Slipknot's All Hope Is Gone Not Just A Clever Name...
, August 13th, 2008 11:44
John Doran slowly peels back the masks of so-called extreme metal behemoths Slipknot and looks at the jaundiced and withered flesh underneath. It isn’t, he concludes, a pretty sight.
‘Execute / Gemetia (The Killing Name)’
Things start off promisingly with loops of marshalled feedback, static and hiss and a suitably stentorian voice that sounds like it is being transmitted from a future war into your front room. There is much talk about something significant happening 40 years ago involving a “man”. Who this man is or what he did isn’t quite clear, but luckily we’re saved from having to think too much about this by the arrival of a popping field of double bass kicks that predict the early onset of carpal tunnel syndrome in the ankles. There’s a thrillingly old school thrash accompaniment, like a glistening reworking of some Bay Area riff courtesy of Testament or ‘South Of Heaven’ era Slayer. The second verse with its shouted refrain is one of the few points on the disc where a hardcore element really makes itself felt, and this suits the more political edge to the lyrics: “America is a killing name . . . nothing is real . . . we will burn your cities down.”
Being as this is the stinking element that we most associate with hell and damnation, expectations are high for this track. There is the whiff of something about the song and it’s not the emergence of demons from the inferno though, it’s the rank smell of nu-metal, with great big slabs of melodic metalcore. You’d think that by their fourth album a band the size of Slipknot could be doing without this kind of filler. Marshalling loads of trends that were current a few years ago together isn’t or shouldn’t be an option for a band this size. The guitar solo is so tired you feel like fetching it a pillow and a duvet. The junkyard coda with the “breathing in sulphur!” refrain is excellent though. This is a frustrating feeling indeed when you hear a band patently underperforming.
There comes a time in every metal review’s life when the word ‘brutal’ must be unleashed. And that time is now. This is the first physical single off the album, calling to mind the grinding machine tooled grooves of Aftershock, Prong and Pantera with lyrics that seem to be a meditation on alcoholism or substance abuse: “I did my time!”
What’s this? A power ballad? It sounds suspiciously like one to me. While not quite worthy of inclusion on a Leather and Lace compilation, this is surely not what Slipknot are paid for. It combines the post rehab introspectiveness of Trent Reznor fitted with a slightly scuffed up, one size fits all, Nickelback stadium angst riff. I’m sorry but if I wanted to see grown men dressed as clowns getting all pissy eyed about ex girlfriends and punching themselves in the face, there’s a specialist members only club in Kings Cross I could go to. It’s safe to say that I haven’t inhaled from a jar containing a dead crow but I still feel a little bit sick. Releasing this as a single (as they intend to) may well make commercial sense for getting radio play and the video on high rotation but this kind of thing just makes a mockery of what Slipknot should be about.
Ah, this is more like it. Pneumatic beats pounded on steel caskets and drum kit, a funereal dirge of a down-tuned riff, brief NWOBHM twin guitar assault curlicues and a satisfying hint of Southern swagger to the vocals. The Anselmo-like controlled aggression of the growl: “Are you ready for the time of your life?” mixed with Faith No More backing harmonies adds exactly the amount of implied violence that the title suggests.
Awesome. I wonder if Slipknot know that this is cockney rhyming slang for take a look? It’s easy to imagine all the best butchers from history – Sweeny Todd, Leatherface, Arkan, the guy with the cleaver from Delicatessen, Pat, Frank, Ricky; all of them naked, with hard-ons dancing round a white tiled filleting room with blood and faeces dripping down the walls. “Ric-kay! Ric-kay! What’s goin’ on in there Ric-kay?!” “Uh, nuffin’ Bianca Lahv. I’ve just got some friends round.”
Gehenna was the valley outside of the walls of Jerusalem at the foot of Mount Zion where rubbish was dumped (including corpses and carcasses) and the stench, smoke and flames of this place led to it becoming synonymous with the Jewish perception of Hell. The name fits the song well, and even though they’ve slowed things right down again this is an evil concoction of creaking synths playing a doomy and gothic refrain surrounded by feedback and even Theremins. Again, there is more than a hint of Nine Inch Nails here – an anguished howl of self-loathing. A desire to lose the self-entirely to become burnt up until there is nothing left - Coincidentally, Gehenna to the Jews wasn’t a place where sinners should be tortured for all eternity but where they should be purified or burnt until not a scrap remained.
‘This Cold Black’
This is probably the heaviest track on the album. Imagine dropping a 3ft wide, solid steel manhole cover on your bollocks and then having a Panzer full of cybermen drive backwards and forwards over it. This is party music for cyborgs with its talk of “post traumatic war machines” and the “pneumatic destroyer, pathetic seducer”. It’s good to hear that they can still occasionally pour their unenviable levels of angst and recrimination into tracks like this and not just into fighting with each other.
‘Wherein Lies Continue’
A militaristic junkyard tattoo beaten out on oil drums, copper pipes, corrugated iron and rusty railings makes the marching band from hell. Producer Dave Fortman has really done his job in some respects, especially on the drum separation and the percussion.
One can only hope that this track is about the mentholated and powdered tobacco treat that Edwardian gentlemen used to powder their noses with when in need of a pick me up. Probably not though. This sounds more like Extreme or Mr Big than Slipknot. 12 string guitar? Check. Camp fire vibes? Check. Soppy lyrics? Check. All the pieces are in place for a great big wedge of cuntery. What the fuck are these lyrics about? “I press your lettuce to my lips”? Ah, letters. Fuck. Off. This sounds like Whitesnake or The Scorpions. Absolute garbage.
‘All Hope Is Gone’
Well, you said it. Despite the fact that this song kicks arse (It was the free download from their site) one has to wonder whether we shouldn’t be expecting a lot more from Slipknot. This whole album sounds like a mess of shards, speedily if expertly gaffa-taped together because we’re dealing with a band who can’t stand each other. This internal bickering and inability to get on with each other was grist for their creative mill 10 years ago when they were in their mid-30s but now they’re in their 40s, it has become a collective millstone. Let’s put it this way: Slayer’s fourth album was South Of Heaven; Metallica’s . . . And Justice For all; while Iron Maiden’s was Piece Of Mind. If Slipknot consider themselves a world class metal band, then this level of patchiness won’t do. This shit should have been nailed down years ago.