The period of time that elapsed between the recording of Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses and the end of the tour cycle for that album was difficult for Slipknot. The band’s late bassist and songwriter Paul Gray was battling heroin addiction, vocalist Corey Taylor was struggling through a dysfunctional marriage and drinking way too much, drummer Joey Jordison was partying too heavily and everyone else in the band was dealing with his own personal demons and dying to get off the road. However, by the time Slipknot began putting the pieces in place for their fourth studio album All Hope Is Gone, which came out Aug. 26, 2008, they entered a new creative headspace that was both therapeutic and productive.
“I went through a year and a half of f—ing hell, and then after separating from my wife and starting a new relationship I came out on the other side and I felt good,” vocalist Corey Taylor told me in 2008. “I was bigger, I was stronger and it set me on this path. I actually started writing the lyrics for All Hope Is Gone in the middle of the Stone Sour tour cycle for Come What(ever) May. “I just sat down and started filling notebooks. I started to feel hungry again and I wanted to make another Slipknot album. I hadn’t felt that way in years.”
Slipknot started writing All Hope Is Gone in October 2007. Jordison and Gray crafted most of the preliminary song structures while Taylor came up with ideas for the lyrics and Jim Root and Mick Thomson concocted a bunch of riffs for possible inclusion. By the time they started working on the album Taylor was happy and Gray was clean, but for while at least, Jordison was still a mess.
“After I demoed the record with Paul I found myself in this gaping hole,” Jordison said. “I had ended this terrible relationship with a girl that almost made me want to kill myself; all I could do was f— myself up. I’d shut the lights off, I didn’t answer the phone and I just put powder up my nose and got drunk for three weeks straight. I didn’t eat and I was almost f–kin’ dead. I didn’t know if I was gonna live or die or ever make another record. Then my dad broke down my f—-in’ door, and I’m scared s–tless of my dad, period. He’s the hardest mother—-er, ever. I got clean and I was way happier afterwards than when I was on that f—ing bulls—. It starts out fun and then it becomes a habit and next thing you know it becomes nothing but f—ing misery. And once I got clean I was playing better than ever.”
Slipknot wrote much of All Hope Is Gone piecemeal or in small teams. When the band started recoding in February, 2008 there was friction and divisiveness between the nine members. Jonesing for a distraction from his personal issues, Jordison banged out the drum parts to the songs with producer Dave Fortman before the other members of Slipknot could motivate themselves to enter Sound Farm Studios in Jamaica, Iowa.
“I wrote the basic skeletons of the songs myself, then we practiced for a week and a half and people were still trying to figure out the songs,” the drummer recalled. “The basic guitar parts were done, but the guitar players didn’t necessarily know exactly where they wanted to go. So I said, ‘F— it. I’m gonna track the drums by myself. Roll tape now.’ And that caused a lot of problems. But I just figured, ‘Well, I know the songs, so lemme just do it,’ and I tracked all my parts in three days.”
Once Jordison finished he took off, leaving his bandmates to work with Fortman on cleanly blending their parts with the beats. Root, who didn’t like playing between Jordison’s beats, says he was the most active participant during the four months Slipknot were in the studio.
“There were times I’d go a week without seeing anyone from the band. I was like, ‘Are they ever going to come in and do anything?’” he said. “I ran out of stuff to add to the record because when nobody else was around, Fortman would come grab me and I’d add more guitars or more bass or put my effect pedals together and add more weird noises. I think since we recorded the album in Iowa, some guys in the band became complacent and hung out at their houses and didn’t come in.”
In contrast with his co-guitairst, Mick Thomson found the recording process for All Hope Is Gone far more enjoyable than the grim negativity that pervaded the sessions of Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses. “The studio sessions weren’t perfect, but they were leaps and bounds beyond anything we’d ever done before in terms of positivity and just being effective,” he said. “ I was loving what we were doing again, and that love had been stripped away from me by the end of the first record cycle. And on Iowa it was gone. By The Subliminal Verses it was coming back, but when we did All Hope is Gone I felt great. I f—in’ loved everybody. It wasn’t one of those little walking on thin ice, waiting for someone to f— up situations. Hopefully, we’re over the hump and where we need to be as human beings.”
On the surface, the title of the album seems bleak and pessimistic — in other words, business as usual for Slipknot. However, Taylor said he didn’t think the record was a downer and didn’t intend for its name to imply it was anything less than a creative breakthrough.
“To me, All Hope Is Gone is a very positive thing to say because hope means expectations, and when you give up expectation, you just embrace what’s going to happen,” he explained. “There’s nothing better. You’re never going to be let down. I think hope is the death of dreams, honestly, because what if your dreams come true in a completely different f—in’ way and they don’t live up to your hopes? Then, all of a sudden, your heart’s broken for no f—in’ g–damn reason.”
In addition to recording the basic tracks that made up the bulk of All Hope Is Gone, including the blaring title track, the rousing “Psychosocial” and the plaintive “Dead Memories,” Taylor, Root, and percussionist Shawn Crahan worked in a second room, Studio B, on a batch of songs that were more experimental and offbeat than the main album cuts. “Til We Die“ was included on the special edition of the release, but most of the material has not been released. Still, having a new avenue for expression was invigorating for Root.
“On the days Mick and Paul weren’t there, Clown and I would go across the street to this other house and write all this other music,” he said. “It’s kind of in the vein of Blur’s 13. Clown and I did some experiments like recording frogs and writing a song around the way the frogs sounded. And we put Corey down in a well and had him sing in this big, giant cistern that sounded like a cavern. I was able to approach guitar not with straightforward power chords or modal riffs, but as a different instrument entirely, and I really liked that. That was some of my favorite music I’ve ever written.”
Fortman was perfectly willing to work with Slipknot on the Studio B recordings, he said. But the members who weren’t involved resisted including the songs on the album, and even some of the musicians who worked on the songs were possessive of the material.
“I was under the impression they were gonna put down some writing ideas and we were going to approach these songs in Studio A eventually,” Fortman said. “I came in two hours later and things were miked up totally professionally. Right off the bat, I felt a little bit alienated by that. But for half the process I would go listen to stuff in Studio B and I thought, ‘Yeah, we’ll use some of this stuff, for sure.’ I thought a lot of it was really great. Then it became a matter of certain band members not wanting to share the creativity, not wanting to have other people mess with the art. I understand that as well, but once that begins that’s out of the range I really want to be involved with.”
All Hope Is Gone was the band’s first album to debut at number one on the Billboard album charts; as with all things Slipknot, it didn’t happen without a struggle. At first, the trade magazine reported that The Game’s LAX beat Slipknot by 13 albums sold. In the spirit of democracy, Slipknot’s management and label demanded a recount. When the final units were tallied the Knot came out victorious, besting The Game by 1,134 records, with total sales of 239,516 copies. It was the closest photo finish since SoundScan started ranking album sales in 1991. All Hope Is Gone was certified Platinum on Aug. 12, 2010.
“I think it’s the by far our best album,” Taylor said. “It’s really heavy and very dark, but also ultimately uplifting in a way. It’s experimental, it’s brutal, it’s melodic. It’s Slipknot.”
Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, and Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen.
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