Sound — 8
The members of Slipknot have ventured off to various side projects over the past few years, so it was inevitable that we might hear a slight change in any fresh material that might come afterward. And considering that we have to add in the fact that Slipknot's new album, All Hope Is Gone, was the first time that the songwriting was truly a collaborative process, the resulting product is surprisingly a solid album that goes to extremes on both ends of the musical spectrum. While there are a few tracks that don't really go anywhere that interesting, the majority of All Hope Is Gone is full of brooding riffs and plenty of pounding double bass pedal.
The album begins with .execute., which sounds like a combo of static, muffled voices and feedback. It's not necessarily a song in the traditional sense (you can't necessarily make out any specific notes), but it definitely lures you in -- particularly when Joey Jordison enters in with building drum beats in solo-like fashion. It's a fascinating intro that makes for a nice transition into Gematria (The Killing Name), which is full of fantastic intro riffs in the intro and an intense breakdown about halfway through. It's a truly heavy song that mirrors the aggression heard on more than half of the record.
You may have already heard the first single from the album, Psychosocial, which is at it's best during the intro with it's chugging guitars and pinch harmonics. While the track does have radio appeal, there are tracks on All Hope Is Gone that do take the band's sound to a much more aggressive level. This Cold Black is one of the angriest tracks in the bunch, and packs a punch without even having to add in an abundance of double bass pedal or intricate solos. The winner of heaviest track, however, goes to the closer, All Hope Is Gone. That song brings Slipknot closer to being a thrash band more than anything, which is actually a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
Vocalist Corey Taylor walks the line between his persona in Slipknot and his side project Stone Sour, adding in his clean vocal style to a few of the tracks. Sulfur and Dead Memories do feature prominent parts with the clean style, but it's Snuff that turns out to be more of a ballad than anything. Taylor has never sounded better when he sings in a traditional manner, and it's not too surprising that Snuff was brought into the band pretty much as a finished song by Taylor. It fits Taylor, but the perfect match for the aggressive side of Slipknot comes in Gehenna. Although it's slow to build, Gehenna manages to still sound dark and evil amidst the clean vocals. When you add in the 1950's horror movie favorite sound effect/instrument, the theremin, it makes Gehenna one of the best tracks on All Hope Is Gone.
Lyrics — 8
Given the fact that so many of the tracks on the album are filled with menacing guitars and vocal growls, you might expect Slipknot to have a little venom in their lyrics. While All Hope Is Gone does features lyrics you do follow that line of thinking, you'll also find that the band focuses it's anger on not just abstract ideas. The title track points it's finger at the Bush administration with lyrics like, Fifty seconds, a hundred murders; The Bill of Rights is a bill of sale; What will you do when the war is over? What will you do when your systems fail? But this is more than just a political album, and apparently Taylor stated in an interview that All Hope Is Gone was a good avenue for bitching about what's wrong in life.
Overall Impression — 8
Given the fact that Slipknot's 4th album marked a few different milestones (namely the first time on a major label that they recorded in their home state of Iowa, the addition of producer Dave Fortman, and collaborative songwriting), it's perhaps not shocking that the end result would mark a musical change in direction as well. They take things to the next level in terms of both aggression and balladry. It's definitely a trip to hear Slipknot go from the melodic, laid-back Snuff to double bass extravaganza that is All Hope Is Gone. The band certainly explored various extremes on the new album, and they deserve credit for not maintaining the status quo.