Still in the Shadows
5: The Gray Chapter
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Slipknot has had a tumultuous last few years. From the tragic passing of their bassist and founding member, Paul Gray, in 2010 to the recent firing of their lead drummer, Joey Jordison, the Grammy-winning heavy metal band has seen its share of lows. However, now armed with a new bassist (prior to this, the band fiddled around with different bassists, seemingly unable to fill the void Gray left) and drummer, Slipknot finally released their fifth studio album, .5: The Gray Chapter, after a six-year hiatus. It is a tribute to Gray, whose death haunts them. And yes, the boys from Des Moines, Iowa, still don’t give a damn about what you make of their musical progress.
Indeed, musically, the album lies somewhere between Iowa (2001) and Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004) — something noted by fans as well as vocalist Corey Taylor himself. This means it has the former’s frenetic ferocity and sense of urgency while retaining the latter’s meanderings into the grey area (pardon the pun) between melodic noise and actually harmony.
The sense of loss still felt by the band is discernible from the very first track, XIX, which begins dirge-like, with a mournful bagpipe tune, rife with distortion, broken by Taylor’s rasping, disconsolate vocals. Though it progresses heavily with plenty of hooks and heavy drumming, the songs ends abruptly, just as it’s picking up pace, like a life cut short, if you will.
However, the next few songs, Sarcastrophe, AOV and The Devil in I (the first single from the album released on radio to almost universal adulation) continue where X left off: heavy, brash, with a beating more than just a beat. Maggots (the band’s self-identified throng of followers) will identify it as Slipknot’s earliest sound, when the band was just emerging and grabbing audiences by the throat through an almost murderous musicology. Our favourite number is Killpop, an eerie exploration of addiction (to substances) and obsession (with people); think of it as a prom song for the undead.
While Taylor’s vocals and lyrics have perhaps become more tempered with age, the underlying fury and menacing intent is still present.
The remainder of the band remains perched on their cthonic carousel as well, and even with the absence of Gray and Jordison, churns out the “music of the macabre”, that is so characteristic of Slipknot.
Jim Root and Mick Thomson continue emoting anger and despair while displaying sheer virtuosity through their guitars. Percussionists Shawn Crahan and Chris Fehn remain committed to seeing how many inanimate objects they can get a beat out of. Meanwhile, pianist Craig Jones and DJ Sid Wilson bridge the gaps between the other elements with cascading chords and the analogous turntable, respectively.
And while new kids Alessandro Venturella (bass) and Jay Weinberg (drums) may not be the spawn of the Devil that Gray and Jordison clearly were, they do a pretty decent job in matching the tonality of the rest of the band. Maybe it’s time to induct them in as full members, Corey?