Slipknot: The Futility of Hope
Originally printed in Guitar World, October 2008.
As rivers rise and civilization falls, Slipknot guitarists Jim Root and
Mick Thomson find a patch of dry land and talk about their group's
apocalyptic new release, All Hope Is Gone.
Many Midwesterners refer to their homeland as “God’s Country,” but lately God has seemed intent on repossessing His property. This past June, tornadoes, thunderstorms and floods swept across America’s heartland, wreaking nonstop havoc on any shred of civilization unfortunate to lie in the path of destruction. Nowhere was the devastation more evident than in Iowa, where extreme flooding affected Sioux City and Cedar Rapids. In the center of it all, Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines (French for “the monks”) looked as if it had been sliced in two by the swelling Des Moines River, which threatened to spill over its banks the moment the clouds opened up once again…
Such is the scene as I make my appointed interview with Slipknot, the Iowa-based group that evangelical Christian ministers love to hate. Those ministers would probably argue that sinners like Slipknot brought the wrath of God upon this land, but as I arrive at the height of the flooding, all nine members of the band are dry, unscathed and enjoying a little relaxation after completing their fourth album, All Hope Is Gone, due out August 26. Slipknot have been on home turf since November, when they started work on the album, which was recorded at an actual farm—Matt Sepanic’s Sound Farm Studios— in rural Iowa. It’s hard to imagine Slipknot’s unique brand of aggressive, apocalyptic metal being spawned in such an idyllic environment, but it’s an appropriate anomaly for a band that never really conformed to normal expectations from the beginning.
All Hope Is Gone is full of aberrations and surprises, most notably the presence of copious amounts of bona fide shred guitar solos. Thrash metal songs like “Gematria,” “Vendetta” and the album’s magnum opus title track burn with swept arpeggios and killer displays of technique that Slipknot guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thomson always warned us about but rarely ever revealed, like the identities they hide behind their macabre masks. The band also displays a mellower side on the slow(er) burn of songs like “Gehenna” and the acoustic-guitar driven “Snuff,” which still manage to maintain the band’s intensity while taking the mayhem down a notch.
From beginning to end, All Hope Is Gone is an apocalyptic album and, in that respect, a suitable soundtrack for the inhumanity of our times. That thought first occurs to me the day before the interview while en route to Iowa. With the riff of the album’s first single, “Psychosocial,” ringing in my ears, I race through Detroit Metropolitan Airport with only 10 minutes to catch my connecting flight to Des Moines. When a Mike Ditka lookalike blocks my path, calling me an asshole as I squeeze past him up the escalator, I deflate his face like a sack of Stay Puft marshmallows, bloodying his nose. This act earns me a few hours in the Wayne County gray-bar hotel, but somehow it seems like the only logical way to behave in a world where common courtesy died along with Emily Post.
While Slipknot are unaffected by the destruction going on around them, they have sensed the presence of impending doom for quite some time. Reflecting on the album’s title, Thomson says, “If we’re looking at end times, let’s do the earth a favor and let the bombs fall. Wipe it all away and start fresh. We’re a failed experiment, and we really fucked up. There’s some great, beautiful shit in the world, but the ugliness overtakes the beauty. The best people on earth don’t deserve to be wiped away, but at some point it’s got to happen.”
If judgment day should come sooner than later, there’s probably no more appropriate way to go than blasting All Hope Is Gone from the stereo of a Dodge monster truck while waiting for the fallout to fry your face off. Then again, if the nine crazy minds behind Slipknot could manage to get along and remain creative for all these years, there may be hope for mankind yet.