Review Summary: Slipknots latest effort can be described best by one word - solid
It takes a few years for Slipknot to release an album these days, doesn’t it? I mean, it took them a while to release Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, but when they did it sparked even more popularity then their previous 2 albums did and saw them gaining significant airplay on rock stations worldwide. Then Corey Taylor and Jim Root found massive success with Stone Sour in 2006 while the other members of the ‘Knot for the most part remained dormant for a few years till things came together again. Slipknot have always been one of my favorite bands for having opened me up to metal in general, so when they announced the release date and title for their latest effort, I was more than ecstatic to hear it. When I picked up the record and gave it a first listen, I was more than impressed and thought it was better than anything they’ve ever done, but more recently it keeps growing on and off me. One of the things that stand out is the changes in their sound, which are worth noting from the start.
Something that has always been a trademark of the Slipknot sound has been the heavy onslaught that only a 9 piece metal band can put together. Once again the band proves they can make great (and sometimes crushing) metal by combining all the elements each member brings to the table. Vocalist Corey Taylor has changed his vocal style a bit; no doubt in attempt to make a more “brutal” record than Vol.3, but he also adds elements from Stone Sour into the mix this time as well. This is mostly seen on the chorus to “Psychosocial” and the very catchy hook of “Sulfur”. Some might see this as an attempt to become ore mainstream, but I think for the most part it serves the tracks well and doesn’t slow Slipknot down for making the music they are known for. His new style features a sort of growling technique that sounds like he mixed the vocal styles from “Iowa” and “Vol.3” into a new one. This can sometimes grow very annoying or can sound better than anything he’s done before. At concerts in support of this album he also uses this style which sometimes helps their live show sound better (having seen them myself on the 2008 Mayhem Tour last year). The guitars are also another stand out on this album. Jim Root and Mick Thomson experiment like they did on Vol.3, just not as much. “Dead Memories” features ambient and melodic guitars which compliment Taylor’s ‘Stone Sour-esque’ vocals quite well and has a great solo. “Vendetta” and “Sulfur” feature fast paced riffs and speed that Slipknot has been known to have in their songs, and “Snuff” is the best acoustic song they’ve ever written so far, being an instant album highlight.
Clown and Chris Fehn have an interesting part in the band, and they show it on this album as well. “Psychosocial” proves to be great in the area of drums and percussion, as the 2 back up Joey Jordison with banging on their custom toms and beer kegs to create a heavy beat to back up the grooving riffs of Root and Thomson. Joey Jordison also proves to be skilled drummer on this album if he hasn’t already…particularly on the opening track “Gematria (The Killing Name)”, which features blistering drum work and even a blast beat section which isn’t usually found in Slipknots music. It proves to surpass every song they have done in terms of heaviness, hitting harder than they ever have on an album opener. Paul Gray also sticks out on “Gehenna” which features a creepy and chilling bass line combined with creepy keyboard textures courtesy of Craig “133” Jones and a vocal performance from Taylor that proves to be one of his best on the album. Across the span of the 12 tracks, you will hear strong and weak points and a lot of different things Slipknot have tinkered with to add to their style.
Even though the album has a lot of strong points, it has one weak point that sticks out in particular – it simply doesn’t flow like an album. The album opens with an intro and hits hard with “Gematria” followed by 2 catchy songs (“Sulfur” and Psychosocial”), but then it flows into a heap of songs towards its middle and end that makes it sound like a bunch of random songs thrown together on a disc. This can be highly disappointing after a few listens, especially knowing that their previous work flowed a lot better and sounded like a band coming together and really giving it their all. That effort and passion just isn’t present here, making some of the songs (like “Butchers Hook”) sound almost mechanical as if the band were forced to perform a song and put it on an album without being into it. After “Dead Memories”, the album loses a huge amount of steam that is barely redeemed when “Snuff” comes in towards the end. Some of the songs, however, prove worthy of being the best the band has ever written, particularly the title track and “Snuff”. The former is an all out raging rant by Corey Taylor about politics and the world around us and has a vocal performance that actually sounds pretty heavy and has the band performing at their heaviest. The latter is a beautiful, depressing acoustic number which features Taylor pouring his damaged heart out onto a duo of very melodic and heartfelt guitars which reaches its peak when the whole band comes in at the end for an ending worth noting.
In the end, “All Hope Is Gone” could be described with one word – solid. The band experiments and mixes elements of all their albums into one, but sometimes it doesn’t succeed. It doesn’t sound like an album they put an enormous amount of effort into, and many maggots and fans out there might have expected more from them. It’s not as ‘old school’ and raw as the self-titled, it’s not as heavy and dark as “Iowa” and it’s not as consistent as “Vol.3” was. Hopefully it won’t be 5 years till the next album, because I’m sure a lot of people (myself included) are interested to see what they do next.