Slipknot traffic in horror-show theatrics – on stage dressed in their fright masks and backed by the swirling energy of the band’s nine members, it can be a jaw-dropping, cathartic experience. On album, though, the band’s songs can feel monolithic without the accompanying visuals. Such is the case with All Hope Is Gone, Slipknot’s fourth record, an occasionally brilliant merging of metal riffs and melodic hooks that too often relies on generically nihilistic lyrics and unvaried musical arrangements to push across its pessimistic worldview.
Drowning in Doom
Put simply, All Hope Is Gone’s 12 songs pursue all the different ways in which life sucks. Instead of delving into specifics, Slipknot, led by frontman Corey Taylor, prefer an all-encompassing lyrical gloom that perhaps feels more universal but can also come across as lazy. Taylor will let fly with a line like “The Bill of Rights is a bill of sale” on the furious title track, but imagine how much more biting the attack would be if the band better articulated their agony. All Hope Is Gone comes at a time when the United States is embroiled in war, scarred by terrorism and suffering through a crippling economic downturn, but while the album’s spitting-mad discontent obliquely references topical concerns, Slipknot seem to be capitalizing on that pent-up frustration rather than saying something meaningful about it.
But even if Taylor’s lyrics are disappointingly vague, the way he sings them is consistently impressive. By now, Taylor’s vocal approach is pretty established – a demonic growl that sporadically shifts into actual singing when the moment calls for it – but the technique remains effective. “Psychosocial” is the best vehicle on All Hope Is Gone to showcase his abilities, as Taylor barks the angry verses before easing up for the melodic chorus. Few people do rage as well as he does, but his regular singing voice manages to maintain its aggression without sacrificing tunefulness – a delicate balancing act.
Atmospheric but Problematic
Musically, Slipknot are only moderately successful when they go for complex, dark arrangements on All Hope Is Gone. Straightforward metal tunes like “Butcher’s Hook” and “Gehenna” are rich in atmospherics, but sonically they’re just not very memorable. No question that these headlong assaults are the band’s bread and butter – and on “Gematria (The Killing Name),” Slipknot continue to produce great cage-rattlers – but on the whole they’re not the highlight of All Hope Is Gone, feeling more obligatory than inspired.
Digging Deep on Relationship Songs
Interestingly, relationship songs offer some of the biggest surprises on All Hope Is Gone. On “Snuff” and “Dead Memories,” Taylor takes a moment from addressing society’s corruption to look into his own dark heart. “Dead Memories” is mid-tempo hard rock that seems geared to mainstream radio with its pared-down riffs and Taylor’s emotive singing. And then there’s “Snuff,” a creepy acoustic number that has an appealingly exhausted tone to it. All Hope Is Gone makes the loudest racket yelling about the world’s problems, but it strikes deepest when it focuses on Taylor’s relatable woes.
Release date – August 26, 2008