Four years ago, Five Finger Death Punch vocalist Ivan Moody said that he believed that he actually died for about three and a half minutes after he attempted to quit drinking alcohol cold turkey following a two-year bender.
Moody, who is now sober after years of battling alcohol addiction, told Metal Hammer magazine last month that during his near-death experience, he felt at peace. He described being in a quiet, blue haze. “I saw this incredibly blue light,” he told the magazine. “It was the afterlife and I was on the edge.”
The scary incident served as inspiration for the Las Vegas heavy metal band’s video for the single “The Tragic Truth” off of its ninth studio album, “AfterLife.” Now, as the band is on tour in support of that record — with a stop scheduled at FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Aug. 24 with Megadeth, The Hu and Fire From the Gods — 5FDP guitarist Zoltan Bathory said he understands what Moody experienced.
Bathory shared during a recent interview that he’s also faced a brush or two with death. He’s now open to talking about it since the new album deals in part with this unique experience that he and Moody share. The album includes the song “Judgment Day,” which Bathory said he approached with the idea of creating “a soundtrack to the process of dying.”
His first near-death experience happened when he was just 12-years-old. He grabbed onto the back of a truck that passed by while out on the street riding his bicycle and it began to pick up speed. His bike began shaking and when he looked down to see if his chain had broken, the truck suddenly stopped.
“I just plowed into the truck,” he said. “The next thing that happened is I heard an explosion, or I thought I heard an explosion. I spent some time trying to find it.”
He soon realized he was having an out-of-body experience.
“It was really weird,” he recalled. “Then the next thing, I sit up, and I’m sitting in a pool of blood and all of these people are around me. I’m sitting up and going ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’”
Bathory said the bystanders tried to help him and were shocked that he was alive. He insisted he was OK, picked up his bike and went home. He had a second similar experience as an adult.
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“When you have a near-death experience, a really bizarre thing happens,” he said, adding that first and foremost, you’re aware that you’re dying and perception becomes multi-directional.
“Humans are very linear because we think in a linear way,” he continued. “We’re born and we die at some point and I would think the in between is sequential. So, we are tied to this timeline and that’s how we think … in the process of death, that goes away. Somehow time stops. It’s almost like your mind goes up from 10 percent to 100 percent activity and you can remember everything you ever thought at the same time.”
The second thing that one experiences is a bit scarier, he admits.
“Your perception collapses on yourself,” he said. “You realize in the moment that everything you ever heard or looked at wasn’t real. It wasn’t real because everything that you see, you’re not actually seeing that.”
In that process, he insists, “you realize that everything that ever happened, that you ever experienced, happened within your mind because that’s where it was assembled. And that’s a scary moment because at that moment, you start questioning if anything is real and if you’re alone completely … and I wanted to put that in a song.”
Bathory then wrote the music for “Judgement Day” and passed it along to Moody.
“I gave the song to Ivan to write the lyrics,” Bathory recalled, hoping that the content would resonate with his bandmate. “He freaked out. He said ‘I’m not writing this song. I don’t want to [relive it].’ He immediately got it. ‘I’ve been there. I know what this is. When I die, this is what happens.’”
Eventually, Bathory said that Moody remembered that he was actually at peace in those brief minutes when he was dying and he completed the lyrics. With that, the “AfterLife” album was complete. Bathory said the band, which includes Moody, bassist Chris Kael, drummer Charlie Engen and lead guitarist Andy James, had taken an anything goes attitude when it came to writing and recording the new album.
“By our eighth record, we’d established who we are and how we sound,” he said. “We could create a record that’s sort of unexpected. We could create a record that’s probably the most diverse of any of the records we’ve ever made. This is our favorite record, probably the deepest one [lyrically] and the most complex. Yet, it sounds like us. That’s the best part.”
While the band is out with its visually elaborate stage show and certainly the biggest production of its 15-year career, Bathory said fans can expect the hits, but won’t hear many of the new songs just yet.
“When you put in new stuff that people are not familiar with, it changes the vibe,” he said. “That sort of puts a break into the set; That moment everybody stops. They can’t sing along because they don’t know the song and they have to kind of watch what it is. You can put in new songs, but you have to be careful and you have to be very smart where you put them in the set.”
Five Finger Death Punch
With: Megadeth, The Hu and Fire From the Gods
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24
Where: FivePoint Amphitheatre, 14800 Chinon, Irvine
Tickets: $29.50-$202.50 at LiveNation.com