.5: The Gray Chapter review by Slipknot

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  • Released: Oct 17, 2014
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 7.7 (152 votes)
Slipknot: .5: The Gray Chapter

Sound — 6
One could lambaste Slipknot for being death metal poseurs or lamenting on how upsetting it was when they officially tossed their hat into commercial metal with "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)," but Slipknot still deserve credit where credit is due, and that's a lot. Taking into account that they've only had four albums in their catalog since their debut self-titled album in 1999, it's all the more impressive that they've amassed such an astronomically large following, and while Slipknot's trademark look is susceptible to being analogized as the KISS of the 21st century, they've commendably done the opposite of wearing their music and their brand down to an incessant money siphon. 

Slipknot's works being few and far between is certainly one of numerous reasons why each of their albums stood tall before and after being released. But before Slipknot's fifth album even had a title or a demo for it, the possibilities of the band's end were floating around when bassist and founding member Paul Gray died in 2010, two years after the release of their fourth album, "All Hope Is Gone." After a hiatus for a collective grieving by the band, Slipknot decided to continue, albeit tentatively, and by 2013, a fifth album was finally in the works. Adding along to the adversity that faced this album was that it would also not include the band's top-caliber drummer Joey Jordison, whose status with Slipknot is still not wholly known yet other than he's out of the band. With such a rocky road leading up to it, ".5: The Gray Chapter" shaped up to be the most anticipated Slipknot album yet. 

Prior to its release, frontman Corey Taylor described the new album as a mix between "Iowa" and "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)," but frankly, you can find essences of every previous Slipknot album in here. From the recurring hectic blastbeat/tremolo sections and the scene-stealing guitar solos in "Killpop," "Nomadic" and "The One That Kills the Least," the post-"Iowa" instrumental savvy of the band is still intact - so much so that you wouldn't even notice Jordison's absence - and a heavier usage of turntablist Sid Wilson and sampler Craig Jones brings back a strong essence of the earlier-era Slipknot to the album. In contrast to the overly-brooding "All Hope Is Gone," guitar riffs are more straightforward a la "Iowa," though as satisfying as the groove-inducing riff of "Sarcastrophe" or the grind that fuels the anthemic "Custer" may be, the meat-and-potatoes approach poses as both a satisfying throwback and a derivative problem. The verses in "The Negative One" bears a similarity to the verses in "Disasterpiece," "Nomadic" is fashioned similarly to "My Plague," and even the bridge riff in "If Rain Is What You Want" feels like a slowed down version of the bridge riff in "I Am Hated."

Another vice found on ".5: The Gray Chapter" is a vice that's been lingering for a while in Slipknot's work: an inability to edit down tracks properly. With just "Sarcastrophe," "AOV" and "The Devil in I" taking up 1/4 of the album's total runtime in the first stretch, it makes for somewhat of an exhausting acquainting period for the album, where mirroring intro/outros and non-sequitur riffs thrown in for the hell of it make these songs (as well as later tracks "Lech" and "The Negative One") longer than they need to be. A perfect contrast to this detriment is "Killpop" - not only being the freshest and most interesting track on the album, it progresses from an introspective, Nine-Inch-Nails-esque soft song to a boiling rager in less than four minutes, which comes to show that it's not simply about how much you cram into a song that makes it good.

Lyrics — 8
With the years leading up to ".5: The Gray Chapter" being seminal for Slipknot in many ways, there's a lot more candor and verbal penance found in these lyrics than in any other Slipknot album. In regards to their long and successful career, Taylor voices the problems he has in the situation he's in - from airing out his discomfort about his status as an uber-famous singer in "Nomadic," where he feels past his prime and demands to everyone "I need you to hate me," and sneering at greedy opportunists in the music industry in "Lech" and "The Negative One," which could possibly allude to the still-unclear falling out of Slipknot and Jordison. But ultimately, much of Taylor's negative feelings on the album stem back to him, with a constant recurring theme in his lyrics addressing the general sense of guilt he holds and the punishment he feels he deserves. 

Those feelings of guilt that constantly pop up throughout the album most likely go hand-in-hand with the primary theme in the album: Gray's death. Just the first words in the opening "XIX" ("this song is not for the living/this song is for the dead") clearly states how much dedication the album is going to Slipknot's former brother-in-arms. Nearly every song on the album contains a line that feels inspired by the tragedy - from Taylor threatening the world "I don't want to watch another brother f--king die" in "AOV" and darkly philosophizing "some of us were meant to be outlived" in "The Devil in I," to addressing Slipknot's strengthened resolve after Gray's passing in "Goodbye." But the biggest tribute to Gray is in "Skeptic," where the overall message of Taylor questioning the existence of a god that would let Gray die so tragically is loaded with his personal call-to-arms about making Gray's role in the band eternal ("I won't let you disappear/I will keep your soul alive if I can't have you here").

