I really don't know why I have picked up this album out of the sea which is currently my list to review. It is not the most important on the list if I'm totally honest and it is not as if I have been hankering to hear it for a while (or since it first came out). But today all of a sudden after the last review I have just had an urge to listen to the masked eighteen legged (currently fourteen after recent leavings and passing’s) metal monster that is Slipknot. I did not want their first albums though, I wanted this one and I am trying to figure out why. When this album came out in 2008 it was hailed as a return to form for the band and was a hit around the world again. In America it made number one whilst in the UK it made number two which for a metal act is still a very big deal indeed. Coming of the dark (even for them) 'Volume 3: (The Subluminal Verses)' which was produced by Rick Rubin in LA, 'All Hope Is Gone' is a different beast. The band recorded the album in Iowa so they would not be distracted and was produced with Dave Fortman (who is the guitarist from Ugly Kid Joe (never thought I would write that name in a review about Slipknot)) and Chris Vrenna who is best known for his work with Nine Inch Nails & Marylin Manson.
Starting with noise building sample filled ".execute." the album proper starts with the hooked filled "Gematria (The Killing Name)" which is your typical Slipknot album opening track - heavy blast beats, riffs raining down all around and Corey Taylor sounding extremely pissed off indeed. In fact it is probably the best opening track since "Eyeless" from their debut studio recording. Next up is "Sulfur" which continues with a brilliant opening, but it seems to lose its way at some point, maybe it is the fact that the clean vocals come out too early in the tracks, maybe it is because the chorus is not as strong as they opening blast beat cauldron of noise lead by drummer boys Jordison, Crahan and Fehn and the vamperic riffs of Thomson and Root give way to Stone Sour dull mindless; one track good, one track meh.
Following on is "Psychosocial" which shows how to mix the heavy and soulful vocal of Taylor to perfection. This was the lead single for the band and it is easy to see why it was chosen to be honest. Whilst it might be a little by the numbers, it is a strong showcase of all the things that go on when the band is playing with the noises of all members making it to the forefront. After this the band shows their more melodic side with "Dead Memories". Slipknot have always had this moment, slightly slower and showing that they have one of the more rounded vocalists in the world. "Dead Memories" is a really good song, but after hearing Mr Taylor bare his heart in Stone Sour I quite often feel that this could make Slipknot a more vicious prospect; yet it is not to be for some reason. But I can dream....as the song "Vendetta" starts to send me a little bored to be honest. Nothing wrong with the song per say, but it feels like a bad Marilyn Manson song. It just seems like it is trying to do that bad ass stomp but it does even get close to what it is aiming for.
"Butcher's Hook" is a bit better, more of a technical song in the line "Before I Forget" but without that massive chorus. It is a great little number and it is another positive for an album that so far has been very Jekyll and Hyde at best so far. Then they go for a slow and haunting slaughter with "Gehenna" which almost makes the album come more alive, but again Taylor goes for the clear vocal when that shred would have been more perfect in the chorus at times. Croon only when it is needed and in moderations, because when done too much (especially on this type of album) the results can sound that side of lame. "This Cold Black" goes back on the attack and is one of the highlights of the album - much more menacing and full of venom; what I would expect from a Slipknot album.
Entering the final quarter of the album we come to "Wherein Lies Continue" which is a lot more sludge like, has the clean vocals but used in the right way and is a great show of what they can do when they are focused on their collective games. Afterwards "Snuff" is a stark contrast to the last few tracks and is another attempt at their softer side and sounding as mournful, building towards a heavier ending and a very good solo. I do feel this could have been left for one of their side projects, but I cannot deny it is a good song. Just out of place on this album for my tastes in Slipknot. Ending the album is the bleak and desolate title track which brings back the heavy riffs, the blast beats and the feeling like they want to destroy everything in the world and not sound like a teenage diary. There are also a few versions of this album with a few bonus tracks, but I am going to just keep it to the album if truth be known.
Overall this album can be described in one word - bipolar. It is trying to please two sets of fans - the fans of Slipknot and the fans of the side projects. Now, you can be a fan of both things but when it comes down to it you will pick one over the other. This album wants to show each one of its creators strengths (and to highlight the vocal range of Corey Taylor); but by doing that very act and not just trying to make a brutal record they come across as a split personality. It does not make much sense at the best and with Joey Jordison now out of Slipknot and the sad passing of Paul Gray, you have to wonder if their next album (if there is on) will favour one of these over the other and to be honest I can only see them going for a more melodic angle. It would be a shame as when these guys have it fighting on all cylinders, no one can stop them; on this album they just feel slightly lost. Now I see why I left it for so long.
5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
Top track - Psychosocial
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Slipknot website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is a live version of Psychosocial