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Disasterpieces: The Slipknot Retrospective – All Hope Is Gone (2008)

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Hello, Maggots! In anticipation of Slipknot’s new album, We Are Not Your Kind, MetalSucks is going to spend the next five weeks revisiting Slipknot’s discography to date. We’ll cover one Slipknot album per week (studio albums only!), culminating in our review of We Are Not Your Kind, which comes out August 9 on Roadrunner.   

After revisiting the band’s eponymous 1999 debut, 2001′s Iowa , and 2004’s Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) in previous weeks, today we continue with the group’s fourth album, All Hope Is Gone!

All Hope Is Gone marks another substantial turning point in Slipknot’s career. By the time the band made .5: The Gray Chapter six years later, bassist Paul Gray had died, and drummer Joey Jordison had been dismissed.  All Hope Is Gone is the final record made by the version of Slipknot with which we all originally fell in love.

Of course, there’s no way anyone could have known this at the time… but listening to All Hope Is Gone now, it almost feels as though the band had a crystal ball. For one thing, although the title sounds pessimistic, in the context of the lyrics to the title track, it’s actually all about enduring despite unbelievable hardship — “We’ll find a way/ When all hope is gone” — which is exactly what Slipknot would soon have to do.

Meanwhile, musically, All Hope Is Gone doesn’t represent the same massive leap that Iowa did from Slipknot or Vol. 3 did from Iowa; it’s more like a codification of those albums, as though the band were taking stock of their career up until that point.

Like the band’s first two albums, and distinctly unlike Vol. 3All Hope Is Gone opens with a creepy prelude that isn’t an actual song (“.execute”). It also has many of the nu-metal tropes of Slipknot and Iowa, with DJ Sid Wilson and sampler Craig Jones getting a much more prominent spot in the mix than they did on Vol. 3, and a resurgence of songs based around relatively simple, thumping riffs, such as “Wherein Lies Continue” and “Psychosocial.” It also includes at least one song, “This Cold Black,” that comes close to duplicating the sheer intensity of Iowa (it’s one of the best songs on All Hope Is Gone, so, naturally, the band never plays it live).

But it also doesn’t sacrifice any of the melody, sheen, or improved songwriting of  Vol. 3. Three of the songs — “Gematria (The Killing Name),” “Vendetta,” and the title track — are amongst the best shout-along anthems the band has ever produced in a career full of shout-along anthems, and while the inebriated and regretful-sounding “Dead Memories” isn’t quite a ballad, the beautiful, moving “Snuff” is ballad enough for two songs. These tracks don’t seem out of place in a post-Vol.3 world, but they would have been unthinkable in the Iowa days. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that Dave Fortman’s production is much more line with Vol. 3 than either of the group’s Ross Robinson-recorded offerings (in fact, I think it’s a step up from Vol. 3‘s production — it feels even larger and warmer).

All Hope Is Gone has some trouble spots, though. “Butcher’s Hook” and “Gehenna,” which appear back-to-back in the middle of the album, are both pretty boring, and at the risk of incurring His Lordship’s wrath, Corey Taylor’s delivery of the oft-repeated line “I’m giving up again” in “Butcher’s Hook” is surprisingly whiney and irritating, like a mosquito buzzing in your ear. Additionally, the album’s first proper song, “Gematria,” is also its strongest, which means All Hope Is Gone blows its load way too soon.

Still, All Hope Is Gone, like all Slipknot albums to date, has more strengths than weaknesses. The fact that this “classic” version of the band evaporated in the years following the album’s release is sad… but you can’t say they didn’t end things on a high note.

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