Review Summary: "All Hope Is Gone" is good... but not good enough.
Slipknot have been evolving since their self-titled record and the changes are evident on every release. "Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses" was a huge step for the band, incorporating solos and softer numbers into their repertoire instead of sticking to the age old Nu Metal formula of open, one, three, four, open... very simplistic riffing that goes for heaviness instead of substance (something that the Deathcore bands of today have decided to embrace). With "All Hope Is Gone" we are faced with a very different Slipknot. This is a record that rocks back and forth between a more extreme approach and the commercial success of their last album.
When the intro track begins you are, no doubt, listening to the band that wrote "(SIC)" and "Eye Less". When "Gematria (The Killing Name)" kicks in you are somewhat taken aback by just how much the band has progressed over their career. Blast beats and harmonics are utilized throughout and the notion of better song writing nullifies the idea that you are listening to the same band that has been notorious among Metal circles for quite some time. The solos rival that of anything Necrophagist has done and you can't help but feel like they are breaking new ground, but instead of sticking to this harder, faster, obliterate all that gets in the way attitude, the album becomes less consistent as you keep listening. Numbers like "Dead Memories" and "Sulfur" seem somewhat lackluster after processing the rest of the effort and it isn't helped by Corey Taylor's clean vocals which have almost no place in the band unless they are utilized as a chorus instead of the whole way through on some of the songs.
One of the most disappointing songs I have heard from this would have to be "Butcher's Hook". There is absolutely nothing that helps out this futile endeavor other than the guitars which are following a strange time signature. One of the main problems I have with this release is it's somewhat annoying attention to repeating a riff or chorus way too many times. Variation is almost non-existent and it sounds like Slipknot is getting caught up on the commercial ideal instead of focusing on the more extreme nature of the other material like "Wherein Lies Continue", "Gematria (The Killing Name)", and "All Hope Is Gone". Even when listening to one of my favorite tracks of the album, "Snuff", I can't shake the feeling that I'm listening to Stone Sour. Instead of leaning towards the radio and the fickle generation which will buy almost anything placed in front of them, Slipknot should have dived into the more obscure area of Metal, dishing out the insane guitar riffing that both Mick Thompson and Jim Root are capable of, considering they are both guitar teachers. They were so close and ended up so far away from their own sound. It's almost as if Corey Taylor has encompassed this as his own project, which isn't a far fetched idea, after hearing his croon on most of the songs, no screaming, killing the intensity of what should be "All Hope Is Gone".
Did I mention that the lyrics are ultra-lame? "America is a killing name. It doesn't feel, it discriminates". It seems that they have decided to take the soapbox so many other people have decided to stand on with no real plan to change anything. I have never been a fan of bands that bitch about politics (considering most of these bands are protected by government) and these guys are no exception. As good as the riffing may be in "Gematria (The Killing Name)", the lyrics are terrible and hold no place in the artistry. This is most of the record. The lyrics are awful and stop you from taking "All Hope Is Gone" seriously. This is the same problem I've had with most of Slipknot's releases.
When it comes down to the musicianship, as a whole it is very good. The only thing that slays this notion are the badly written lyrics ("I will never survive with dead memories in my heart"). These are lines that have no place in Slipknot and defile their already soiled reputation (thanks to Hot Topic shoppers everywhere). "All Hope Is Gone" is the right direction that Slipknot should be taking but the album as a whole should remove Corey Taylor from it's ranks. He is the pitfall of the record and should stop writing lyrics directed towards a teenage audience. It's time to grow up Slipknot. So close... and still so far away.