Ah, Slipknot – the band that will forever remind me of confiscated school hoodies and “aren’t they the ones that did Raining Blood?”. After six album-less years – including the tragic death of bassist and founding member, Paul Gray, and the goodbyes of drummer, Joey Jordinson – Slipknot are back with .5: The Gray Chapter.
A work inspired by the loss of their friend (Paul Gray – get it?), the album is almost exactly as you’d expect; a melodic, near-gentle mourning, injected with all the adrenaline of brutal honesty and hellfire metal. XIX is the opening track, and not one to listen to alone in the dark when you’re still getting used to the expanding and contracting of your walls. A sombre, slow-organ introduction, a whisper of “This song is not for the living / This song is for the dead,” followed by mechanical whirring and other ‘you’re-gonna-die’ sounds, tears the listener straight into the grief of the be-masked band members. Corey Taylor’s heavy-duty, sand-papered vocal chords belt out the rest of the song, which trickles into the next track, Sarcastrophe.
Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan told Rolling Stone magazine that when he heard Taylor sing XIX, “I cried and cried and cried” – which, despite my concluding aversion to the album (although a few songs have grown on me), did soften my otherwise un-beating heart.
Going back to Sarcastrophe, the music explodes into a more recognisable, fury-fuelled catharsis. “We are killed Gods,” screams Taylor, paired with the heavy rolling of the unnamed drummer and the well-known, live-wire fingers of guitarists, Mick Thomson and Jim Root.
In terms of lyrics, Taylor screams in concrete-souled Skeptic, “The world is never going to see another crazy motherfucker like you / The world will never see another man as amazing you”. This chorus is still stuck in my head, and clearly directed at the deceased Gray in an outpouring of acidic resentment for his passing.
Also hard-hitting is AOV (“approaching original violence!”), diving straight into Taylor’s deep-belly roaring and cymbal-crashing, teeth-clenching metal – though not without its own melodic vocals curling in between. On a slightly calmer note, Goodbye starts with the atmospheric synths and keyboards of Craig Jones, joined by the gentle, eulogy-toned voice of Taylor, soon enough also joined by doom-echoing drums and guitars, collapsing – with style – into a whole-hearted, united cry for their friend.
Going back to classically anarchic, hedonistic metal, Nomadic sees Thomson and Root step to the front, fret-boards most likely spotted with blood (much like the “How about this one? Da-da-da-da-da,” starting Custer). However, The Devil In I was the lead single of the album (and also the one I subjected innocent friends to), with spat lyrics, flaming riffs, and middle-finger-raising drums aplenty – and a music video as wonderfully disturbing as you were all hoping for.
Rife with emotion, the album anchors its spike-sided self to the ground thanks to the raw heartbreak and of course, hat-tipping talent of all its members. Old fans (old maggots?) won’t be disappointed, as the band hasn’t lost its Iowa-era death-metal twists, psychotic-growling, and derailed undertones. Personally, I’m more Corey Taylor in Soulfly than Corey Taylor in a mask – but you Slipknot fans go on with your bad, fly-larva selves.