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F5 - "The Reckoning" (CD)

F5 - "The Reckoning" CD cover image

"The Reckoning" track listing:

1. No Excuse
2. I Am the Taker
3. The Reckoning
4. Rank and File
5. Love is Dead
6. Through Hell
7. Wake Up
8. Cause for Concern
9. My end
10. Control
11. Final Hour

Reviewed by on March 12, 2009

"The entire album is filled with strong, and more importantly, tight songwriting."

Dave Ellefson (formerly of Megadeth) took a few years to find his post-‘deth place in the metal arena. With the second full-length album from F5, he has found it. While the initial draw to F5 for many metal fans is clearly Ellefson’s Megadeth pedigree, “The Reckoning” is not the second movement of the “Symphony of Destruction.” While there are some 1980’s metal and thrash influences, the record takes Ellefson far away from Megadeth. And as such it should be judged on its own merits.

The initial song “No Excuse” starts straight in with an arena-ready lead from guitarists Steve Conley and John Davis. The rolling bassline underneath starts the groove and the melodically-yelled vocals of Dale Steele propel the sound straight into the mainstream of 21st century metal.

The entire album is filled with strong, and more importantly, tight songwriting. The breakdowns are crunchy, the bass rolls, and the guitars are flashy but not overdone. The title track is a perfect example of the band’s strengths. Ellefson and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums, formerly Y&T, Suicidal Tendencies, Alice Cooper, Megadeth) lay down a complex yet easily head-bangable beat. The guitars’ simple bassline-style chord progression complements the rhythm well, and Steele is above it all yelling gruffly, but still in tune. Easy transitions from syncopated open chords to melodic choruses take the song to the quick solo break. Conley and Davis trade leads quickly between synchronized playing, then a short break to some spoken word, and a chorus finished the whole thing off. The title track on “The Reckoning” is just a straightforward, really well done metal song.

There are two downsides to the record. First, each song on its own is a heavy, head-banging good time. However, all eleven songs in a row start to blend together. The sound, style and structure of the songs are all very similar. While this is true for many bands, it is very apparent here. F5 found a successful formula, and used it 11 times over. While some songs do feature some unique elements (the Spanish style guitar break in “Final Hour” is a particular highlight), the songs feature the same lead breaks, key tonality, drum rhythm and layered vocals.

The second downside rides the coattail of the first; there is no new ground broken here. Everything sounds like re-used metal ideas and clichés. F5 executes extremely well (which is to be expected by players of this caliber), but it is just executed, not invented.

Highs: Metal vets show their chops on an excellently played and rocking set of songs.

Lows: The music doesn’t break any new ground, and the metal clichés get old.

Bottom line: Very good mainstream metal work from a band starting to find its stride.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)