Review Summary: If multilayered macramé metal is your thing, buy or download "All Hope is Gone" now. Or else.
The hurried, pounding percussions that give way to deliberate, thumping drum beats are back. The screaming, cathartic, indiscernible vocals are back. The frantic, bleeding-fingertip guitar riffs are back. The screechy, scratching turntable samples are back.
The guys from Des Moines, Iowa are back.
Like beer or coffee, Slipknot's musical style is an acquired taste. Upon a first hearing, many would probably write it off as a cacophonous metal mishmash. But by third listen, one realizes that there might be something to this "angry music" after all, and after a fifth, if one hasn't sworn it off completely, he or she succumbs to an addiction.
A hardcore nu metal band with a mind-boggling nine members finding success? You bet your ashtray. And it's not because of the unique customized rubber-, leather-and-metal masks, which look like they came straight from a bondage and domination nightmare. Those are just disturbing. Seriously, how has sampler Craig Jones kept from impaling one of his bandmates onstage with his sea urchin-style mask adorned with foot-long steel nails?
Jokes aside, the distortion-metal visionaries released their fourth studio album with Roadrunner Records on Tuesday. "All Hope is Gone" combines the rawness of the 1999 self-titled debut album, the more mature and refined raucousness of 2001's "Iowa" and the brooding thrash metal extremities of 2004's "Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses)," throwing in some new twists like choral backgrounds and classic, arena-style slide-guitar solos. One doesn't have to be able to understand what frontman Corey Taylor is saying (which is fortunate, because it's fairly impossible about 75 percent of the time) to know that he is angry about something. Very, very angry. Let's just say it's a miracle that fans of the masters of mosh pit mayhem haven't broken necks and dislocated shoulders engaging in the obligatory headbanging and fist pumping this music warrants. Then again, maybe some have.
But take a closer look at lyrics from the "All Hope is Gone" songs (graciously provided within the CD booklet) and more often than not, listeners will find profound and relatable epiphanies, such as "I was gonna change the world with honor and aggression/No one listened, no one cared/All they saw was misdirection" and "You'll never censor me/You better cherish me/My reason has a voice/Freedom's gone but we'll always have a choice" from seventh track "Butcher's Hook." And who doesn't want to impress their friends by memorizing lines and being able to keep up with Taylor's speed-screaming verses? Then again, there are less-than-insightful statements like "Meningitis/I will survive this/Dry Sockets and a Schizophrenic Crisis" from "Gematria (The Killing Name)." First single and standout track "Psychosocial" finds Taylor injecting one of his catchy and surprisingly good signature melodic choruses into the chaos ("And the rain will kill us all…/Throw ourselves against the wall/But no one else can see the preservation of the martyr in me").
Not even Slipknot is immune to the sweeping dissentient war-commentary song trend that musicians have been embracing over the past couple of years, as shown by appropriately titled album opener ".epidemic.," an ill-tempered observation on "THE MAN" and the state of the nation ("Some have fought and died. Others have allowed the strong to be butchered for a price they themselves don't care about and will never understand."). In fact, the album itself has an overall anti-establishment, society-bashing theme to it, which is somewhat of a departure from Taylor's past inward-focused emotional rants. Sixth track "Vendetta" channels Marilyn Manson's song style through a repetitive choral anthem background and overly simplistic repetitive chorus inquiry, "Are you ready for the time of your life." The album isn't without its low points, though. Track eight, "Gehenna," has dragging, bass-y, melancholy tones that just seem out of place with the feverish pace of the rest of the album. This deviation is somewhat understandable (if unforgiveable), given Taylor's and guitarist James Root's hiatus between albums to compose music with side project and alt-emo rock band Stone Sour.
With its latest aural offering, Slipknot spares the soul but not the ears. Those, it invades, rips from the head, puts through an industrial tumble dryer's heavy cycle, then chews up and spits out before returning. It's a perfect respite for one of "those" days when one feels the need to close the bedroom door, crank the stereo up to 30 and punch the stuffing out of a pillow. Twenty years from now, Slipknot will be like KISS: the type of music your kids write off as "lame" and make fun of you for liking. But for now, the long-awaited "All Hope is Gone" is a godsend for those of us who like ticked-off, frantic metal music. Those who find it pointless noise need not waste the money.