Overall Impression — 7
Where "Iowa" was meant to upgrade from "Slipknot," and "All Hope Is Gone" was meant to upgrade from "Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)," ".5: The Gray Chapter" isn't attempting to be the best Slipknot album made, but rather, an aggregate of Slipknot's sound in their near-20-year career. ".5: The Gray Chapter" may suffer from some compositional in-breeding, but given the fact that it's been six years since Slipknot's last album (and thirteen years since the album's sonic patriarch "Iowa"), it's more forgivable of an offense than not, and given the fact that they lost two of their key players before making this album, the result could have been painstakingly worse. Perhaps most importantly for the band, though, ".5: The Gray Chapter" serves as a proper tribute for Gray, and when Slipknot get a crowd of thousands singing along to the chorus of "Skeptic," Gray's spirit will certainly feel alive - which is likely the only thing that matters to them with this album.

90 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I think this album has no bad songs at all. Really great stuff. Corey can balance beautiful clean vocals with his pissed off screaming really well once again. I don't personally understand how people say that this album is lacking heaviness? There are some extremely crushing parts. Are they listening to same album? I would give it atleast 8 or maybe even higher score.
    I agree. I am really enjoying this album. There are definitely many of the good old slipknot riffs, mixes, etc in there and although I am not a stone sour fan, the softer stuff on this album isn't off putting to me. I think it's a solid release. Not their best work but not a bad album in my opinion.
    The only thing I don't like about the album, are the length of some of the songs. In my opinion, some could be a bit shorter and still get to the point. Otherwise, there's not much that springs to mind; it's what they promised and it's what we got - a combination of Iowa and Vol. 3, and I'm over the moon
    It takes a lot to impress people these days man, attention spans are at an all time low and the most popular artist right now are all trash, this album is not trash. I dont understand the bickering either; everyone's got opinions though and they must express! I think we can all agree this album is better than All Hope is Gone, c'mon seriously that album wasn't terrible but definitely there worst.
    Actually IMO all hope is gone was their best album after Iowa ...but thats just my opinion
    People who thinks this album is lacking heaviness just need to picture a festival audience during "Custer". That song has about as much force as Eyeless or Surfacing and I freaking love it.
    Why do you gold medal a post with such an anecdotal response? Can we have some specific observations that Medal Boy earned in his post? He says the album has no bad songs. They're all really great and Corey delivers with his vocals. How is the album not heavy because I hear parts that are extremely crushing* I would score it [an 8 at least] better. Okay, cool. Why. *Exodus' latest release might make your head explode, dude
    The point where the reviewer says that the 5min songs drag on is ridiculous.. 5min isn't even that long
    IKR the three songs he mentions are some of the best songs on the album and in no way drag on. I like having some longer tracks thrown in with the shorter ones.
    It's about context. If there's 5 minutes worth of interesting content, than sure! But if it's 5 minutes just to be 5 minutes, I can see it dragging. I don't think that's necessarily a long song length. To me, it's the perfect song length... but a lot of songs on this album just don't have 5 minutes worth of interesting material in them.
    Yeah I guess, but personally I don't feel like they dragged. But if all the songs on the album were roughly 4min long, that wouldn't neccessarily be a good thing, some longer songs break it up a bt. Something I thought, is that the song Goodbye could have been a little longer
    it's pretty long considering most songs are anywhere from 3:30 to 4 minites
    Just finished listening to the whole album, can't wait to give it another run through
    Generally solid review I think. I'd give it a bit higher than a 6.3 personally (probably a 7 or 7.5) though. I'm convinced however that I seem to be the only one who wasn't really that big of a fan of Killpop. The lyrics are the best part (which I absolutely love), but I felt the song fell a little short.
    I agree wholeheartedly on Killpop being so short. It's probably my favorite track on the album, but it feels short. Like there was more that was abruptly cut off, like radio edit.
    Nomadic is some song!
    Anyone that says this sounds like Stone Sour obviously haven't heard the album. An awesome return to form especially considering the bands current situation over the past few years. And the new drummer definitely filled the shoes Joey left.
    Not really my thing, so I guess my opinion will differ from others here. I think it's a solid record, but not something Id go back to a lot.
    Pretty poor review. This album is at least a 8.5. But my problem with rating music is that it is just too subjective.
    The album's an 8.5 to me. 'Custer' alone gets a ****ing 9, though. Goddamn does that song kick my ass.
    a drummer
    I love it. May not be the popular opinion but this is at least a 9/10 for me. Every track is its own with so many that are awesome. Skeptic and Killpop, are some of the best Slipknot songs i've heard. Definitely up there with Iowa as my favorite. and Corey Taylor's performance on it is near perfect.
