“The world will never know another crazy motherfucker like you / The world will never know another man as amazing as you”
That’s a line that appears six songs into Slipknot’s fifth album, .5: The Gray Chapter on a track called Skeptic, and it pretty much sums up what the album is all about. In the six years since the masked Iowans released their last album All Hope Is Gone, significant happenings have occurred, most notably the tragic death of bassist Paul Gray in May 2010 and the unceremonious (and as yet unexplained) departure of drummer Joey Jordison in December 2013. At the time of both these events, it seemed like the end was near, especially given that Slipknot have been a band to tread the brink of destruction since day one. But fast forward to the present day and we have a new drummer and bassist in the fold (the identities of whom are yet to be officially revealed, but have seemingly been deduced by the Internet masses), a whole gamut of new masks, and a brand new album in …The Gray Chapter, a tribute to their fallen brother, and one that sees Slipknot at the most angry, most destructive and most emotionally charged they’ve been in some time.
Musically, there’s the same kind of raw intensity that hasn’t been seen since the band released Iowa in 2001. Teaser track The Negative One hinted that this would be the case with its frenzied, primitive delivery, and much of …The Gray Chapter takes a similar cue. The murderous double-header of Sarcastrophe and AOV set the album on a much more Slipknot path after the funereal doom of opener XIX, the latter especially, with frontman Corey Taylor spitting out his venom-soaked roars over apocalyptic riffs and crashing percussion. Elsewhere, Custer rampages through with Taylor’s spoken word broadside before launching into its pounding guitars and feral, animalistic refrain of ”Cut, cut, cut me up / Fuck, fuck, fuck me up”. It’s also less polished production-wise than the band’s recent efforts, giving the intrinsic heaviness more opportunities to shine through the almost death metal layer that the album’s weightiest moments have been coated with.
Throughout these heavier moments are the customary slower tracks, and …The Gray Chapter has some of the best Slipknot have ever recorded. Goodbye turns down the volume and ferocity, seeing the band in full ballad mode in a tribute to their late bassist, and contrasting hugely with the album’s other eulogy to Gray, the aformentioned Skeptic, while the uneasy lurch and thunderous chorus of Killpop is hugely reminiscent of Stone Sour or Vermillion from the band’s third album The Subliminal Verses. It’s the final track If Rain Is What You Want that makes one of the biggest impacts – shifting between melodic passages of calm and galloping, heavy riffs, it sees Slipknot once again at the peak of their power once again.
…The Gray Chapter is undoubtedly a fine return to activity for Slipknot, but it isn’t perfect. Opener XIX grinds irritatingly and feels far too forced and unwieldy, especially in the vocal department, while the drumming on The Negative One occasionally sounds like it was recorded on Lars Ulrich’s tin-pot drum kit from Metallica’s diabolical St. Anger. Discounting these minor setbacks, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that …The Gray Chapter could share Iowa’s podium for being the best Slipknot album yet. For a band to go through hell and back and come out with an album of this quality is impressive by anyone’s standards, and they’ve only gone and done it. The world had better be ready, because Slipknot are back with a vengeance.
For fans of: Slipknot
Words by Luke Nuttall