Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter
Despite the immense pressure riding on .5: The Gray Chapter, this is the sound of a band with nothing to lose, unafraid and unashamed to make a record that is anything but safe.
Photo by Kane Hibberd
One founding member tragically taken before his time. Another fired under mysterious circumstances. A six-year break since their last album. Safe to say there was no way Slipknot were not going to have the most nervously anticipated heavy album of the year, and possibly the decade.
“I don’t want to get back up, but I have to, so it might as well be today,” sings a strained Corey Taylor over sparse instrumentation in the chilling opening minutes of “XIX”. It’s a fitting introduction to the sentiments of an album aching with a conflicting and tortured mix of self-pity, madness, grief and total fury. As the track cuts off – decaying almost instantly just after reaching an unbearable boiling point – the real show begins.
From there it’s a no-holds-barred adrenaline-fest in “Sarcastrophe” and “AOV” – both of which kick in with drum fills that are reassuringly in line with the stylings of fired drummer Joey Jordison. The former, like many of the album’s heavier picks, calls upon the band’s sophomore effort Iowa for its speed and aggression. The latter is an early standout, with a thrashing opening that descends into a punishing half-time bounce with splashings of Sepultura, all layered with snarling spitfire vocals. It’s truly astounding how royally pissed off Taylor sounds throughout this record. The bass is given a chance to come to prominence later in the track (showing that the band is unafraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room) before the pounding resumes, culminating in layered flourishes from the band’s auxiliary percussion duo, who actually feature overtly on this record and add colourful chaos in all the right places.
There’s no shortage of variation between these 14 tracks (seriously, what heavy band still does albums that long? Slipknot, that’s who). There’s a sense that all ideas have been welcomed during the writing of this album, whether it’s the nightmarish interlude “Be Prepared For Hell” (heard as though from the mouth of Lucifer himself), the mournful “Goodbye” (which along with “Skeptic” appears to pay tribute to late bassist Paul Gray), or those aforementioned Iowa moments that we can’t help but keep talking about.
It’s hard to fault this one production-wise. Achieving a mix that is heavy on drums, guitars and vocals yet allows enough room for each instrument to breathe sufficiently is no small feat in such a big ensemble. The band’s trademark rawness is balanced against the precise degree of clarity required to bring every one of Jim Root and Mick Thompson’s guitar lines to life, without sacrificing the energy of feeling like you’re in the same room as the band.
Bottom line: despite the immense pressure riding on .5: The Gray Chapter, this is the sound of a band with nothing to lose, unafraid and unashamed to make a record that is anything but safe. It’s 2014 and somehow Slipknot still want your head on
The Essential Track: “AOV” – Riff city from start to finish. Don’t hurt your knuckles when you punch the nearest wall.