By Michael Boesel
Elm Staff Writer
With Halloween coming up, what could be more fitting than reviewing an album of a metal band that is famous for wearing disturbing masks whenever they appear in public, and on stage? Slipknot is not only famous for their unusual appearance, but also for their unique style of music and most importantly for being one of the biggest and most influential bands the metal genre has to offer.
Since the release of Slipknot’s fourth album “All Hope Is Gone” in 2008, debuted number one in the Billboard Charts there have only been a few signs of life of the band. This led to little hope for a new record any time in the future. After the tragic death of their bassist Paul Gray in 2010, who was responsible for a huge part of the songwriting, the fate of this band from Des Moines, Iowa was unknown. They did a few live shows in 2011 and disappeared from the public afterwards. When they parted with drummer Joey Jordison in late 2013 most fans feared the end of Slipknot was near. Therefore the announcement of the fifth Album “.5: The Gray Chapter” along with the release of a new single came as an unexpected surprise.
Slipknot must have gone through the hardest time of their career as a band so far has not spoken of their individual hardships the band members had to overcome during the past few years. They channeled their emotions and their struggles into the songwriting, and this is clearly audible. “.5: The Gray Chapter ” is dark, heavy, and angry.
The album opens with “XIX,” a slow and disturbing, nevertheless catchy song that feels more like an introduction before one gets thrown in the next song “Sarcastrophe.” This song is not what one might expect after the band’s last release; it is aggressive and fast and reminds the listener of the first two releases of Slipknot, the self-titled “Slipknot” and “Iowa.” The next song “AOV” continues where “Sarcastrophe” ended in terms of heaviness but introduces a more melodic chorus showing lead singer Corey Taylor is not only a great shouter but also an exceptionally gifted singer.
“The Devil In I” might very well be the best song on the album; it fuses the mainly heavy influences from the first releases of the band with the more melodic influences of their third (“Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses”) and fourth release, each of which received platinum status and creates a sound that feels new and familiar at the same time. The slow “Killpop” ironically has some pop elements hidden in it and marks the slowest song of the album up to this point through the next highlight “Skeptic” follows right afterwards. In this song they keep this great combination of heaviness and melody. “Lech” feels like it is bursting with energy and acts as an antipole to the balladic “Goodbye” that reveals a ray of hope, which is unusual for Slipknot. In the second half the song builds up to pave the way for “Nomadic.”
“Nomadic” again has one of those insanely catchy choruses while still being as hard and heavy as the Slipknot songs of the early 2000s. “The One That Kills The Least” is a mid-speed song that focuses a little more on the incredible guitar skills of Slipknot’s guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thompson. What follows is pure madness in the form of a song called “Custer,” with sound effects that resemble a screaming goat and striking scratches by DJ Sid Wilson. After this ride through the depths of a crooked mind, the listener gets the necessary break with the interlude “Be Prepared For Hell.” After being prepared for hell, the listener is confronted with “The Negative One,” a song that shows the whole spectrum of the sound of this record; it is heavy, melodic, dark, and energetic. The last song “If Rain Is What You Want” is a fitting end to an intense album like this. The ballad with an epic length over six minutes is the silence and the aftermath of this storm at the same time.
Slipknot inherited the spirit of their friend and inspiration Gray and created a record that is worthy of being called a memorial to Gray. With this album, they dissipated all the doubts and showed what they are still capable of as a band. What remains for the fans is a truly amazing piece of metal music confirming Slipknot is not only evolving but is also unbreakable. If you like metal or any heavy music, you should give this record a try; you will be rewarded.