    I loved this record. Beat the shit out of All Hope Is Gone, for sure. Not to say that was a bad record, just my least favorite by them. I didn't dislike a single song on this record. XIX is a beautiful yet scary way to start the album and Sarcastrophe is absolutely brutal. This is in no way similar to Stone Sour, people are just saying that because all they're hearing is Corey's clean vocals. They're not listening to all aspects of the music. I'm also very impressed with the new drummer and bassist. Favorite songs off the record are probably Sarcastrophe, Nomadic, Lech and The Negative One.
    I think this album is amazing. These guys have been to hell and back over the course of their lives. This is the real deal, they came back hard as **** and in your face with some ear pussy soothing melodic hard metal crazy slipknot shit. 100% love and respect \m/
    Slow your roll, dude. They've been through no more than most of us have gone through or will go through by the time we reach their age. I get what you mean, though. Let's praise them for finding an outlet in art and putting out a product worth listening to.
    Audible Warfare
    "They've been through no more than most of us have gone through or will go through by the time we reach their age." Read about Slipknot during the recording of Iowa.
    Not a single word on the production? The drums sound like they came out of a computer rather than an actual drumset. I can barely distinguish the snare from the toms.
    This. The music is pretty good, but the production is terrible and drags down the final result a bit (the same thing that happened with the latest Fallujah record; brilliant music but awful production which stains the result). With a good production I'd have given this a solid 7 or 7.5, but as it is a 6.5 is the most I give it.
    It's Greg Fidelman so it's really not that surprising. Although from watching the making of Death Magnetic, he seems to be quite a down to earth person, his production is generally some of the worst out there. :/
    When I explain Greg I show people an invisible board and go; "Okay this is where the mix should be... Now do this" *slides everything up at least a couple inches*
    Totally, when I first listened to the album I knew I had heard that ultra compressed "tin can" production somewhere else, and later when I saw it was by Fidelman everything made sense. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but I agree with you, his production work is among the worst I've ever heard; to this day I'm still unable to listen to Death Magnetic from beginning to end without literally getting a headache, to me it's THAT bad (and well, the fact that I didn't really enjoy the music either doesn't help, but luckily it's not the case here at least).
    It's not good, but it's definitely not THAT bad. I've heard worse drum mixing. My main problem is the kick, which sound "floppy".
    I thought Joe Baressi did a superb job mixing. This is my first Fidelman record and it's not that bad. Oh well. To each their own.
    People are strange. The anticipation for this album was huge after hearing "The Negative One" and "The Devil In I" with people saying "yeah man can't wait for this" and "this album is gonna be amazing!" but now its out all I hear is bitching and moaning! I guess actual Slipknot fans are too busy listening to the album instead of complaining about the bands first release in 6 years. This band have still ****ing got it, brutal stuff! Love it!
    I'm guessing, but I bet those who whine about the album are those who live in the early 2000's. Slipknot can't go back to that energy and aggression: Corey's voice won't take it (no voice would be able to last that long and still do aggressive growls), and when they perform, most are over 40. I'd say, for the length of time they've been around, kudos to them for managing to carry on. This album was great (needs a higher rating from this site).
    As for the album itself, I'm loving the traditional death elements in a handful of ssongs. They really pull it off well.
    i would definitely give this album an 8 or 8.5, every track is good though some could be cut out and you wouldn't miss them but most tracks are better than good and you would miss them. the production could be better in my opinion but that isn' stopping me from listening by a long shot.
    I honestly think this is their best album since Iowa. My only real gripes is that some of the songs tend to sound similar, and it's lacking some of the guitar effects that Mick used to use. Other than that, I'd give it an 8, start to finish I loved it.
    Solid album, as far as i have listened. Not a big fan of Killpop, but custer and sarcastrophe are really good. I'd give a bit more than a 7 though
    I've had this album on repeat for days now. Probably a week. Ever since the stream. I'm loving it. Not just because it's Slipknot and they're my favorite band. But because a lot of this really hits home with me. I've had plenty of death in my life this year and this album's speaking to me. Just as all other Slipknot albums did something for me. Iowa came when I was confused and angry at the world, Vol. 3 when I was trying to feel better about myself and not feeling worthless, and All Hope is Gone when I needed to get my head right and and understand myself. And this one comes when I needed some way to heal after losing two of the most important people I had. I'm only 25 and there's plenty ahead of me, but Slipknot is honestly one of the bands that have helped me want to actually see what tomorrow has in store for me. Music is one of the only things that matters to me anymore.
    This record is so ****ing solid. I'm especially glad to see that Craig and Sid are really getting to shine more on this album. And Jay just ****ing kills it.
    This album kicks so much ass. I was like "well Duality was pretty cool back in high school, let's see how this is." Blown away, man. Blown the f*** away.
