After spending the last four years in side projects, on tour, suing Burger King, on hiatus and atypically exploding (or imploding, depending on your outlook) in to bona fide rock stardom, the costumed collective known as SLIPKNOT have regrouped and re-energized for what is arguably the most important album of their career. I say that for a couple of reasons. First, when members of a band take this much time and creative headspace away from their main outlet, the chances of them regaining that initial chemistry are greatly reduced. Secondly, and this applies strictly to SLIPKNOT, when the gears of the promotional machine behind the group are churning so hard that even the new masks they've donned for this album are a more hyped and heavily guarded secret than the pre-premier image of the city-smashing monster from "Cloverfield", they had damn well better be sure they aren't wasting our time.
After giving "All Hope Is Gone" several listens and approaching the album from different viewpoints (fan, critic, someone who stopped giving a shit three years ago, etc.) I feel fairly confident in telling you that time hasn't been wasted and SLIPKNOT has gained more steam in their collective absence than they have lost. Yes, haters, "All Hope Is Gone" is a pretty solid goddamned album; for the most part. The almost-two-minute, noisy and rant-filled intro, ".execute" would have been a great way to build into the thrashy, groove-laden and death-tinged "Gematria (The Killing Name)" had it actually climaxed into the album's proper opener instead of cutting off and forcing the song to rebuild its own intensity. Although, once the tune gets going, it quickly introduces itself as one of SLIPKNOT's heaviest to date. "Sulfur" and "Psychosocial" are two more tracks that see the nine-headed beast doing what they do best. By bringing together the metallic intensity of the self-titled disc and the darkened, yet tuneful vibe of "Iowa" in a way that manages to avoid too many comparisons to commercially viable, yet somewhat phoned-in "Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses)".
So far, we've got a pretty exciting album on our hands. The opening third of "All Hope Is Gone" proves this to be an poorly named album from where the first generation of "Maggots" who could use these moments as a reconnecting point with the band might stand. Depending on your personal stance, the sonic shift taken on "Dead Memories", "Vendetta" and "Snuff" shows SLIPKNOT's diversity to be either their saving grace, or their misfortune. Sure, they're well-written and melodious songs that rank high on the accessibility scale, but they lack the white hot fire that allows the rest of the disc to burn our asses. All in all, these three would almost sound more at home on a STONE SOUR record. Displaying more of the darkness and experimentation (by SLIPKNOT standards) of the "Iowa" days are "Gehenna", which could have been a downright rightful motherfucker were it not for the overuse of Corey Taylor's higher-register vocal and formulaic approach, and the tastefully bludgeoning "Wherein Lies Continue". Toss in the borderline mall-metal, but still very tolerable "Butcher's Hook" and "This Cold Black" and you've still got an above-average taste of mainstream metal with jagged shards of the underground tossed in randomly. But wait, there's still the closing title track, and this is why "All Hope Is Gone" was worth the wait. Hyperactive and breakneck guitars, pulsating double bass, weird little bits of noise from the supporting cast and acidic gobs of vocal venom… yeah, this is what we needed from SLIPKNOT.
So to answer a few of the $64,000 questions surrounding "All Hope Is Gone"; no, this isn't as shockingly bombastic as the debut; no, it isn't as malevolent or demented as "Iowa"; and no, it isn't as dishearteningly friendly to the masses as "Vol. 3". It's a little bit of all of those things and then some, but ultimately it's another chapter in the story that is SLIPKNOT. While it may not be as jaw-dropping or revolutionary as some might have hoped, it's by no a bad release.