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Slipknot .5: The Gray Chapter

2014 Roadrunner Records

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Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter

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Slipknot‘s first album in six years reaches a lot of milestones for the band. Ironically though, overcoming such a lengthy gap between releases isn’t the most herculean feat. The true trials of “.5: The Gray Chapter” lie in it being their first album without late bassist Paul Gray & founding drummer Joey Jordison—both of whom were arguably driving forces of all their past output.

While the cloak and dagger charade remains in effect for their respective replacements, the music doesn’t suffer noticeably from the infusion of new blood. Expectedly, a tribute to Gray looks to be have been included, arriving via the thrashy call and response of “Skeptic“.

While my interpretation could be off, with lyrics as blunt and reverently sung as “the world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you, the world will never know another man as amazing as you,” it would seem this is a touching ode to their fallen comrade. The pride behind the song and rest of the lyrics certainly suggest as much.

It’s not the only heartfelt endeavor. There’s also the sullen balladry of “Goodbye“, which spends considerable time unspooling Corey Taylor‘s lingering vocals atop shrinking ambiance and a lurking bass line. This desolate, moody formula becomes a recurring event throughout the album with the addition of percussion and tides of aggression arriving at predictable intervals.

Killpop” on the other hand is a bold jump into sketchier territory. Initially a new wave/electro pop venture, it finds the band stepping outside their skin to focus on something you’d expect to hear on a ††† album. The course soon heads toward more familiar waters though, as Taylor shepherds his vulnerability into confident refrains of indifference with Stone Stour/Avenged Sevenfold-styled crooning amidst thumping percussion and bristling riffs.

Whether it be the inclusion of bag pipes(?) & strings (or more likely their glitchy digital equivalents) there’s plenty here to catch the maggots off-guard. There’s also just as much to welcome them back however. Chiefly among the more familiar is the frequent usage of the stomp grooves that propelled the band to success on tracks like “Wait And Bleed” and “Psychosocial“, which serve as a persistent foundation here.

Despite initial comments to the press, there’s also a lot of elements that skew closer towards their self-titled outing than the conflicted violence of “Iowa” that followed it. Whether it be the prominence of turntables in tracks like “The Negative One” and “Sarcastrophe“, the occasional rapid-fire delivery of Taylor or the sonic throwbacks featured in tracks like “Custer“, among others, the group appear reflective. In fact, “Custer” in particular seems destined to be a live favorite due its anthemic usage of “cut me up” and “fuck me up.”

It’s no secret that the last few Slipknot albums have been uneven in their approach. Tempered more by internal tension and ego clashes, their stunted progression could easily—and often did—sway towards being a clusterfuck. “.5: The Gray Chapter” is like the answering of a rallying cry. As though the significant losses and time spent away have made them further appreciate their legacy, allowing them to celebrate all aspects of it—even the once taboo nu metal elements.

It’s still a warts and all listen with abyss like depth. There’s also plenty of the artistic dirges that have cropped up since the band began channeling their more ‘artistic’ side. The haunting remorseful drone of “If Rain Is What You Want” that steers the album to a sobering close leaves no doubt of that.

What makes this album succeed where their past output has faltered though is a consistent pacing. The flames occasionally die down, but the embers glow brightly. There’s also a hunger present to the material that had been lost in the not so recent past, be it from egos, vices or the need for individualism. On “.5: The Gray Chapter” the band again feel determined, unified and venomous.

They have a lot to say and they sound as hell-bent as ever. Taylor‘s predatory delivery alternates between slasher flick violence, face value sincerity and enigmatic thesaurus plundering. The unruly percussion thunders with appreciable guidance and restraint. The gnashing riffs cut deep and the samples/scratches return to co-starring roles rather than the bit players they had been relegated to. But above all, these elements all combine together for the greater good. There’s an air of order and mutual respect to the songwriting that had previously been lacking.

It’s not an album without faults and there are some inconsistent tracks. Love it or hate it, the bands controversial predilection for melodic pursuits continue as well. But this is easily the groups most consistent album from start to finish. One where all 9 members (or at least 7) speak a similar voice. A welcome return to form for one of modern metal’s most revered (and decried) acts that proves again that adversity can be among the greatest of forges.

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