Most bands, no matter who they are, end up putting out a record somewhere along the line that doesn’t quite hit the mark. When it comes to Slipknot, that record is All Hope Is Gone.
Released in late summer 2008, it’s the last to feature the classic Slipknot line-up, coming as it did two years before the tragic death of Paul Gray and five before Joey Jordison was booted out.
I remember it being a big deal when it came out. Then again, when is a Slipknot album not a big deal? But it certainly didn’t stick like the rest of their back catalogue. For the first time as a fan of the band I didn’t immediately push play as soon as my first listen ended. I didn’t even both going to see them on the accompanying UK tour to promote the record.
A number of things were different on All Hope Is Gone. It’s the first album the band actually recorded in Iowa, and it saw all nine members actively involved in the writing process. You can hear the band pushing themselves musically, but perhaps losing their way a bit on the actual songwriting front in the process.
Reading up on its production, you don’t have to look far to find disagreements over the success of this record. Corey Taylor says it’s his least favourite. Jim Root hated the production but Joey Jordison loved it. I guess that’s always going to be a by-product of a band with nine members.
The album, naturally, was a critical and commercial success, topping the Billboard 200 in the US for the first time in the band’s career and giving them the platform from which they could step up to the role of Download Festival headliner, which they did in some style in 2009.
But, for me, it barely made a dent at the time, particularly as a follow-up to the magnificent Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). Going back to it now, my reaction is much the same.
Don’t get me wrong: there are some outstanding, world-beating songs on this album. ‘Gematria (The Killing Name)’ is every bit as brutal as you’d want from a Slipknot album opener. ‘Pyschosocial’ is the brilliant big hit single that everyone knows and ‘Dead Memories’ has a hook the size of a continent. ‘Sulfur’ and ‘Snuff’ are two of the best songs this band has ever written.
The problem, to be blunt, is the rest of this album. It sounds like a band trying too hard to show off their skills at the detriment of writing big, catchy riffs and hooks. There is so much going on here. It is so dense. But it’s mainly without much reward for the listener.
There is also far too much fat on All Hope Is Gone. If ever a record needed a producer not afraid to say “No!”, this is it. Take ‘Butcher’s Hook’, for instance, which is an absolute waste of a decent riff, or ‘Wherein Lies Continue’, which is just ploddy.
However, the real villain of the piece here is ‘Gehenna’. Is it Slipknot’s worst song, by some distance? Yes. Yes it is.
What the band and their PR machine hyped up as experimentation on All Hope Is Gone was actually just a lack of self-control. The result is the weird dichotomy of it being Slipknot’s shortest album, while feeling like their longest.
The only real experimental songs here were saved as bonus tracks for the special edition.
Listening back 11 years on to ‘Child Of Burning Time’ and ‘Til We Die’, they’re actually two of the most interesting songs here and it’s a shame they didn’t make the original line-up.
Now, all this isn’t to shit on All Hope Is Gone. It’s a perfectly decent album and, for some bands, it’s better than they can ever dream of.
But, for Slipknot, it’s simply OK. And who wants an OK Slipknot album when we know what they’re capable of?
All Hope Is Gone came out in 2008 on Roadrunner Records.