From The Pit To The Crowd: Five Finger Death Punch with Breaking Benjamin, In Flames, and From Ashes To New – December 5th – Orlando, FL

After making a summer tour stop in Tampa, FL on August 11th, Five Finger Death Punch came back to Orlando on the latest leg of their tour. Along with Breaking Benjamin, this time they brought along In Flames and From Ashes To New to the CFE Arena at the University of Central Florida (UCF). This isn’t the first time Five Finger Death Punch has played here as I saw them there a few years back. I’ve always liked this venue for concerts as no matter where you are sitting or standing you have a great view of the stage and the acoustics are top notch. I was excited to finally get the chance to photograph them during this tour.

The CFE Arena was already packed when From Ashes To New took to the stage. The band from Lancaster, PA has been hitting the road hard since the release of their latest album, ‘The Future’, back on April 20, 2018. From festival appearances to on tour, this is a band that gives it their all each and every time they are on the stage. Matt Brandyberry (vocals), Danny Case (vocals), Lance Dowdle (guitar), and Mat Madiro (drums) walked out to a huge ovation from the crowd and even from some of the photographers in the pit that night. They opened up with the title track “The Future” from their latest album. Matt and Danny’s vocals are superb both separately and together. Mat is a great drummer who constantly looks like he’s having fun behind his kit. But, Lance is just insane on the stage. Constantly moving from one side to the other just full of energy. But, watch the intensity of him playing and literally whipping his guitar around is amazing. They continued playing “My Fight”, “Land of Make Believe”, and “Crazy”. They even included a mashup of Linkin Park’s “Heavy” and “Papercut”. The band did a phenomenal job kicking off the night.

Next up to the stage was In Flames. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, and have been together since 1990. The band released their first album, “Lunar Strain” in April 1994. The band quickly built up a fan following and scored a Top Ten album on the Swedish charts with ‘Reroute to Remain’ in 2002. They scored their first #1 album with ‘Come Clarity’ in 2006 and would score two more in their illustrious career. The band’s last album was ‘Battles’ from 2016, but the band recently announced the release of ‘I, The Mask’ on March 1, 2019. In Flames consists of Anders Friden (vocals), Bjorn Gelotte (lead guitar), Niclas Engelin (rhythm guitar), with touring members Bryce Paul (bass) and Tanner Wayne (drums).

With red lights and thick fog, In Flames took to the stage opening with “Colony” the title track from their 1999 album. The band’s heavy metal sounds had the crowd rocking hard from the very start. They continued with “Everything’s Gone” and “Cloud Connected”. Anders’ vocals reverberated throughout the arena with such power. He ripped out vocals so easily and looked so calm and collected on stage. While Bjorn, Niclas, and Bryce were all over the stage playing with passion, smiling, screaming, and you could see having fun and getting the crowd riled up. Tanner though focused on the drums was smashing out some great beats. Overall, In Flames was completely in sync and putting on a hell of a performance. Some of their other songs played that night included “Where The Dead Ships Dwell”, “Paralyzed”, “Take This Life”, and “The End”. In Flames doesn’t get over to Orlando often and the crowd absolutely loved everything they gave that night.

And now it was time for the band from Wilkes-Barre, PA, Breaking Benjamin. Formed in 1999, the rock band released their first album ‘Saturate’ in 2002. The album gathered some attention that it made it on the Billboard 200 chart. The band was even placed on major tours that year. But, their follow-up album ‘We Are Not Alone’ in 2004 that truly put them on the map. With amazing singles such as “So Cold”, “Rain”, and “Sooner or Later”, the album easily made it into the Billboard 200 peaking at #20 and was eventually certified both Gold and Platinum. Breaking Benjamin was riding a high that never seemed to stop. And even though the band had a major lineup change in 2014, the success and great musical sound never stopped. The band released their sixth studio album, ‘Ember’, on April 13, 2018, and have made festival appearances and currently still touring to support the album. Breaking Benjamin consists of Benjamin Burley (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jasen Rauch (lead guitar), Keith Wallen (rhythm guitar), Aaron Bruch (bass), and Shaun Foist (drums).

The Orlando crowd roared when Breaking Benjamin came to the stage. They opened up with “Red Cold River” from ‘Ember’. The song that starts off slow rips into a scream fest and the crowd was on their feet eating it up. Benjamin’s vocals are even better live than they are recorded and the notes he reaches are very impressive. Jasen, Keith, and Aaron all play the stage with intensity yet find the moments to laugh and smile with each other on stage. Shaun was high up on a drum riser smiling away as he played. After hearing this song I knew the rest of their set was going to be something special. They followed up with “I Will Not Bow” and “Never Again”.

