.5: The Gray Chapter
1/26/2015 - Review by: Greg Watson
Personal loss is one hell of a motivational tool. Anyone who has experienced it knows that it can galvanize you into any sort of action, positive or negative. With the untimely and tragic death of Paul Gray, many fans of Slipknot weren't sure what to expect with the band going into stasis and the remaining members focusing on other projects. Then with the announcement earlier this summer that drummer Joey Jordison had been released from his duties, you could hear the collective groan of the "Maggots" and feel that the hiatus would continue. Then Slipknot started posting on social media that they were starting work on a new album and they released several creepy, cryptic videos giving fans a taste of what was to come.
On October 20th, the agonizing wait was rewarded with the release of "5: The Gray Chapter". To say that this album was one of the most anticipated of the year would be an understatement. Fans and critics alike have been salivating. I've sat with this record for almost a month now and have finally gotten to the point where I feel I can offer a decent review for it. Since getting my hands on it, I've waffled between detesting and loathing the album, feeling kind of 'meh' about it and really getting in to it. While I am still not in love with this album personally, it's undeniable that this is Slipknot's heaviest album to date, both musically and lyrically. Taking all their sadness and anger over the death of Paul, the ensuing trial of the doctor who had been charged with his death, the dismissal of Jordison and the band members own personal issues, there was plenty of fuel provided for the raging fire that this album is. The opening track is a 3 minute long, discordant intro that has an overall creepy atmosphere to it that leaves you going "WTF?!?" at the end of it. Once the actual opening song, "Sarcastrophe" kicks in, you can tell that Slipknot is back and fueled with the rage of a horde of demons.
The biggest takeaway for me from "5" is just how pissed off Slipknot is, making this album the angriest of their career, in my opinion. With a sound that blends the band's debut, 2001's "Iowa" and 2004's "Vol. 3", Slipknot shows that they've matured in their musical abilities as well as their sound. They are still capable of blasting the skin from your face as if you were staring straight into a sandblaster but have also thrown in some new tricks. The use of electronic sampling on this album is heavier than it has been since their debut and the placement and tones of the samples add to the angst and eeriness of what the band must be going through in dealing with the loss of Gray. There is an incredibly beautiful and stirring interlude in the song "AOV" that features the bass providing much of the driving melody and pace, which feels as though it's a tribute to Gray. "AOV" itself is just a bombastic assault of the senses until it reaches that interlude and then returns to it's crescendo. The tracks "The Devil in I", "Kilpop" and "Goodbye" remind me a bit of Stone Sour with Slipknot playing the music and Taylor's clean vocals cascading like a waterfall. But each track includes heavy breakdowns and that anger that is present throughout the album that quickly erases any notion of each song being in Stone Sour's repertoire.
The song "Skeptic" is a song that I feel is a direct nod and tribute to Gray, given that the chorus is "And the world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you. The world will never know another man as amazing as you." And the way that Corey Taylor screams the chorus shows just how fresh the loss still affects both he and the band (presumably). The song is pure Slipknot through and through with heavy percussion, swirling aggressive guitar work and Taylor's guttural bark. "Lech" starts out with just Corey Taylor screaming before the rest of the band come in like a line of M1 Abrams tanks battering your chest with a cannonade of hellish power. One thing that I love about this album is the duality of Corey Taylor's vocals. He has his trademark Slipknot bark that is ever present throughout but he's also using his clean vocals a good deal more on this album and it's amazing the strides he has made as a vocalist since the band broke on the scene. Hands down, my favorite track on the album is "Custer". With a chorus that is so fun to scream out loud, this song is Slipknot at their finest; sure to unleash a pit at their shows. The chorus of "Cut, cut, cut me up and Fuck, fuck, fuck me up" is done gang style after Taylor barks it out and the electronic work just adds to the frenzy. If you are squeamish or afraid of pits, don't be anywhere within 500 yards of it when this song starts as there is sure to be insanity and some serious GBH occurring during this one. The album closes out with the track "If Rain Is What You Want" which is a bit of slow burner at the outset. But once it gets going, it shows just how far the band's sound has evolved and matured. Melodic guitar work, latent percussion that is heavy hitting without being blastbeat driven, and the bass line makes this song an epic closing track and a fitting end to this album.
All in all, this album will take a few listens to truly get into and peel back all the layers that are present on each song. While the band may never truly recover from the loss of Paul Gray, it's clear that they want to try to carry on to honor him and to continue their run as a dominate metal band. So, do Slipknot a solid and go out and get your copy of this album. It's well worth your time and will find a permanent home in your library very easily.
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