Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter (2014)

So I finally got the new Slipknot album in the mail. As with a lot of releases these days the album was made available for streaming online first, but I chose not to listen to the entire album online because I wanted my stereo to be my first real shot of the album as a whole. That's not to say I could avoid all of the songs before getting the CD.

When The Negative One was made public back on August 5th, I couldn't help but listen to the song multiple times. Same for The Devil in I.

A lot of fans were pissed off (or so they like to say on YouTube comments) by All Hope is Gone, but I actually think that All Hope is Gone is one of the better metal albums released in the last ten years. I mean, Psychosocial? That hits my mosh bone in ways that hasn't been hit by modern acts in years.

But let me stop before this particular post turns into a defender of one album rather than a representation of another. 

For starters, The Gray Chapter largely avoids guitar solos. I was kind of bummed about that because Mick and Jim can fucking play and that was what I loved most about All Hope is Gone, but there is enough bite and experimentation going on to keep this album from becoming the same song over again. The experimentation with acoustic guitars for Slipknot began with Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) with songs like Circle and Vermilion Pt. 2 and continued on All Hope is Gone with Snuff. While Snuff was certainly their most Stone Sour-esque song to date, I certainly wouldn't qualify much else of their work as being similar to Stone Sour. That's like saying Ozzy and Black Sabbath sound the same because Ozzy sang for both of them. If you think Slipknot, acoustic or not, sounds like Stone Sour I am a bit worried about your hearing. Not trying to sound too snarky, but the difference between the two bands is night and day. 

.5: The Gray Chapter has its acoustic representatives. I know a lot of fans who listen to their 1999 self-titled album over and over again are mortified once again, but as someone who likes seeing how a band can grow and change I always appreciate musical left turns.

Let me stress that there are not any ballads on this album. The introductory piece XIX is the closest they come to that particular territory, but there is something too unsettling about it to place it in the Snuff category. 

Killpop has its softer moments as well, but it's an excellent tongue-in-cheek take on the topic of pop songs. It's a soft song during the verses, but during the choruses it's Slipknot back in business again. This album is Slipknot not trying to win your heart and more or less trying to crush your spine because you'll be moshing too much.

Although this album is named for their fallen bassist Paul Gray, there really isn't a lot of sentimentality to be found here. I suppose the most emotional they get is on another quiet song Goodbye and it doesn't take much to make a Paul Gray connection. Rightly so, I'd say. The song is somber for a Slipknot song, but gradually gets heavier and it's not wishy-washy. A lot of Slipknot fans will still avoid it because it isn't Spit It Out, but whatever. Can't please everyone. With a band that calls their fans Maggots I'm pretty sure they aren't trying to, either. 

Since getting this album yesterday, I've listened to it about three times. The first time was just to get a feel for it since Slipknot do change with every album. This album, as Corey Taylor claimed, is like a hybrid of Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) and Iowa

It's got some softer stuff like I mentioned, but the heavy stuff is quite heavy indeed. Corey Taylor has become one of my favorite modern rock singers, but he's still got the knack for those metal screams. Of course, he's not quite the young buck he was back in 1999 and his band doesn't quite have the same sound, either. Nu-metal is over and done with. Today's Slipknot is its own beast and Taylor's rapping days are thankfully left to his live shows when the band has to do material from the first album. 

.5: The Gray Chapter is modern day heavy metal for grown men. It's a heavy album that bears the weight of the ones who made it and it is not made by a band that is content with being favorites. If Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) was too commercial (it wasn't) and if All Hope is Gone was too much of a traditional type of metal album with all of its guitar solos (it wasn't) then .5: The Gray Chapter finds Slipknot at a nice middle ground between those days and the days when they recorded The Heretic Anthem and My Plague.

I suppose the real issue that will stick in the craw of the fans is that there is no Joey Jordison on the skins for this album, but they made do. I've read quite a bit courtesy of those YouTube commenters about what a terrible drummer this new guy is (his name has not yet been revealed), but everything sounded okay to me. The band, mysterious bassist and drummer and all, sounded like they were kicking some ass. Granted, I don't think most people on the internet know what the hell they are talking about half of the time. Most of the time I don't think I even know what I'm saying. 

But I do know for a fact that this is a record made by nine dudes who just wanted to make a killer album.

They succeeded. 

How good is it? Inevitably, people will compare them and rank them. I probably will, too. A Worst to First List for Slipknot actually sounds worthwhile now that they have more than four albums, but for now I am going to let this album settle and listen to it a few more times this week. 


  1. From this month's Rolling Stone

    1. I haven't read any reviews of the album because I was trying to formulate my own thoughts on it. So this is the first one I've read. I like what Crahan said about losing Paul being harder than losing his parents. It's hard to believe Crahan's the sole remaining original member of the group. I also believe that, despite Corey Taylor's popularity, Crahan is the brains behind the group.

      I was disappointed when Paul Gray died the way he did, but I think say the saddest music death I've had to hear about was probably that of Dimebag Darrell. That and the recent passing of Jack Bruce.