When Slipknot debuted nearly fifteen years ago, it was difficult to envision the band sticking around for long. Musically, their particular brand of ultra-heavy metal defied easy categorization (nu-metal? death metal? hardcore?) and was a concoction brewed for maximum impact, but spoke little of any sort of longevity. Add in the fact that there were nine members in the band, all of which had a propensity for on-stage violence, and it was easy to see Slipknot burning out fast instead of sticking around for the long haul.
But fifteen years later and Slipknot is still intact and about to release their fifth album titled .5 The Gray Chapter, their first since 2008’s All Hope Is Gone. While the past few years have not been kind to Slipknot, starting with bassist Paul Gray’s passing in 2010 up to the dismissal of drummer Joey Jordison in 2013, the band soldiered on and created what could just be their heaviest and most diverse album to date.
The album begins with “XIX,” a slow-burning declaration of freedom that sees vocalist Corey Taylor remove himself (and his bandmates) from the ghosts of the past. It’s a statement piece to say the very least, liberating both the band and listener to experience the record without any preconceptions of what it should be, or could’ve been had Gray and Jordison been part of it.
Now, that’s not to say that Slipknot has gone soft. Not in the slightest. The driving intensity of “AOV” is a relentless, riff-fueled masterpiece that would make the Cavalera brothers green with envy while the pummeling single “The Negative One” is cut from the same cloth as the bands 2001 classic Iowa. The song is a hurricane of hatred, directed by Taylor that’s sure to leave bodies strewn across arena floors. As enjoyable as these heavy moments are, it’s simply what fans have come to expect from Slipknot; carefully orchestrated sonic power that devolves into full-blown chaos.
Brutality is the bands bread and butter and there’s plenty of it throughout .5 The Gray Chapter to satiate longtime fans, but it’s the unexpected moments throughout that really bring the album together. Whether it’s the love/addiction fantasy of “Killpop” or the surprising melodic intervals of “The One That Kills The Least,” Slipknot have created their most expansive work to date. The morose-laden dirge of album closer “If Rain Is What You Want” further cements this point, with Taylor exorcising his demons and seemingly coming to peace with everything that’s transpired. His delivery still possesses plenty of vitriol, but there’s a sense of redemption and calm that pervades that hasn’t been heard from Slipknot until now. But perhaps the most emotional moment on the record is “Skeptic,” the bands ode to their friend and bandmate Paul Gray. It’s a rare moment of straight-ahead vulnerability and a fitting tribute to Gray.
Considering everything that’s happened in the Slipknot camp over the last handful of years, it’s amazing just how well .5 The Gray Chapter turned out. Really, the only fault to be found with the new album is that it tends to be a little long and overreaching in parts, but with songs as strong as these, it’s an easy shortcoming to overlook. It would’ve been easy for Slipknot to turn in an album of balls-to-the-wall brutality and no one would’ve given it a second thought. Instead, the band looked inward, learned from their losses and forged ahead, in the process creating one of the most enjoyable and eclectic metal albums of the year.
Let’s hope this is only the beginning…