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F5 – The Reckoning

Label: Oarfrin Dist. (Koch)
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan

There’s a lot to like about F5’s 2nd album: “The Reckoning”. The band teamed with producer Ryan Greene to create a solid-sounding collection of tunes, eschewing diversity of instrumentation and musical styles to deliver straight-ahead, late 2000s metal (let’s not get hung up on the sub-category thing, OK?). Steve Conley and John Davis exhibit some fantastic displays of chemistry on their dual leads, reminiscent at times of Tipton/Downing (Judas Priest) although a little faster. Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T, Megadeth) has upped his game behind the drum kit, especially with the double-bass. Dale Steele brings some stock vocals to the mix, with occasional hints of Chris Hall from Stabbing Westward or Lajon from Sevendust. This guy sounds like he was made for live performances, which doesn’t translate 100% on record. He’s full of metal frontman attitude, which is effective enough.

And of course, there’s Dave Ellefson on bass. He and DeGrasso are best known for their days with the big Dave (Mustaine, not Lee Roth) in Megadeth. I wondered how I was going to listen to this record without the opening riff to “Peace Sells” looping in my mind, but from note 1 of “The Reckoning”, F5 smashes any pre-conceived Megadeth associations. Kudos to Ellefson for not making this an ego project, designed to spotlight him ahead of the rest of the guys. The bass on this disc is strong, but no louder in the mix than it needs to be; there are no unnecessary Ellefson showcases. This is a *band*. If anything, he was on more prominent display during his days with Megadeth. Perhaps his team-player mentality stems from being Mustaine’s number 2 for so long?

So what about the songs? I really wanted to love this album, and it definitely grew on me with repeat listens, but I just couldn’t fall for the material. The lyrics are standard “pissed off badass” stuff, without much thematic exploration, with the possible exception of "Love is Dead". Simple and blunt can be great, but these don’t get me shouting along. There are some very good tracks here, including "Love is Dead", “No Excuse”, and “Control”, but nothing I’d call a classic; nothing I’d play on repeat until my mp3 player broke.

So check out "The Reckoning"; I expect you'll like it. Can't guarantee you'll love it. This is where the Ellefson name might hurt them a bit. You have a co-founder of one of the most important metal bands of all time here. You have excellent production and a talented lineup. This album should be a metal classic.

At their best, with DeGrasso’s double bass groove and the strong dual leads, F5 could fuse their Sevendust sensibilities with their power metal tendencies into something unique and kickass, poised to stand next to Mustaine’s work and lead metal into the next decade. Or. They could put all this talent and capability into some decent, likable contemporary metal albums. I believe F5 can do the former.

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