"A long time ago we discovered that nothing could stop us. This hasn't torn us apart, so nothing ever will." Slipknot - Goodbye, .5: The Gray Chapter
The expectation surrounding the next Slipknot album was always going to be so huge, that, if it ever did surface, for some people it would never live up to expectations. Now, after six years since All Hope Is Gone and all the well documented events that have gone before, .5: The Gray Chapter is here. How does the album that many thought would never happen hold up against the weight of expectation?
For the most part, pretty well. Sarcastrophe is exactly along the lines of what Slipknot fans might have expected with a fast paced groove filled main riff proceeded by an almighty roar from Corey. Jim Root's ability to focus on this album 100% after leaving Stone Sour is evident as the song contains at least three notable riffs all the while accompanied by pummelling percussion and a furious vocal from Corey - when he screams "Live Long & Die For Me" he damn well means it. AOV starts off in pure thrash mode and in places is the fastest Slipknot song since Surfacing. It's quite an eclectic track as it also contains one of the most melodic patches of any Slipknot song but is no less enjoyable as a result.
All of the "officially released songs" thus far from The Gray Chapter have hit the target very well. The Negative One was a welcome first look at the album with it's nod to Slipknot's earlier material yet still sounds fresh. The Devil In I would have seamlessly fit in to either Iowa or Volume 3, and the chorus of Custer is going to see absolute carnage unfold at every Slipknot show from now on (and will probably result in some speeding tickets). Certain songs like Killpop and The One That Kills The Least feel too watered down to remain truly memorable but there are more successes than failures in terms of song quality.
As one might expect, .5: The Gray Chapter also has some experimental tracks, which are met with varying degrees of success. The spiky Nomadic almost feels like the Slipknot take on punk rock but works very well. The hymn-like opener XIX will appeal to some but not others and the album closer If Rain Is What You Want almost feels like a Slipknot take on ambient / drone metal in the vein of Cult Of Luna which is again likely to split opinion.
While several tracks could be interpreted to reference either Paul Gray, Joey Jordison or in some cases both (Skeptic, Lech, Nomadic, The Devil In I & The Negative One to name a handful) there's little doubt who the incredibly poignant "Goodbye" is talking about. The lyric quoted at the top of this review sums it up nicely in that this song is both an ode to their departed brother who they named the Gray Chapter after and the band moving on from what they have been through and coming out the other side intact.
Those who have said any Slipknot album without Joey and Paul would be an utter disaster have been proven sorely wrong by .5: The Gray Chapter. Whilst the album is more schizophrenic in it's approach than previous records it still manages to ebb and flow well for the most part. The new drummer and bassist perform competently enough "whoever they are" (though the production does make it hard to pick out individual elements at times) and there are enough stand out songs and traditional "Slipknot moments" on this album to make it a winner in most fans eyes. After what Slipknot have been through, that .5: The Gray Chapter exists at all is barely short of a miracle. The fact that it's a good album is most welcome indeed.