Music News & Reviews

Playing Rupp a dream come true for Lexington native in Five Finger Death Punch

Lexington native Chris Kael, center, and, from left, Five Finger Death Punch bandmates Jason Hook, Ivan Moody, Zoltan Bathory and Jeremy Spencer.
Lexington native Chris Kael, center, and, from left, Five Finger Death Punch bandmates Jason Hook, Ivan Moody, Zoltan Bathory and Jeremy Spencer.

It is to Chris Kael's continuing good fortune that what happened in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas.

A Lexington native, newly wed and bass guitarist who hoped to have a big axe to grind in the rock world, Kael headed to Los Angeles to pursue his musical dreams. What he ran into was Las Vegas and the metal band that not only changed his life but now is bringing him back to his hometown for a headline gig at the arena where Kael saw his first concert.

"I got married, and the wife and I wanted to move out to L.A. so I could pursue music," said Kael, who performs Friday at Rupp Arena as a member of Five Finger Death Punch. "But when we blew into Vegas, we just fell in love with the city — the gaudiness, the tackiness, the bright lights, the fast living. So we decided to stay here. I figured if I lived here, I could bartend and then drive out to L.A. to do auditions. But luckily, Death Punch moved to Las Vegas from L.A.

"So what happened, really, was I was able to come out here to pursue the dream and didn't even have to go to L.A. Not too shabby."

A graduate of Lafayette High School, a one-time disc jockey at WRFL-FM (hosting the Monday night metal music show) and a member of such early '90s local bands as Cut Love Kill, Kael describes playing Rupp as "my bucket list dream come true."

"The first concert I went to was at Rupp Arena," he said. "It was Cinderella, Winger and Bullet Boys (in 1989). Living in Lexington, we've got Kentucky basketball and Rupp Arena, and I'm a huge fan of both. To come back home and not only play Rupp Arena, but playing as a headlining act is incredible.

"God, when was the last time I played in Lexington? It had to be JDI (the original Jefferson Davis Inn at South Limestone and West High, just down the street from Rupp). To go from JDI to Rupp Arena, that's crazy."

The celebration doesn't end there. The Rupp performance — which also features Papa Roach, In This Moment and From Ashes to New — falls on the release day of Five Finger Death Punch's sixth and newest album, Got Your Six. The band previewed the recording over the summer with the single Jekyll & Hyde, but Kael said the album is the most aggressive-sounding work the band has cut since he joined in 2011.

"We were looking at our live set as we were doing the last couple of tours and we've had the monster slower songs like The Wrong Side of Heaven and Remember Everything, things along that line," he said. "So we feel like we have created a pretty solid catalog of that sort of thing. We really wanted to bring some energy back to the set for this tour with Papa Roach. So we decided to write some more uptempo stuff, kind of four-on-the-floor stomp songs. We wanted some real heavy arena type stuff. That was the vibe we were going for on this one. We were trying to get away from the lighter fare and get back into heavier rock."

The release of an album and a homecoming show on the same day? For Kael, life as a rocker doesn't get any sweeter.

"We're touring the world, going to different places I never thought I would play," he said. "I've been able to stand in the middle of Red Square and be recognized by fans in Russia. I mean to come to this notoriety in Five Finger Death Punch represents everything that, back in the day in Lexington, a 13-year-old me was dreaming about."