Review Summary: Slipknot tries to go back to their roots while pulling as far away from them as possible. It is not entirely successful.
What happens when a band carves itself deeply in the womb of a passing fad? What happens when a band who has always fit inside of a niche tries to evolve beyond the trend yet still remain faithful to their established sound? Slipknot's All Hope is Gone
happens. To put it plainly, the album is greatly evincive of an identity crisis. In an interview with ArtistDirect¹, founding bassist Paul Gray remains seemingly sure of himself as both a metalhead and a metal musician. In the interview, Gray constantly reminds the reader that he saw Iron Maiden in 1984 and that at age 36, he's comfortable with himself, his music and his legitimacy--what ever that means. And yet when Gray opens up and rants, "I'm not going to be told by some teenybopper motherfuck
er that we're 'Mall metal'," there's a palpable sense of worry and uncertainty in his words. No matter how many times he tries to hide it ("we're playing in front of 20,000 people every night. Slipknot's bigger than ever"), Gray--and Slipknot as a whole---is ultimately still looking to be accepted. And it shows; All Hope is Gone comes off like a band testing the waters of what works and what doesn't; it comes off like a band attempting to prove themselves unexemplary of a long-dead fad; moreover, it comes off like a band so unsure of what they need to do to be accepted that they ultimately decide to do as much as they can. Sadly, it doesn't work.
In keeping with Shawn Crahan's repertoire of goofy, Bungle-esque clown masks, All Hope is Gone
is a veritable loot bag of metal stylings. But as it so typically goes with loot bags, there is something for everyone but it's ultimately just a bunch of random shit
thrown together. Stick your hand in and you're first greeted with the nu-thrash stylings of "Gematria (The Killing Name)". Go in for seconds and you end up with the rhythmic, shape-shifting "Butcher's Hook". So it goes. Slipknot is now trying to grow up in hopes of re-uniting with their original core fanbase, and they're trying to do it while retaining enough of their original sound to let nostalgia play into the equation. It's a struggle; the band is pulling in two different directions -- back to their roots but as far from they as possible -- and they're tearing at the seams. As a result, the band abandons their DJ and Samplist almost entirely yet Corey Taylor is somehow as childishly pissed off as ever. It's hardly a fair trade-off.
All Hope is Gone
is not a bad album. Instead it's an overly varied collection of songs that don't fit together. It's not just a bit of Iowa
with a pinch of Stone Sour; it's all that plus some Lamb of God, some Meshuggah and even a dab of Kreator. It's so varied and stylistically self-conflicted that it ends up being mixtape fodder more than anything. Beyond that, it fails to remain with one idea long enough to make the listener care. Regardless of whether it's concerning the variety of styles or the general lack of hooks, All Hope is Gone
isn't an album you'll want to listen to a lot. Very few of the riffs stick with you and as noted, the hooks just aren't there. While it's not without its obvious highlights, All Hope is Gone
feels too much like a demo with professional production values to make me recommend it as an album. For maggots and the nostalgic only.