Five Finger Death Punch Aim To Make Metal Mainstream; Plus Obituary, Dimebag Darrell & More News That Rules, In Metal File

'We thrash pretty hard. But we have a [melodic] singer, so we please both worlds,' says guitarist Zoltan Bathory.

Get a bunch of longhairs together, add beer, toss out the names of a few bands and, by golly, you’ll have yourself a healthy — albeit profanity-filled — debate on the merits of what constitutes true, honest-to-goodness “metal.”

It’s something unique to the genre, because metal fans are among music’s staunchest. They’re the true definition of “dedicated,” and when you enter such debates, you’d better come prepared. Metalheads — popular media portrayal aside — will back up their arguments with song titles, riffs, release dates, groupie names and analogies (i.e.: “They’re metal like Godsmack are metal.”)

Now, for some die-hards, but certainly not all, Five Finger Death Punch — which features former members of Motograter and W.A.S.P. — wouldn’t quite make the metal grade. And that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion — and Hungarian guitarist Zoltan Bathory, one of the band’s founding members, has a couple of his own.

“We had a song ['The Bleeding'] that somehow touched so many people, and became really successful on the radio, but it’s like a hate song, and it is pretty heavy,” Bathory said of the single — which is hovering in the top 10 on the Active Rock chart — from their latest album, The Way of the Fist. “It’s the lightest song on our record, but at the same time, we have really brutal pieces on this record.

“We have really heavy songs, and I think we’re a straight-up heavy-metal band with a hint of thrash metal — maybe a hint of the Euro stuff in there, but that’s pretty much what we are,” he said, adding that mainstream rock radio shunned the band as “too brutal” for months before “The Bleeding” took off. “No one thought we’d have a chance for commercial success of any kind. For f—’s sake, guys, isn’t that the plan? As a band, we are kind of walking the line, you know? If you’re into Slayer, you buy this record, and you won’t be disappointed, because we thrash pretty hard. But we have a [melodic] singer, so we please both worlds. I would hope that the real metalheads understand that and realize, ‘Hey, this can be an opening for other bands to come,’ and we can bring metal back to the mainstream.”

The success of “The Bleeding” on commercial rock radio wasn’t the work of a major label promo push, Bathory explained. Only a few jocks were spinning the record at first, and “it kind of spread like wildfire.” People started calling in to request the track.

“No way I would ever compare us to Metallica, but it’s kind of like when they did the black album, and then all of a sudden, everybody was like, ‘Oh, it’s not really Metallica,’” he said. “I admit I was one of the guys, but it was a moment of jealousy, because I thought, ‘Now they will be really popular, and all the geeks will like them.’ People can point at this band and say it’s not ‘real metal,’ but I have confidence. A life’s worth of work went into this record, and these are songs I’ve had forever. When I finished this record, I thought, ‘I don’t even care where this goes, because I love this record.’ It’s exactly what I wanted to say, and I’m really proud. There are Internet kids with lots of opinions — the dungeon dwellers that never left their bedrooms. If they’re basing their opinion on ['The Bleeding'], yes, probably, people would say it’s ‘commercial rock.’ ”

It’s been something of a crazy mercurial rise for Five Finger. Their debut album hit stores last July, and already they’ve done huge arena tours with the likes of Korn. Next up, the band will be touring with Disturbed before heading out with that band again on the inaugural Rockstar Energy Mayhem tour , with Slipknot and others.

“We have to be somewhat accessible,” Bathory explained. “Disturbed is accessible to people. Korn is accessible to people. We are heavier than these bands. My crowd is people who love Pantera, Metallica, Maiden — all the Euro stuff; that’s our crowd. If someone else doesn’t like it, who cares?”

The guitarist said fans will need to wait some time for Five Finger’s next opus, as he thinks they’ll be out on the road for a while on this first release. But for now, before the guys head out with Disturbed, you can catch them on tour with Drowning Pool and Nonpoint, through April 23 in Norfolk, Virginia.

The rest of the week’s metal news:

Death-metal legends Obituary have been forced to cancel their upcoming tour with Dying Fetus, Origin and Thy Will Be Done for “reasons beyond our control.” They will reschedule the trek for this fall, the band said. …

What better way to honor the memory of the great “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott than sporting duds he designed? Over on the Dimebag Hardware Web site, you can order threads created by the late Pantera shredder. It’s been more than three years since Dime was gunned down at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. …

Last week, we brought you news on In Flames , and the colorful cover of their new LP, A Sense of Purpose. But now you can actually listen to the whole record on their MySpace page, before you buy it on April 1 — and you will buy it. …

Another week, another band biting the dust: Michigan metallers Still Remains. Yep, they’re done. In a statement, the band announced that its swan song would be at this year’s Cornerstone Festival. “No, we don’t hate each other or want to punch each other in the face,” the band assured us. “It’s just time for us to move on to different things in our lives.” …

Death Angel? Check. God Forbid? Check. Soilent Green and Light This City? Check and check. Ah, yes, another kickass tour, which kicks off in Flint, Michigan, on May 1, and runs through June 11 in New York. Guest list, anyone? …

There’s more hardcore in the house over at Century Media, following this week’s announcement that the almighty Terror have inked with the label. Terror’s third LP, The Damned, the Shamed, will hit stores on June 10. …

Two of Neurosis‘ masterminds are readying solo efforts. Frontman Scott Kelly’s second solo recording, The Wake, will be released May 5, and guitarist Steve Von Till’s latest, the awesomely titled A Grave Is a Grim Horse, comes out two weeks later.