Album Review

Slipknot - .5 The Gray Chapter

Released October 21, 2014
Lisa Sanchez
Last Tuesday, Slipknot dropped .5 The Gray Chapter after their longest hiatus in the band's 20 year career. It's been six years since Slipknot's 2008 release, All Hope Is Gone, and fans have waited to see what the band's next move would be. Or, if the band would even be able to survive after the loss of two founding members.
The eight masked mad men from Iowa experienced unheard of upheaval when Paul Gray, bassist, died unexpectedly in 2010. The devastating blow was supplemented with Joey Jordison's eventual dismissal from Slipknot in December 2013. Now, with two members gone and time running out for a release, Slipknot pulled out one of the most curious releases in their career.
All of the Slipknot elements are there. Corey Taylor's throat-wrenching mutters, growls, curses, creeds, and intermittent clean vocals, Shawn "Clown" Crahan and Chris Fehn's medley of percussion and beer keg blasts, Mick Thompson's and Jim Root's incurring guitar strikes, and Sid Wilson's input that makes it sound like you need to adjust your TV antennas. The basic components are present from when Slipknot first released their self-titled album in 1999 to .5 The Gray Chapter.
The band has consistently mellowed their sound since 2004's Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses), both to the ire of die-hard maggots and joy of radio rock DJs. .5 The Gray Chapter falls solidly in the middle of Slipknot's sound progression. Somewhere between Iowa and Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) which I'm sure pleases pretty much no one at this point.
Taylor, who made his mark with obliterating and vicious vocals on Slipknot's early albums, sings clean for at least part of every song on .5 The Gray Chapter. Taylor can belt it out better than almost any other metal vocalist living or dead, but his somewhat abrupt vocal change ups can be jarring and give certain songs like "The Devil In I" and "Nomadic" the record-skip effect. They throw off the groove of the song, and ultimately the momentum of my head banging.
But, holy god damn are there some good songs on .5 The Gray Chapter. Especially compared to the walking, talking, shit magnet that was All Hope Is Gone. All the heavy hitters on the album, "Sarcastrophe", "AOV", "The Devil in I" (even with it's flaws), "Skeptic", "Lech", "Custer" and "The Negative One" have that primal, old-school Slipknot feel while injecting a new brand of "fuck you" for a new generation. They bring a relentless violence that ignites something that can't be undone.
"Skeptic" and "Goodbye" are the two stand out songs most obviously devoted to the memory of Paul Gray. It's rewarding to hear because Slipknot owe it to the fans and to themselves to acknowledge the profound impact the bassist's passing had on the tight-knit unit. As Taylor recites in "Skeptic": "I won't let you disappear. I will keep your soul alive if I can't have you here...but the world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you..." These songs cast the band and the whole album in a different light, it morphs .5 The Gray Chapter into a pulsing beat for the band's dismay.
Let me just say, it's personally difficult to get over the amount of butt-hurt I have because of this album. It has been a tantric experience to try and get over my own expectations of what I think Slipknot should be and what I want them to be. This is a problem many long-time and die-hard fans have. But, .5 The Gray Chapter is not a bad album. In fact, it's quite an exceptional album. But, it was not made for the fans. It was made strictly so that Slipknot, as an entity, could purge itself of the despair surrounding the death of Paul Gray. That consideration makes .5 The Gray Chapter operate as an art installation more than a marketable album. Certainly, listeners will enjoy and connect with songs independently of this fact, but in the end Slipknot, perhaps Corey Taylor in particular, are just screaming into an empty casket.
.5 The Gray Chapter delivers on a lot of levels, and it might take a little willful amnesia and meditation to appreciate the album for what it is. But, in the end, it's one of the most real and adamant albums Slipknot has released in years. With their foundation shaken, Slipknot still managed to build up from zero all the way to eight.