After five long years as well of months of speculation and controversy, it’s no wonder why the modern day metal community are rather speculative about any new Slipknot record. The band themselves have been wrapped in infamy since before their self-titled debut back in 1999 amidst pig carcasses, on-stage fires and rather questionable themes. Sure, I could be talking about any stereotypical black metal band, hailing a deep love for all things satanically charged, but with an arguably unique blend of metalcore, nu-metal and a love for masked performances Slipknot have ushered in a following like few others before them. The case in point is not whether you like them for their antics, views or even the music, all I’m saying that is; if you follow metal to any extent, you’ve heard of Slipknot.
So what does a Slipknot album have to offer in the year 2014? The answer isn’t too far from what you or even the hardcore fans would expect. Slipknot has made an album that sits directly on their sound, mixing together other records into a meshed soundscape that supposedly portrays the bands’ struggles, trials and internal problems over the course of the last five years.
Here’s a true reflection on what “.5 The Gray Chapter” actually is without resorting to cheap, biased opinion in order to boost site visits or being paid to provide sweepingly positive statements that tell the reader a whole lot of… nothing (I know, right?). As hard as it is to believe; not all those who receive early access to music, don’t actually have to sell it to the public. In fact, the point of reviewing music is to provide perspective to those who want to know what’s coming, been or gone and if there’s a few choice terms in that review those selling the album can use, that’s all the better.
A lengthy and tedious disclaimer aside, Slipknot have definitely grown since 1999 and fifteen years later, but the band’s fifth record isn’t about to surprise anyone. A new drummer, new bassist but everything is unsurprisingly similar to the formula Slipknot have made their trademark over the years. At least there’s one thing going for the new album; Jim and Mick (who handle the dual guitar duties) can still write some monster riffs.
Even from the opening track, which (on past records) normally comprises of more noise than song, features a pensive crooning Corey Taylor and some ominous atmospherics in order to build tension between the band and listener, comprised of a emotional force of the album’s name sake. From there however, focus is lost as the album progresses into “Sarcastrophe”, an original era, Slipknot-onslaught filled with angst, reassuring older fans that the”Knot” can still put two and two together. As you could imagine, none of this is really surprising, but the album is as equally flawed as it stands above the stereotypes. ‘.5 The Gray Chapter’ is let down by shoddy song-writing and laughable lyricism. Take “Skeptic” for example, an ode to Paul Gray, the band’s late bassist. The samey, cycled riff patterns meet up with crude: “The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you” showing all too obviously what this track, and album is about. In 2014, Slipknot are like a race horse with blinders on. They can see the finish line, but there’s no perspective, no looking at the bigger picture. It could be said the band is simply making the album it wants to, but for a group known for its fan base, there’s a lot here left wanting. I know I may sound critical, and there are some quality tracks here but they’re overshadowed by the wait between records, hype, pressure and overall context. It appears Slipknot’s new record could have waited a couple more years in order to write something memorable, or even worth the time. As for the highlights, there’s the terribly labeled “Killpop” which holds onto some of Corey’s darker (and a whole lot better) lyricism. Images of self hurt, manifesting in rhymed brilliance and quality musicianship. Take what you will from the upcoming Slipknot release as it’s sure to divide listeners and leave others scratching their heads, if it’s all the same, where are the hooks? The intensity? Or even the ability to meld song-writing and theme together.
Overall the album is a hit and miss affair, needing more time to flesh out ideas – or maybe bring them together properly. As it stands, Slipknot have been better, and they’ll probably be better again but ‘.5 The Gray Chapter’ is not an album that will see the same replay values as ‘Vol.3: The Subliminal Verses’ or ‘Iowa’. Maybe it’s for the better, Slipknot need to learn to walk before they can start running again. If you didn’t care for the normal album, the bonus tracks won’t change your mind either.
- The Devil In I
- The One That Kills the Least
- Be Prepared For Hell
- The Negative One
- If Rain Is What You Want