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All Hope Is Gone

Roadrunner (2008)
Rating: 6.5/10

In 1998 one of the oddest bands of the last few decades burst into the mainstream with the hit ‘Wait And Bleed’. Hailing from the Midwest (Iowa to be specific) Slipknot seemingly came from nowhere to scare the MTV generation by wearing Halloween masks, boasting a nine-member band, and playing a twisted form of heavy music that landed squarely between what bands like Korn were doing and what was going on in the more extreme music underground.

Over the years the band has gotten heavier, angrier and weirder looking, while selling millions of albums and building a devoted fanbase of dejected teenagers worldwide.

Notorious for the long spans of time between albums, Slipknot returns quickly this time with an album that is likely going to disappoint those who are uncomfortable with the band’s relative happiness these days. Basically, if you thought Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004) was too commercial for your tastes, then stay far away from All Hope is Gone. On the other hand, if you like the less scary and more melodic version of Slipknot that first appeared around 2005 then All Hope is Gone is going to make you very, very happy.

For their fourth album the band fully embrace the melodic aspect of their music. The songs are backed by the band’s typically dark and expressive lyrics yet there is a measure of hope in each one, lending the title of the album a sarcastic tone when all is said and done. The first scent of change in the air is ‘Gematria (The Killing Name)’. The song is the album’s proper kick-off and balances the heavy and melodic aspect in much the same way as the massive hit ‘Wait And Bleed’ or the cult favourite ‘Left Behind’ from the Iowa album (2001). The band bring the pain as they scream “We will burn your cities down!” during each bridge. There’s no doubt that this song will be a staple of the band’s live show in short order.

‘Sulfur’, ‘Psychosocial’ (the album’s lead single) and ‘Wherein Lies Continue’ back up the first impressions, establishing that the music here will have more in common with side members Stone Sour albums than it will with the band’s back catalogue. ‘Gehenna’ is another odd shift, boasting an almost alternative rock sound that when coupled with the power ballad ‘Snuff’ makes for a confusing listen for longtime fans. The latter is more than a little acoustic and will likely be the point that makes or breaks the album for most fans. The only song here that even comes close to the heaviness produced on the band’s career defining album Iowa is the title track, which ends the album. At this point I believe that it is safe to say that Iowa was a fluke as they seem to have no desire to be that heavy anymore.

This is not the same group of angry, beaten-down 20-somethings that emerged in 1998. For better or worse this is the beginning of a different Slipknot, a band that is comfortable with itself and at least the immediate world around them. Gone are the masked, confused revolutionaries and in their place is something slightly more intellectual and entirely more experimental. All Hope is Gone is a transitional album to be sure, but when taken as a whole it’s an enjoyable listen for heavy music lovers that don’t mind strong melodies.

Mark Fisher

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