Album Review – Slipknot / .5 The Gray Chapter (2014)

One of the most controversial heavy bands of all time strikes again with a very solid and aggressive tribute to their deceased bassist.

Rating4

Slipknot-5-Album-CoverWhen American Alternative Metal band Slipknot helped put the city of Des Moines, Iowa, United States on the map in the end of the 90’s with their never-before-seen ruthless music, few people believed they would last longer than a couple of years due to several reasons, one of them being their too unorthodox approach, or in other words, they did not play “traditional” heavy music. Well, guess what? Even after all these years and all their countless internal issues, especially the painful death of bassist Paul Gray (R.I.P.) in 2010 and the departure of drummer Joey Jordison in the end of 2013, they’re still alive and more than capable of delivering some good heavy music, like what’s found in their brand new album .5: The Gray Chapter.

Although .5: The Gray Chapter, which by the way is the fifth studio album in the band’s career, the first in six long years and the first to not feature the two aforementioned members, is not as good as most of their previous releases, it’s still a very enjoyable and violent album that surpasses 75 minutes of music, with all those “special effects” only Slipknot can offer us. It sounds like a modern mix of the excellent Iowa and Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), with all lyrics being even more wicked and controversial than before.

And there’s no better way to start a Slipknot album than with one of their trademarks, a dark and creepy intro this time named XIX, with beautiful words such as “This song is not for the living / This song is for the dead” setting up the tone for the ferocious Sarcastrophe, a song that begins as melancholic as the intro before turning into a mix of all Slipknot phases, sounding a lot like “Gematria (The Killing Name)”, especially the vocal lines and riffs (albeit a lot less complex), followed by the Thrash Metal riffs in AOV, which also follows the same musical pattern as in All Hope Is Gone.

I have no idea who the new/session drummer is, but he does a pretty decent job in songs like The Devil in I, where he provides the whole song an extra dose of violence even during its lighter parts, saving it from becoming too soft or too bland. The following track will generate lots of positive and negative reactions from the listeners: Killpop is one of those cases where Slipknot proves once again they know how to craft some cool semi-ballads, this time 100% focused on the vocal lines (both clean and harsh) by Corey Taylor, but many people will end up complaining it sounds too commercial. If you love it, simply enjoy this nice song, otherwise skip to Skeptic, a very old school Slipknot song, and everything you truly love in this band will be there for you, including riffs, drums and vocals, sounding a lot like their material from Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). Besides, it seems to be one more explicit tribute to Paul Gray based on its sorrowful lyrics (“The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you / The world will never know another man as amazing as you”).

SlipknotLech is one of those Slipknot songs you wait for during their performances to start jumping up and down like crazy when Corey gives the signal, with drums, percussion and guitar lines boosting its energy level, while Goodbye is just filler: I don’t know what they wanted to accomplish with this song, but it didn’t work at all, making it totally disposable. Then we have Nomadic, a good song with interesting breaks and chorus, nothing special but its Iowa-ish vibe keeps it far away from being boring, and The One That Kills the Least, which reminds me of some Stone Sour songs.

After all those highs and lows, it is the last part of the album what all diehard fans of Slipknot were truly waiting for, and it all begins with Custer, that type of sonic madness Slipknot feel really comfortable in playing. It’s a fuckin’ sick “party” full of weird electronic music effects, with a chorus that will drive fans crazy during their live performances (“Cut – Cut – Cut me up and Fuck – Fuck – Fuck me up / CUT – CUT – CUT ME UP AND FUCK – FUCK – FUCK ME UP!”). It’s the best song of the album, and it will sound absolutely amazing live, no doubt about that. The sinister intro Be Prepared for Hell works as an excellent warm-up for the “hell” that comes next, the disturbing The Negative One: it has that raw instrumental and direct sounding like their old classics, with highlights to the great job done by Sid Wilson and Craig “133” Jones in adding a lot of bizarreness to the song. Do I need to mention it’s another perfect option for some insane circle pits? The regular version of the album ends in a pretty weird way with If Rain Is What You Want, a song that’s a lot less metal and more alternative than any other track in .5 The Gray Chapter. And if you purchase the special edition of it you’ll also get two bonus songs that are relatively boring compared to the official album tracks: Override is just an average song, and The Burden focus too heavily on the atmosphere and forgets about the music itself.

You can take a listen to some or all of the tracks in .5 The Gray Chapter on Slipknot’s official YouTube channel, and also see them kicking ass live during their Knotfest dates. Love them or hate them, no matter how controversial they are, we all have to admit their music is unique and each member of the band deserves our recognition for being able to create such a solid, aggressive and entertaining album/tribute even after all the hell they have been through in recent years.

Best moments of the album: Skeptic, Custer and The Negative One.

Worst moments of the album: The Devil in I and Goodbye.

Released in 2014 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. XIX 3:10
2. Sarcastrophe 5:06
3. AOV 5:32
4. The Devil in I 5:42
5. Killpop 3:45
6. Skeptic 4:46
7. Lech 4:50
8. Goodbye 4:35
9. Nomadic 4:18
10. The One That Kills the Least 4:11
11. Custer 4:14
12. Be Prepared for Hell 1:57
13. The Negative One 5:25
14. If Rain Is What You Want 6:20

Special Edition bonus tracks
15. Override 5:37
16. The Burden 5:23

Band members*
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables
(#3) Chris Fehn – percussion, backing vocals
(#4) Jim Root – guitars, bass
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – sampling, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – guitars, bass
(#8) Corey Taylor – vocals

Additional musicians
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Donnie Steele – bass

*A new drummer is currently in the band but has not yet been named by the band, rumors circulate about his identity but so far no official statement has been made as to who it is.

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