Slipknot’s :5 The Gray Chapter will be the bands first major album after a very traumatic and unsettling series of events, most notably the tragic death of bassist Paul Gray who sadly passed away back in May of 2010. During this time, the band also parted ways with their high profile drummer Joey Jordison under some rather hazy circumstances that will no doubt come to light eventually over time. So to address the elephant in the room, can Slipknot write quality material in the wake of the events would put most out of business for good?
As with all Slipknot albums the intro set’s the landscape for what’s ahead, and in this case we have XIX which begins with a soft voice announcing “this song is not for the living, this song is for the dead” before leading in with a somber pulsing marching drum that builds with the accompany of Corey’s fantastic gravel and razor vocals which translate with an intense amount of anger, sadness and passion. Next up is “Sarcastrophe” which begins with gentle guitar notes, distant drums and a building melody. It’s not long before we are catapulted into the depths of a very manic and angry riff that leads with a frantic display of drumming and low end rhythm grooves. Corey is literally snarling and spitting the vocals with such intensity, that you can imagine him in the vocal both with gritted teeth all the while punching holes in the walls. This is classic Slipknot, but with what seems like a much more tighter production than previous recordings. The blast-beats and frantic riffing at parts are translated with clarity and precision.
One of the highlights of this album has to be “AOV”, which just fucking slams you in the face from the get go, before pulling back into a groove that would have just about anybody toe tapping. Again, Corey’s vocal display is outstanding on this tune. The full range of his capabilities can be heard here as he spills out the lyrics in a rhythmic pattern that wold not be far off a Busta Rhymes track. An unexpected breakdown approaches mid song and again builds again for the clean vocal melodic chorus. “AOV” is a cracking Slipknot tune and shows just exactly why they are more than on top of their game! Any speculation as to the band becoming weak and unable to construct neck breaking music will be put to rest immediately with this roadblocking tune.
“The Devil In I” comes next with the low end taking the highlight allowing the clear and crisp drum tracks to rise and guide in and out of the labyrinth song structure. The album’s compressed sound is now growing upon the listener and seems to fit the main elements of each song allowing the main textures of the music to shine at different points throughout.
Just when you thought you had this album all figured out, along comes “Killpop” which starts out almost like NIN’s “Closer” before a slow but steady paced tempo takes presidency and makes way for a balanced equilibrium between Cory’s vocals and the menacing rhythm that lurks in the background. A crushing hair raising chorus comes creeping out the depths of Slipknot riff bag and boy is it fucking beautiful!! A deep and lonesome feel to this epic composition leaves this listener reaching for the loop button over and over again, definitely a highlight on the album.
“Skeptic” launches immediately and comes bursting out of the speakers rolling with punches and uppercuts, that’s just asking to be consumed in a live setting. “I won’t let you disappear“, I won’t let your soul die” are words that can only be referenced to the late Paul Gray and when the bitter words “The world never see another see another crazy motherfucker like you, the world will never know another man as amazing as you“, is touching and definitely tugs on the heartstrings even though the delivery is just fantastically brutal.
With the record now and truly warming up, there is just song after song that is constructed with such precision and accuracy that you will generally begin to wonder about the absence of Joey and the turmoil that this band has been through over the last four years. A fine example of this is “Leech”, which is unpredictable in it’s nature, but totally 100% authentic Slipknot. This is modern metal at it’s absolute finest and to be honest I would be surprised if any of the major arena, stadium filling bands can compete at this level any more!
Things slow down with track eight “Goodbye”. There are elements of Stone Sour in here, but considering that two members of said band are (and have been in the past) full timers in Slipknot that can only be expected. Light touches of guitar work and twangy bass lines give way to a slow driving and heavy slabbed melody that allows the drums to translate with clarity and definition. Dark chord progressions with major solo breaks continue to a chugging background, before we are tangled into track nine, “Nomadic”. This has a heart soaring vocal chorus that matches with the classic dual Slipknot guitar sound from Jim Root and Mick Thomson.
A catchy into to “The One That Kill’s The Least” set’s the tone again for Corey to display his simply outstanding performance on this album. An under laying riff, comes packaged with pounding mechanic like punches of the percussion which weaves in and out of verses and choruses before climbing guitar solo’s and Clown’s keg battering finalé.
For all the old school Slipknot fans (the maggots) “Custer’ is a total neck breaker and is dripping with seething hate and “ready to kick off” building riffs, that will no doubt be a spectacle of tremendous violence when experienced live. When listening to this, you actually can feel your heart beat racing and the urge to kick in a TV / window or anything in close proximity to just fucking vent!!! Amazing stuff!
It would seem that this album is fast becoming the release of the last few years and with each listen the music gets under the skin and connects like nothing else from a band on this level. There are the experimental soundbites that I’m sure get’s to pacify Clown (see “Be Prepared For Hell”), which serves as nothing more than a background noise in ‘tomfuckery’ and has no real relevance on the album, but hey, that’s the quirky side of Slipknot.
We return to the music with “The Negative One” which was the first release from the album and has gained a considerable amount of attention as to it’s meaning. Some say that it is a direct finger point at Joey, but is strongly denied by the band. Either way, the song is a banger and will make more sense in terms of production when the fans get their hands on the album.
Closing off the album is “If Rain Is What You Want” which takes the now familiar slow pace that we have seen sprinkled thought out “The Gray Chapter”. This is not a million miles away from Anthrax‘s “In The End” which see’s the gentle rise and slow burn stretching over 6 mins. Not the strongest song on the album, but no complaints here, still a worthy piece of dark tumultuous music, that is totally acceptable from a band that are publicly mourning the loss of their band mate and spiritual brother.
Overall “:5 The Gray Chapter” is a damn fine album that has many faces, emotions and layers of complex crushing riff’s, that when all combined together make for one unmistakable collection of well constructed music. Considering what this band has been though and what they are still capable of doing is mind boggling to say the least! Expect this record to go multi platinum, with sell out shows all over the globe, all the while staying well clear of the mainstream commercial bullshit media platforms.
This is an example of just how big Slipknot are and more importantly, just how big the global Metal community is. For a band to reach the lofty heights of filling arena’s and stadiums, not to mention their very own festival (See Knotfest) with little to no attention / help from the mainstream media, one can only be proud that we have done this collectively as a unified army of fans that like our music honest, brutal, angry, offensive and undiluted by the average Joe’s and Jane’s.
Slipknot :5 The Gray Chapter is an outstanding collection of work that displays something different with each and every listen.
Overdrive Rating 5/5
Slipknot :5 The Gray Chapter is out on Friday 17th November via Roadrunner Records. You can pre-order from here.
Slipknot will be playing Dublin’s 3 Arena on Wednesday January 14th with support from Korn who will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album and playing it in full. Please check MCD for updates on tickets availability and support. If you want to win tickets for Slipknot and a copy of the new album, just click on the link below:
Words – Oran O’Beirne