Album: 5. The Gray Chapter
Our Verdict: 4/5
Release date: 10th November
Find it at: Slipknot’s official website
Review by: Richard Humphrey
Slipknot return triumphant with “…one of the most emotionally charged albums you’re likely to hear this year.”
It’s been a turbulent past few years to say the least in the world of Slipknot. Paul Gray’s accidental overdose back in 2010 – half a year after touring duties for 2008’s All Hope Is Gone ceased – made frontman Corey Taylor think long and hard about the future of the band. It is therefore no surprise that it has taken six years for album five, The Gray Chapter to see a release; not without further incident, mind. In December of last year, the band announced via their website that drummer and fan favourite Joey Jordison had left due to `personal reasons’. A counter response from the man frequently ranked highly in metal magazines’ drummer polls denied quitting the group. In May, Taylor’s side project Stone Sour announced the firing of guitarist and fellow Slipknot member Jim Root for reasons that are still unclear, although Root has recently hinted at being pushed out by other members of the band. Months of silence followed, with visitors to the band’s website being greeted with a black empty page. Fans of both bands could be forgiven for fearing the worst.
But now, with the release of The Gray Chapter, fans can rest assured that they needn’t have worried. Aurally, it sounds more similar to the 2004 Rick Rubin produced Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses than its predecessor. Opening track “XIX” is a haunting intro which typifies the beginning of Slipknot albums, Shawn `Clown’ Crahan faintly informing us that, “this song is not for the living… this song is for the dead.” It sets the scene for an album heavily influenced by the events of the past four years – most prominently the passing of Gray (“I don’t want to get back up/but I have to/so it might as well be today”). Inevitable fan anthem “Sarcastophe” follows, adhering to the tried and tested method of the band adding energy-fuelled tracks immediately after ethereal intros, with Taylor yelling, `WE. ARE. KILL. GODS!’ in the track’s refrain. Indeed.
Guitarists Mick Thomson and Root live up to expectations on the record, producing some of the heaviest, riff-laden songs seen from the band. “AOV” (`approaching original violence’) is a prime example of this, with the intro’s rhythm reminiscent of Mudvayne’s classic, “Dig”. It is very clear to the listener – even three tracks in – that this is the most emotional album the band have produced to date. Taylor has never sung/screamed with so much conviction, a fitting tribute to his friend.
Recent single “The Devil In I” is one of the stand-out tracks on the album, notable especially for the drumming. The band could’ve perhaps been forgiven for showing the drummer a back seat, given the huge boots they had to fill. Jordison’s rumoured replacement, Jay Weinberg of Against Me! fame, has ensured the rhythm section of the band remains at the forefront. (It is no surprise that many fans on hearing the track thought Jordison was still in the band after all – that it had just been one big ruse). Likewise, Gray’s replacement equally had a lot to live up to. Mastodon guitar tech/guitarist of British metal act Krokodil, Alessandro Venturella, is believed to have taken on bass duties, and like Weinberg his skills are prominent, most apparently on slightly softer, eerie offering “Killpop.”
When we get midway through the record to “Lech”, the tone changes somewhat. It begins by Taylor spitting venomously, `I know why Judas wept, motherfucker!’. By including the lyrics, `I can’t believe I’m saying this/I’ll live with my regrets. I’ll die by my decisions’ and `no one is bulletproof’, fans are likely to draw conclusions as to whether outcast Jordison is the subject – it’s pretty clear at the very least that someone has pissed off Taylor royally.
The album hits a slight plateau with the likes of “Goodbye”, “Nomadic”, and “The One That Kills The Least.” Technically, all three are well produced tracks, however you can’t help but feel they have all been heard before. The quality returns in the final act, with “Custer” taking no prisoners as one of The Knot’s most belligerent songs to date that will no doubt propel the `maggots’ into a frenzy on the upcoming UK tour with Korn. “The Negative One” continues in this vein, taking influence in its marching tempo from their 1999 hit “Surfacing”.
Ultimately, whatever sadness and demons the band have had to exorcise in the making of this record, they have well and truly nailed them to the wall for all to see. One of the most emotionally charged albums you’re likely to hear this year.