One of the great things about their live shows is how much they love seeing the crowd get crazy and that they like to have fun on stage too. Their mash-up of “The Imperial March”, “Cowboys From Hell”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Enter Sandman”, and then into the drum solo was so much fun to hear and see. Also, Aaron sang the vocals for “Sugarcoat” and “Believe” that evening while Keith performed vocals for “Sooner or Later”. Benjamin during some of these songs decided to go into the photographer pit and play in front of the crowd while handing out guitar picks to kids. The band also played “So Cold”, which by far is one of my personal favorites from them, along with “Angels Fall” and “Until The End”. But, it was the final song of “The Diary of Jane” that really left an impact with the crowd. Benjamin went onto the pit floor towards the back and invited every child in the arena to get up on stage while they performed their final song that night. They squeezed as many kids as they could up there and Benjamin went and shook hands with every one of them. The band definitely left an impact on those kids that night and the crowd absolutely loved the charity they provided along with a stellar performance.

Finally, the headliners Five Finger Death Punch were ready to take the stage. The band from Las Vegas, NV has been together since 2005 with their first album ‘The Way of the Fist’ being released in July 2007. The album entered the Billboard 200 at #199 and peaked to #1067. The album ended up being certified Gold. And that was just the start of their illustrious career. The band ended up touring in support the album with both Korn and Disturbed and then headlining their own tour with their second album ‘War is the Answer’, which was certified Platinum. Their four following albums would have two certified Platinum and two Certified Gold which each peaking the Billboard 200 at either #2 or #3. The band is currently touring on their 7th studio album, ‘And Justice for None’ which was released on May 18, 2018. Five Finger Death Punch consists of Ivan Moody (vocals), Jason Hook (lead guitar), Zoltan Bathory (rhythm guitar), Chris Kael (bass), and touring drummer Charlie Engen, as Jeremy Spencer did not participate in this leg of the tour.

When the road crew dropped the curtain covering the stage, to say that the crowd was on their feet in a frenzy would be a slight understatement. Hanging above the drumset was an enormous skull with two huge bones crossing under it. It was an amazing sight. The band decked out in their Five Finger Death Punch gear, except for Ivan Moody who wore what looked like blood-stained clothes, covered in full white face paint and makeup resembling The Joker. His skull cane in hand completed the appearance. They opened up with “Under and Over It” from ‘American Capitalist’. Ivan was moving from one side of the stage to the other orchestrating the crowd to get crazy. How he was doing this on a broken foot, which he confirmed to the crowd later that evening, I have no idea. He must have been running purely on the fan’s energy. They followed up with “Trouble” from ‘And Justice for None’, which is such a solid song for Five Finger Death Punch, and “Wash It All Away” and “Jekyll and Hyde” (another of my favorites) from ‘Got Your Six’. They then played “Sham Pain” from ‘And Justice for None’ with Ivan wearing a shirt that said “Not a Sell Out”.

After performing their version of “Bad Company”, Five Finger Death Punch paid tribute to our U.S. Armed Forces for members current and retired performing “No One Gets Left Behind” from ‘War Is the Answer’. The band slowed it down performing acoustic versions of “Wrong Side of Heaven” and then “Remember Everything” where he had a few kids on the stage with him. It was one of their birthdays and Ivan had one of his crew provide a present to them. After the song, Ivan walked them off stage and came back out stating that Zoltan said he was getting bored and it was time to kick it up a notch. They performed “Coming Down” from ‘American Capitalist’.

Things were really going to kick up, as they always do at a Five Finger Death Punch show, when Ivan pointed out their camera guy was going to take video in the middle of the pit floor and he wanted to see the biggest mosh pit the fans could put together. And they played “Burn MF” from ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1’. Every single time they perform that song, the crowd goes absolutely bonkers and the mosh pit, or pits are huge. The last time Five Finger Death Punch performed at CFE arena, the mosh pit for that song literally went from one side of the pit floor to the other. It was insane and tonight was no different. They wrapped up their set with their cover of The Offspring’s “Gone Away”, “Lift Me Up”, and “The Bleeding”. The band said their goodbyes and thank yous to the Orlando crowd while their cover of “House of the Rising Sun” was playing over the speakers.

There’s always so many great things I love about a live Five Finger Death Punch show. The use of confetti with fake $5 bills bearing Knucklehead, their mascot, falling down from the canons. Their song selection was excellent as usual and the band was absolutely spot on musically. Ivan’s playfulness with the crowd and seeing how much he appreciates their support always makes me smile. Chris Kael playing with the photographers is always a smile and a laugh as he gives them funny faces, poses, and even a middle finger. Charlie did an excellent job filling in for Jeremy on this tour stop. He didn’t miss a beat with their songs. Jason had his guitar with lasers shooting out from it while they raised him up high on a platform as he performed. Zoltan whipped around his dreadlocks during their performances. And most importantly, when the band said their goodbyes, the hugs they provided to each other on stage showed they are and always will be a family.

All of the bands that night were spectacular. I will always recommend to anyone to see Five Finger Death Punch live. It is an experience never to be forgotten.