Slipknot; .5: The Gray Chapter

.5: The Gray Chapter
Roadrunner Records
October 21st, 2014
Rating: 9/10

“.5: THE GRAY CHAPTER” is the first new record from Iowa’s masked men of metal in over six years, and the band’s first release since the death of founder and bassist Paul Gray in 2010, and departure of founder and drummer Joey Jordison in 2013. Their 2014 release follows 2008’s “All Hope Is Gone” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and continued the band’s trend of releasing RIAA platinum certified albums.
Slipknot emerged from the middle of Iowa in 1995 and quickly established themselves as the most enigmatic, provocative, and aggressive collective of the modern era, something that no one expected to rise from the cornfields of Des Moines, Iowa. 1999’s “SLIPKNOT” stands as a true milestone, fast earning 2x RIAA platinum certification, with each of Slipknot’s following releases – including 4 video albums – all receiving additional platinum certifications in the US and around the world. All told, the band have 11 platinum and 38 gold record certifications worldwide.
Slipknot’s 5th studio album features the lead single, “The Devil In I” which is currently sitting at #1 on iTunes Metal chart with its companion music video now approaching 6 million views. As a teaser for the album, the band released “The Negative One” in August, which immediately hit #1 on Billboard’s Trending 140 chart upon its debut.
The release of .5 is proof that Slipknot are still the Lords of Metal. Going into their second decade as a band, the men from Iowa are still a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.
The albums title references itself as being the band’s 5th album, and a tribute to former bassist Paul Gray. .5 really is a tribute album. Vocalist Corey Taylor has stated in several interviews that many of the tracks on this release were written as a way to deal with Gray’s death. The lyrical content of the album continues the trend of Taylor using Slipknot as an outlet to deal with his personal life, as heard in “The Negative One” and “Goodbye”, and, like in “AOV”, to open the fan’s eyes to what he sees happening in the world today.
There’s a dark love song on each of Slipknot’s albums. Their s/t has “Prosthetics”, “Iowa” has the title track. “Vermillion” on “Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verse”, and “Snuff” on “All Hope Is Gone”. “KILLPOP” on “.5: The Gray Chapter” is the darkest though. Taylor once again sifts through the ashes of lost love, obsession and rejection for “Killpop” by taking “Snuff’s” subject matter to the extreme. Taylor’s melodic, calm vocals and Root and Thompson’s soaring riffs melt into screams of anger and thunderous percussion at the end of the stalker anthem with Taylor screaming “Die and fucking love me”.
How the band is dealing with the loss of Gray is apparent in “Skeptic”. While often cryptic with his lyrics, Taylor leaves nothing unsaid in this homage to the band’s fallen friend.  “I can’t let you disappear. I will keep your soul alive if I can’t have you hear,” Taylor screams during the track’s chorus.
.5’s music is an evolved amalgamation of “IOWA”, the band’s heaviest release and fan favorite, and “All Hope Is Gone”. While the album shows us a clear path as to where Slipknot as a whole is headed, it also pays homage to the band’s roots. Guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson have carefully crafted some of the most beautiful yet sinister guitar riffs I’ve ever heard and they couple perfectly with Taylor’s vocal style. Whether Taylor is showing us how much he’s mastered the guttural scream, or his melodic vocal range, the tone of the music the band has crafted still has an organic feel.
This is not the Slipknot that I first saw playing around Des Moines in the mid 1990’s however. While the anger and frustration of the music is still a driving force, the lyrical and musical content show a band that has grown. The seven members of the band have found a way to express extreme emotions which dance along the boundries of being negative, yet still have the authentic impact of music constructed in a positive manner that yeild a safe final outcome.
Delving a bit deeper into two of the albums most emotional songs, “Goodbye” is the song you play for a friend who’s left you too early and you’re left dealing with the sudden and tragic loss. This is when you’re realizing that you can’t save everyone you love.
“If Rain Is What You Want” is the song that you play when the hurt of the world is too much to bear and you just need someone to give you a hug and tell you that everything is going to be OK. But no one does.
Taylor and Root’s other band can be heard as influences throughout The Gray Chapter. The melodic and harmonized chords are slightly toned down from Slipknot’s previous releases. Taking over the bass guitar recording duties, Mick Thompson and Root continue to lend the album a more organic feel.  Taylor recently stated that the addition of bassit Alessandro Venturella and drummer Jay Weinberg to the live line-up are working well, but the two new additions have not yet been offered official member status. I doubt either had much input on the writing process but thankfully the band chose to introduce the two new members who can tour with the band instead of relying on  studio performers and pre-recorded tracks to the live show.
The album’s deluxe edition is well worth the extra few dollars. “Override” is incredibly well written and produced. “The Burden” is one of the band’s most brutal and driven tracks they’ve recorded. Showing that the band still has a sense of humor, the album’s two hidden tracks are worth a listen.

1. “XIX”
2. “Sarcastrophe”
3. “AOV”
4. “The Devil in I”
5. “Killpop”
6. “Skeptic”
7. “Lech”
8. “Goodbye”
9. “Nomadic”
10. “The One That Kills the Least”
11. “Custer”
12. “Be Prepared for Hell”
13. “The Negative One”
14. “If Rain Is What You Want”

Special Edition includes 2 bonus tracks.
15. Override
16. The Burden