Released: 2008, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The late nineties were a dead zone for metal but thanks to bands like Korn, the rise and fall of the nu-metal movement left some shred of hope for heavy music fans willing to look past the ludicrous images and cookie-cutter acts that flooded the market. From the mostly forgettable pack of nu-metal has-beens and never-wases, the biggest band to have emerged and evolved while the rest fizzled out is Slipknot. Equally loved and reviled, the nine-piece band from Des Moines, Iowa made a major impact on the music industry with their self-titled record in 1999. Combining downtuned metal riffs with rap, samples and an unbelievable trio of percussionists, that record remains a frighteningly heavy landmark release to this day. While its follow-up, 2001’s IOWA, was a more slickly-produced and varied release, the raw aggression of SLIPKNOT began to pave way for greater use of melodies and more intricate songwriting, culminating with 2004’s VOL. 3 – THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES. Produced by Rick Rubin, that record featured a watered-down version of Slipknot that catered more to the masses with MTV-ready singles “Vermillion,” “Duality” and “Before I Forget.” Along the way, the band’s fans (affectionately known as “maggots”) followed and grew in numbers but for me, this "Slipknot-lite” really turned me off. “(Sic)”…“Eyeless”…“People = Shit”…THAT is the Slipknot I want to hear, thank you very much.
So now we have ALL HOPE IS GONE, Slipknot’s fourth “official” studio album and there is a definite parity once again. Vocalist Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root have their modern rock side project, Stone Sour, that has met with phenomenal success and the melodic tendencies of that band have really begun to creep into the music of Slipknot. For every face-ripping anthem of misanthropy on the new record, there is an equally commercial and hit-friendly song. Maybe the band is seeking approval from both factions of its fanbase or perhaps, and more realistically, as the band members hit their early- to mid-thirties, that aggressive spark is beginning to burn out, but ALL HOPE IS GONE is undoubtedly a Slipknot record through and through and one that is not likely to slow the momentum of this behemoth of Midwestern metal one bit.
The first “real” song, “Gematria (The Killing Name),” explodes with apocalyptic fury and is sure to be a live set staple with its mantra-like chorus and blazing guitar solo. Hitting their melodic stride with tracks like the infectious “Sulfur” and the swaggering groove of “Psychosocial,” fans will surely be reciting Taylor’s cleanly sung choruses long after hearing them. “Dead Memories” and “Child of Burning Time” are modern rock gems with soaring choruses and more than a passing similarity to Stone Sour’s radio-friendly sound. “Vendetta” bounces along on an irresistible beat and Joey Jordison’s relentless double bass drumming (this guy is truly one of metal’s most truly skilled timekeepers). The band has to be credited with going way out on a limb with the ballad “Snuff.” Featuring acoustic guitar and an overall vibe that draws many parallels with Stone Sour’s ridiculously popular hit, “Bother,” the song could be accepted as a more mature turn or cast off as too mellow for Slipknot’s misanthropic legions. The title track is the antithesis of ear-pleasing harmony and hearkens back to the band’s early days with pummeling riffs, a fiery guitar solo and Taylor’s venomous vocal delivery.
In a strange twist of fate, the first half of ALL HOPE IS GONE is almost flawless, ranking among the band’s best material. The second half—beginning with “Butcher’s Hook”—really goes into a tailspin, though. That song, with its off-time tempo, and “This Cold Black” are limp attempts to harness any shred of antagonism that Slipknot could seemingly wring out at every turn on their first two records. Taylor’s falsetto crooning on “Gehenna” is so laughably bad, one has to wonder if this song is some inside joke meant to incite fans’ impotent rage on the message boards. While available only on the special edition of ALL HOPE IS GONE, a totally worthless remix of “Vermillion” from VOL. 3 – THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES and the droning "‘Til We Die" do little to heighten the momentum lost as the album winds down. Quite simply, there is very little material found beyond Track Six to get excited about and certainly nothing memorable, at least not in a good way.
There is little doubt that any review—good or bad—will change anyone’s opinion of Slipknot at this point. Metal fans unwilling to let down their guard and accept there is more to heavy music than power and death metal never gave this band any respect to begin with and the unwavering loyalty of the “maggots” will eat up just about anything Slipknot delivers without batting an eye. So where does ALL HOPE IS GONE fit into the general scope of Slipknot releases? Well, it certainly is a major step up from the largely-forgettable VOL. 3 – THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES but it never captures the ferocity of SLIPKNOT, either. Basically, the new record is a continuation of where IOWA left off, combining unbridled intensity with forays into more mature songwriting that, like it or not, brings in major influences from outside projects. When this record cooks, goddamnit the band is fierce, but there is just as much deadwood and flaccid moments that end up weighing things down. Nothing will ever top Slipknot’s debut album in these eyes—I still reach for it several times a year—but ALL HOPE IS GONE is a viable notch in the masked nine’s collective bedpost.
KILLER KUTS: “Gematria (The Killing Name),” “Sulfur,” “Psychosocial,” “Dead Memories,” “Vendetta,” “All Hope Is Gone,” “Child of Burning Time”