Album .5: The Gray Chapter
Release Date: 17 October 2014
Label Roadrunner Genre Heavy Metal
Slipknot is in a unique and enviable place that few bands ever get to enjoy. That place is the possibility to have sparsely released albums while still basking in the light of fan approval, not to mention the countless side projects the band members get to participate in.
And so, it was eight years between All Hope Is Gone and .5: The Gray Chapter, the latter of which was released on 17 October 2014. Produced by Greg Fidelman, the new album was released to critical praise and record sales accompanied by tremendous chart placements signified a triumphant return for the band.
Order .5: The Gray Chapter here.
.5: The Gray Chapter was also the first album since the death of bassist Paul Gray and the departure of drummer Joey Jordison. Honestly, with longtime member Shawn “Clown” Crahan sitting behind the skins and with all the other instrumentation going on, Jordison’s absence is negligible. The drumming is still frantic and intense where needed.
Obviously, with an album title that includes his name, much of this album is dedicated to Paul Gray. I would have, however, expected a heavier, angrier album. Instead, we got some of that, but like the stages of mourning, there are a number of tracks here that are somber and pensive, and I think a lot of that has to do with the amount of time that passed between Gray’s death and when the band actually went into the studio. As well, Corey Taylor’s work outside the band may have seeped its way into the sound.
Opening track, “XIX,” acts like an incantation and definitely serves as an intro to the album. The opening lyrics also tell us that the song is likely dedicated to Gray: “This song is not for the living/This song is for the dead.”
From there, “Sarcastrophe” and “AOV” hit hard and are, as the critics said, the return to old-school Slipknot form and melody. If we’re reaching as far back as 1999’s debut, I don’t really hear it.
“The Devil In I” feels like it takes things down a notch. The chorus is still delivers a kick to the teeth, but overall it’s a tempered track with what some might call a Stone Sour vibe running through it.
“Killpop” definitely brings the pace way down, allowing listeners to breath and Taylor a chance to sing with clean vocals. The track is heavy on melody and borders on ballad territory, or as close to it as Slipknot ever comes… until you get to “Goodbye,” which, if you have ever lost anyone, might bring you to tears.
“Skeptic” brings the violent assault into focus, and it’s a track that has no shame in its anger at the loss of Gray. Obviously, the chorus (The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you/The world will never know another man as amazing as you) directly references the late bassist, but hidden lyrical gems like “You had a gift, you were a gift” and “I won’t let you disappear/I will keep your soul alive if I can’t have you here” really speak to the anguish of their loss and their anger.
Aside from the filler “Be Prepared for Hell,” “Lech” might be the evilest sounding track on the album with its spoken word segments and unrelenting pounding. As a side note, this might be the track that tells everyone that, yeah, we can do this incredible drumming thing without Jordison.
And, essentially, that’s the flow of the album.
If I’m going to be honest, this isn’t Slipknot’s best work. It’s far from bad, but it likely won’t hold the classic torch like their debut or Iowa. Shit, All Hope Is Gone was better, and I wish they had continued more in that direction. .5 isn’t a disappointment, but it could have been better. After all, from the time that it was announced that Jim Root was going to begin writing the album to the time that it came out seemed phenomenally fast.