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Album Review: Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter

3 min read

Almost two decades since their formation, American heavy metal collective Slipknot have released their fifth studio album, .5: The Gray Chapter. While work on the album has been in progress since the start of the decade, Slipknot were hesitant to proceed with its creation following the death of bassist and founding member Paul Gray in May, 2010. Thankfully, Slipknot returned to the studio towards the end of last year to produce this monumental album, which now stands as a tribute to the late musician.

SLIPKNOT .5 The Gray Chapter

XIX provides an ambient introduction. Written by percussionist Shawn Crahan, this track is said to capture the music that was running through his head during Gray’s funeral, and reflects the emotions of Crahan and the other members in the wake of Gray’s death. A minute in, Corey Taylor’s vocals suddenly appear in powerful contrast to the subtlety of Crahan’s imaginings. The combination of this pulsing tune and the chilling vocals lead to an opening track with a powerful first impression.

The pace then picks up dramatically with Sarcastophe. Taylor seamlessly slips between formidable roars and his signature fast-delivery spoken vocals, which are conveyed over thrilling percussion, creating an emotional and energising track. The same goes for AOV, where the fast beat and scat-type rapping fuels the verse. However, this track features a surprising breakdown in the middle, which showcases Taylor’s ability to produce melodic vocals in addition to his guttural screams and fast-paced rapping.

The next track, The Devil In I, and its accompanying video, are said to represent the musicians abandoning their old personas, calling in a new era for Slipknot. Being a highly experimental and continually transforming band, this decision to distance themselves from a previous look or sound is justified – especially as an act of respect for the late Gray. However, Taylor reminds us that Slipknot survives with his ethereal lyrics that cut through the solid guitar riffs and percussion to create a standout track for this album.

Killpop takes advantage of Slipknot’s vast percussion section, which is effectively paired with layered guitar lines to create a vibrant soundscape. Once again, Taylor’s melodic vocals reference tracks like Vermillion or Circle, off their earlier album Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses, however the power of the percussion makes this a far heavier track, which stands out as a highlight on the album.

The following tracks are raw and aggressive. Skeptic is energising with a scream along chorus and addictive beat, while Lech is a bit harder to digest but is equally powerful and addictive. It is possible that new listeners and people not familiar with heavy metal may find these songs confronting, however for those looking for an introduction to the genre, Slipknot are at the front of the pack for accessibility and talent.

This is clearly evident on the atmospheric Goodbye. Guitarist Jim Root cited Radiohead as inspiration for his contribution to this track and, with such a direct focus on the guitar, Jonny Greenwood’s influence is clear. Goodbye is an emotive standout and showcases Slipknot at their absolute best. The wailing guitar and building percussion of the song’s conclusion merge into Nomadic, which again returns to the heavy, fast paced riffs of Lech and Skeptic.

For the rest of the album Slipknot maintain the high standard set by the opening half. This is a band made up raw talent and passion, who, over the past two decades, have developed a seamless way of creating and playing music. The consideration put into the construction of this album is clear, especially in the pairing of the nonstop, wall of sound that is Custer and the ambient Be Prepared For Hell, which provides a moment of peace before the gutsy noise of The Negative One.

After a six-year break that brought tragedy and transformation, Slipknot have returned with a momentous album, that showcases the immense talent and raw emotion of its musicians.