As I sit and write this review, I’m still in shock; in shock that 5: The Gray Chapter even happened in the first place. Slipknot, as a band, has gone through some rather tumultuous times losing late bassist Paul Gray to a tragic and sudden death and drummer Joey Jordison‘s departure in 2013. After the tornado has come and ravaged your foundation, how do you pick up the pieces? We are here six years later with an album that is an unrelenting and honest snapshot of the feelings within those events. Slipknot has managed to pull together to make a very ambitious and unapologetic album that is among some of their finest work.
There have been many opinions that this album is a mix between Iowa and Vol.3: (The Subliminal Verses), but I would argue that it also encapsulates the macabre feeling and primal emotions of their self titled debut. Opening track “XIX”, complete with acoustic guitars and a moody electrical centerpiece, sets up the constant theme of the album. Singer Corey Taylor acts as the mouthpiece of the band (and himself) that with loss, we all eventually have to soldier on: “I’m in no shape to get back up/but I have to/so it might as well be today”. The song also echoes regret for Gray and a cautionary rally cry from the band to the fans.
“Sarcastrophe” and “The Negative One”, besides the absolute destructive force of guitars and percussion that these songs bring have two of my favorite elements: turn-tablist Sid Wilson and sampler Craig Jones. There were parts in All Hope Is Gone where Wilson’s scratching would get mixed down (the end of “Sulfur”) or Jones’ sampling could not be heard. I can truly hear every member in these songs. Taylor’s vocal style varies from the more guttural screaming in “Sarcastrophe” to the higher pitch in “The Negative One” that accents the lyrics in the bridge.
“Killpop”, “AOV”, and “The Devil In I” highlight parts of the band where it seems they are more comfortable making these type of songs from their experimentation with Vol.3. They both have a heaviness to them, starting off with melodic guitars and vocals and ending with a haymaker of fury. They have an inviting tone where a novice to metal music can listen to them as well. Even more admirable is that Slipknot has not compromised themselves or their vision in bridging this gap.
“Goodbye” plays like a eulogy with soft singing from Taylor, slight guitar chords and keyboards. This song is not only in the memory of Gray, but saying goodbye to all the negative emotions that were surrounding the band as well: “A long time ago we discovered/that nothing could stop us/This hasn’t torn us apart/so nothing ever will”. The ending highlights dueling guitar solos from Jim Root and Mick Thompson that continue into “Nomadic” (I love continuations). “Custer” will be a fan favorite with the incessant chanting and pounding percussion. “Lech” is very reminiscent of “Skin Ticket”: blast-beats for days complete with lyrics that are spoken and brooding.
Before Paul Gray’s passing, he expressed that he wanted the band to explore more and not stay pigeonholed, I mean really rip into their potential. Not only is .5: The Gray Chapter the album that Gray would want, it’s the album that Slipknot needed. Every member had to take a piece of it as their way of tribute to a fallen friend, no matter how aggressive it may be. From that, you have one of the finest works in the Slipknot discography. Eat it up, “maggots”.