studio. The drums on the disc were laid down by Charlie "The Engine" Engen. Engen made his live debut with the group during its fall 2018 tour with BREAKING BENJAMIN. He stepped in for original FIVE FINGER drummer Jeremy Spencer, who left the band in December.
Speaking about how the drummer switch came about, Zoltan told Rock 94.7: "Yeah, that was an interesting story, because Jeremy handed down the torch, literally. Because what happened, that last tour, when he had to get some surgeries and he was unsure that he could even continue… I follow Charlie on social media — I was aware of him. He's a phenomenal drummer and he has a big social media following for his drummer. And then Jeremy said, 'If you guys get somebody, I think it should be him. He's a phenomenal drummer. He's the one who can really do this gig.' And then we invited him down [to a gig]. So he went through a couple of songs with us live, and Jeremy was sitting right there. And then Jeremy put up his cameras and recorded the whole set. There's a difference between the live set and what's on the record. And so he recorded it for Charlie so he can learn everything as is, in a show. So it was literally [Jeremy] handed over the sticks [to Charlie]. Like, 'Okay. It's you, man.'"
According to Bathory, there were "other factors," besides the drummer change, that made the recording process for FIVE FINGER's new album different. "[Singer] Ivan [Moody] is completely sober," he explained. "He's doing really well. And we kind of gained back that… he's like our little brother. We went through some difficult times. We lost him a couple of times. He actually died a couple of times.
"If anybody ever dealt with people with addiction, it's very difficult to watch that, because you're helpless — he's going down the drain, and there's not much you can do," he continued. "But we managed — we managed to save him; we managed to keep it together. And now he's sober and happy, and he's the first in the studio. It's pretty amazing, because the energy level changed because of that. So if you can look at the band, you can feel it — it's a different band.
"I'm seeing the world through his eyes now. It's almost like he woke up one day, and he [said], 'Oh. I'm in a band? Oh, wow.' But experiencing things through his eyes, he's opening up and everything is new for him because he was in his situation for a long time.
"I think this could be our best record so far," Bathory added. "The recording process is going way smoother and faster. This really feels like the engine got a tune-up and everything fires exactly when it needs to fire. And there's an overall happiness, I would say, because the family is back together — we don't have to worry about him dying, basically.
"Again, it's a band. Nobody sees it from the outside, what it means to us. It's your friend. As I said, [it's] your little brother going through this. And I guess it shows, because everybody we run across right now, everybody's, like, 'Man, you guys are different. Something's different.' And that's what's different."
FIVE FINGER guitarist Jason Hook recently called Engen "a beast" behind the kit.
It's not clear at the moment whether Engen will be made a permanent member of the band or will continue as a hired hand.