Six Years since its previous release: The Eighteen Legged hate machine returns with the most important album of its career.
Album: .5: The Gray Chapter
Of course, it’s a small miracle that there’s a new Slipknot album at all, given the tragic death of founder member and bass player Paul Gray in 2010, coupled with the well publicised departure of talismanic sticksman Joey Jordison. Many maggots will be thankful that their favourite band still exists in any form. The fact that they’ve just dropped what is possibly their best album since Iowa then, is verging on fantasy territory. After the mild disappointment of All Hope is Gone, many worried that the ‘Knot simply didn’t have the anger in them anymore, indeed, a greater focus on melodic, verging on ballad-esqe tracks, turned many die-hards off.
With The Gray Chapter, the melodic tracks are still there, but it’s a much better balance. Corey Taylor’s distinctive voice seems to have returned to its savage best, meaning that this has considerably less of the SlipSour/StoneKnot feel that plagued the previous release.
The intrudction of two new full time members, the identity of whom have still not been officially confirmed, has injected new life into the masked beast. The slow-but-creepy ‘XIX’ sets the scene and from there its business as usual, ‘Sarcastrophe’ is classic Slipknot; furious riffing, hyperactive percussion and the unmistakable sound of Corey Taylor spitting vitriol like a psychotic preacher. With the gigantic hooks on ‘The Devil In I’ and ‘AOV’, you can almost hear the arena sized crowds belting back the lyrics.
As one would expect, the album as a whole acts as a tribute to Paul Gray, the lyrical themes of loss and coping with the emptiness it leaves inside a person are apparent throughout. This is most obvious on ‘Skeptic’ and the melancholy ballad ‘Goodbye’ which acts as a calmer eye in the middle of an apocalyptic storm.
The latter half of the disc is arguably the weaker, not to say it’s bad, but the only real stand-out track is ‘The Negative One’, which fans have been quick to label as a song about the band’s departed drummer. Taylor has since dispelled this rumour, but he would wouldn’t he? Either way, it’s a cracking dose of vintage ‘Knot, creepy sound samples and furious pace make it the closest to Iowa era Slipknot in the one hour and four minutes play-time.
It’s worth paying a bit more for the extended version too, as the two bonus tracks, ‘Override’ and ‘The Burden’ are easily as good as (if not better than) anything else on the standard package.
This is the return to form that the fans were after, and with an arena tour already scheduled for early next year, the pulse of the maggots seems to beat on as strong as it ever did.
Review by Alex Loach