John Villarose VI
Bands coming back after losing members is always difficult, but Slipknot has managed to make it work. It’s been six years since their last release, “All Hope Is Gone,” in 2008. In that time, founding bassist Paul Gray died of overdose and lead drummer Joey Jordison left the band, leaving the group unmotivated to continue on and Slipknot’s future questionable at best. However, two new unrevealed musicians have joined to reform the nine, and the new album, while not their best, is still excellent and suggests positive things about the band’s future.
“.5: The Gray Chapter” opens up on a bold note with “XIX,” a song more emotionally driven and unsettling than usual. The lyrics are indicative of someone struggling through depression and says a lot about the hardships the band has undergone over the last six years. The mix of Corey Taylor’s powerful vocals and Craig Jones’ bizarre synthesizers make it one of their most moving songs yet, despite only being the opening track. “Sarcastrophe” and “AOV” follow, and the familiarity begins to kick in. The songs, while not the most memorable on the album, are indicative of their thrash-filled “Iowa” style from the early 2000s.
The first single “The Devil in I,” despite being ridiculously named, begins to blend the styles, bridging the huge stylistic gap between “Iowa” and the more melodic “Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)” that followed in 2004. Making this the album’s key single was an obvious choice, as the best of everyone involved is on display.
The following song, “Killpop,” is an almost out-of-place love song. However, unlike most love songs, “Killpop” is filled with anger bordering on obsession. This anger continues into “Sceptic” which, despite being one of the heaviest songs on the album, sings about the band’s deep love for Paul Gray and the effect his absence has had.
The next cluster of songs on the album could be called the low point, but even then, they
could stand above most of their competition from other modern hard rock bands. “Lech” opens with a line so over-the-top it’s ridiculous, and whether intentional or not, it’s fun to hear every time. “Lech,” “Nomadic” and “The One That Kills The Least” are all typical Slipknot fare. In relation to the rest of the album, they don’t particularly stand out, but they do manage to show off the talent of the new unknown drummer. Joey Jordison had been acclaimed by many as one of the greatest drummers of his time, so his absence left a high expectation for his replacement. The desire to match the quo is obvious, and the skills on display are shocking. In the middle of this assortment is “Goodbye,” a ballad reminiscent to previous hits “Vermillion” and “Snuff,” which escalates into something great.
“Custer” kicks off the close of the album and serves as one of its most enthusiastic songs. It opens with rapid drums and mixing, followed by deep narration similar to White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ‘65.” From there it becomes what can only be imagined as a concert song. One of the things Slipknot is most known for is their high energy live performances. Like previous single “The Heretic Anthem,” “Custer” and second single “The Negative One” are songs whose impacts can only be truly appreciated when shouted in front of a crowd. The final song, “If Rain Is What You Want,” is the longest on the album, reflecting the softer touch and powerful lyricism of the opener “XIX.”
While “Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)” still stands as Slipknot’s best, the anger-driven and passionate “.5: The Gray Chapter,” is one of metal’s greatest comebacks. If this truly marks the return of Slipknot and serves as an accurate representation of their current abilities, they could easily be re-dominating the metal industry in the near future.