Fuck it all, fuck this world, fuck everything that you stand for” spat Slipknot in 1999 on ‘Surfacing’, helping them become an international phenomenon in the process. Nearly a decade on they’re one of the most recognisable bands on the planet through, the cynics say, a combination of shock marketing and exploiting the fuck-you-I-won’t-tidy-my-bedroom angst dollar, but beneath the masks lies an insatiable desire to innovate musically. ‘Iowa’ (2001) added cold, bold tinges of black and doom metal to the scorched-earth template of their debut; the brutality of ‘Vol 3 (The Subliminal Verses)’ was so garlanded with dark ambience and shards of melody it prompted even the sniffiest of detractors into grudging respect.Yet while their antics have, perversely, allowed Slipknot to quietly become one of the most interesting bands operating on such a commercial level (their two platinum and one double-platinum records sit on a rotting mantelpiece next to their Grammy), ‘All Hope Is Gone’ is a mis-step, albeit not a fatal one. The catchier elements of ‘Vol 3…’ felt brave while retaining their trademark filth, but the FM choruses of ‘Butcher’s Hook’ and ‘Wherein Lies Continue’ jar next to Mick Thomson and Jim Root’s gunshot guitars. And though ‘Gehenna’ is an attempt at unsettling atmospherica – try not to shiver when Corey Taylor growls “Let me watch you as you sleep” – ‘Snuff’ emotes so hard it recalls post-Bizkit mopers Staind.
Now, the good news. The excited violence of their debut is (in-part) back: ‘Vendetta’ is pure Pantera strut, ‘This Cold Black’ is a riot of hate driven by Joey Jordison’s blastbeats, leaving these two songs among the finest in their canon. Lead single ‘Psychosocial’ is the perfect marriage of light and shade, but the title track astounds most: gloriously sludgy and frantically light-fingered at the same time, it’s a relentless assault which confirms that, when their backs are against the wall, Slipknot can hew stunning riffs from the heaviest metal. But by letting their off-beat creativity fester, Slipknot have missed their chance to finally silence the doubters; confusing considering they conquered the world without a shred of compromise. No-one’s been scared of them since last century, but ‘Vol 3…’ shocked because it was so unexpected. They needed to up their innovating significantly but haven’t, leaving ‘All Hope Is Gone’ above-average. And for a band used to being loved or hated, the middle ground can’t be where they aimed for.