Ah, Slipknot. A band that I spent so long in denying my enjoyment of just because at my age you feel that it just isn’t….right. But, despite being nearly twenty and always making a conscientious effort to find music that stimulates me in many different ways (calm down), I just can’t deny my enjoyment of the odd spin of some Slipknot material. despite their target audience being considered as thirteen year old kids who hate their parents because they smile and wake them up in the morning. This is, of course, bollocks, because at the end of the day Slipknot in the past have been pretty good fun, despite the overplayed novelty of masks and copious band members.
But that was the past, and this is the now. ‘All Hope Is Gone‘ is the Iowa band’s fourth release (yes maggots, I know about the shitty ‘mate.feed.kill.repeat.‘. I’m not counting it.). Their last album brought a lot of mixed comments about it. Outsiders praised vocalist Corey Taylor‘s melodic moments that broke up the mayhem, and yet those ‘fans’ were repulsed at the thought of an acoustic track making an appearance on a Slipknot album. “Where’s the brutal FFS”, they cried.
But Vol.3 was a great leap for the band in my opinion. More credibility could be bestowed upon them as the band had seemed to realise that ‘heavy’ music was not just about shredding your vocal chords down a microphone and bashing dustbin lids constantly. Maybe, just maybe, the guys had to give in to their advancing years, and their settling family lives. The Slipknot brand was always going to change kids, so have they taken things further with ‘All Hope Is Gone’?
Things begin just as you would expect them to – an album intro that has Corey Taylor screaming away in the distance amongst a fuzzy noise, a similar effect to the early parts of ‘Pulse of the Maggots‘ before going straight into the first proper track, ‘Gematria (The Killing Name)‘. It’s token Slipknot, Taylors vocals spitting venom about the American war machine (an effort to get their younger fan base into politics? Is it bollocks, just another tired tirade against Bush’s administration), guitars shredding with the appropriate chug to riff ration that would encourage any neer’do’well to jump around and get physical.
This fun side of the ‘knot plays out for the first few tracks. Lead single ‘Psychosocial‘ initially prompts a cringe as you hear the whispered namesake filling out the song, but despite it’s generic sound you can’t help but get into the chaos as Taylor continues his rampage. He spits fast on this record, for the most part sounding pretty unintelligible, which only adds to the rage that Slipknot seemed to have re-embraced.
Naturally, guitarist Jim Root and Taylor’s now fairly successful side-project Stonesour has without a doubt influenced the Slipknot sound. ‘Sulphur‘ has a melodic air to it, tugging you through the bitter metaphors and later track ‘Dead Memories‘ wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Stonesour’s debut with its quieter guitars and stronger focus on Taylors singing voice. The trouble is, it doesn’t quite work on this album. The whole poppy ballad sounds far too forced, clearly being written to be that song that gets them more mainstream radio play and invites an older generation to experience them, ala Muse with ‘Starlight‘. It’s too flowery, too perfect to really find a place here and the sound rears its head again later on in the album in the form of ‘Snuff‘, an aptly titled track that kills all the flow of the second half of All Hope Is Gone, and in doing so is surely set to become the anthem for unappreciated, unloved teenagers all across the world.
Having mentioned Stonesour, there is one really massive noticeable difference between the two bands. Although the song-writing has become more refined and organised since the side-project, it would seem that it is down to Joey Jordison’s much acclaimed drumming skills to take away the spotlight from the Stonesour influence. You’d think the band are well aware of this as well – on quieter volumes the drums really swamp the sound and never let up, as tribal as ever, and when turned up the sheer groove and rumble from his kit really pads out the music with a very big noise.
What else? Well, ‘Vendetta‘ suffers for the terrible use of chanted “oi’s” in the background, a lame attempt at giving the new songs some easy familiarity with live audiences, ‘Butcher’s Hook‘ struggles to really find a place in your head, with Taylor’s pretty generic lyrics (I don’t want you anymore/I don’t need you anymore) just coming across as a tired phone in and ‘Gehenna‘ takes Taylor’s softer, melodic vocals to a state of brain aching cheesiness (I don’t want to ruin things, but there are oooh’s) and a step by step, made for Guitar Hero, solo.
The title track closes the album in a monstrous fashion, avoiding the quiet recooperating hush of Vol.3’s ‘Danger Keep Away‘, instead going for all out festering anger. It’s a brilliant tune that is definietely going to see it’s fair share of radio play, but as an album closer it doesn’t really work, given the sudden jump in pace from ‘Snuff‘ it jars, and the roars of “all hope is gone” aren’t given enough time to really embed themselves into your heart, failing to really invigorate your senses in a rebellious manner as is probably hoped for.
Overall, the album has mixed results. Developing the sound of Slipknot was never going to be a revolution in itself, and Taylor and co. are more than aware that there is little to no freedom for experimenting in a mainstream market that demands a certain thing from this band, hence the side projects. However, it’s said side-project that seems to have amalgamated itself into it’s big daddy, and the resulting album ends up sounding like a collection of ticked boxes of worn ideas. Then again, whatever I say is negligible, given that all those thirteen year olds have already forced mummy to buy the special edition CD from Asda. Such is the rule of blind faith.