    utterly fantastic album, i believe it is a perfect mix of all the albums. Only song i cant stand is killpop.....tried listening to this so many times and its just weak.
    Overall my favorite tracks in order have to be: 1: Lech (Has as much power and punch as any Iowa song) 2: Sarastrophe (Such a kick-ass way to open an album as soon as I heard this song I went this is Slipknot's come-back) 3: Custer (Same reason as Lech really) 4 Goodbye (A really nice testament to their fallen brother Paul) 5: AOV (The clean vocals in the chorus really really got me hooked on this song) Overall I love this album not one bad song that I wouldn't listen to
    Sewn Up
    I'm on my 3rd listen of it as I'm typing this. There were a couple comments on the article saying that the band were streaming the album in its entirety that really sum it up for me. It's more a grower than a shower, meaning that it was pretty good the first listen and gets better every time afterwards. The second is that it sounds like AHIG f cked Iowa and had a baby. Sounds about right to me. I really like the direction they decided to take on this album and hope that they stick with it. Definitely more in the 8/8.5 range for me. It's not their best but seriously better than AHIG and Vol. 3.
    Honestly, I've never really been that big a fan of Slipknot (I listen to them here and there, but not religiously or anything) but I love this album. Really the only gripe I have with it, is the drums. It just sounds like they threw them together on some computer software or something, really missing Joey; but that's really the only bad thing I can say about this album.
    After Vol. 3 Slipknot went downhill for me. Few good tracks here and there, but nothing special.
    I think the first 5 tracks are amazing! Especially killpop. I think it's the chorus that got me. Skeptic has the most unbearable lyrics for me. Towards the end of the album I love goodbye, the negative one, custer, and if rain is what you want. I'd give it a 7.5 overall. Something is missing from this record for me, I can't really put my finger on what it is yet.
    I'm not on the Custer bandwagon. Lyrically, it's just Corey mindlessly screaming "****!" as many times as possible. Completely pointless.
    Have you heard any of their older songs, such as Snap? It is difficult for people to keep writing songs with a high standard, musically and lyrically. Cut (cut, cut) them some slack, it's pretty much only one song off the album which is like that.
    Lyrically it really isn't his strong point, but musically and just raw intensity, I don't think it can be beaten. There is a certain energy to it that just keeps me coming back wanting to hear it again and again.
    Best album since Iowa. It's like they took the drug abuse aspect out of Iowa, and it's ****ing good. 9/10 from me, 1 point deduction for the radio friendly songs that kinda suck imho
    Am I the only one who noticed a small similarity between Corey's singing in 'XIX' and Keith Flint's singing in 'Omen'? (The Prodigy)
    It's more along the lines of (515) from Iowa (which Corey was saying it was the equivalent of). In (515), one of them was screaming because they lost a relative (I forget which band member that was - Shawn?). XIX is a song for the dead, according to the lyrics, so that may have been written about Gray's death, with Corey screaming into the microphone. That's what I think anyways...
    just for the record, that member who recorded (515) was Sid because his grandfather died. that song terrifies me.
    just for the record, that member who recorded (515) was Sid because his grandfather died. that song terrifies me.
    I dont understand how fans can listen Subliminal Verses, All hope is gone and this new Gray chapter. It just lack of good musical ideas, good guitar sound, good vocals, aggression etc... Iowa was last and the best album that they ever recorded. IMHO after Iowa Slipknot recorded only 2 nice songs per album: - Vol 3. Subliminal verses: three nil, duality - All hope is gone: gematria, sulfur - Gray chapter: custer, negative one and those are still so poor sounding songs in compare of previous albums except for Custer and Negative one. Those two are really good and it fills like Slipknot returned to what it really was. But the rest of Gray chapter is one big fail and the biggest fail is Killpop
    I never got the love for Iowa. I've got no interest in Slipknot returning to consistently lame lyrics (there's some bad ones on The Gray Chapters, but not nearly as often as Iowa), the lesser technical proficiency they had, instrumentally, earlier on, or the sheer lack of lead guitar from earlier in their career. Not that lead guitar or solos are necessary but Slipknot does it very tastefully. Iowa may have been great for what it was when it was released, but the Gray Chapter is a logical step in Slipknot's progression. It's a culmination of everything they've ever been--the sheer aggression of their material combined with the technical proficiency and songwriting prowess they've gained over the years. You can't have Iowa, again. They're more mature than that. Deal with it.
    The negative one feels like a rehashed "wait and bleed", which was kinda cool like 10 years ago when nu metal was somehow relevant (dark times indeed).
    This album is great. Makes me wanna cut myself. I'm also 16. My cutter girlfriend agrees too. Yay scary masks! Cut cut cut.
    I think this is a really badass album. I like all the songs, can't really say that I like one song better than the other, it's just awesome. And I gotta say, the new drummer is really kicking a**! Great job, in my opinion. Only thing I miss is a little guitar technicalities. But then again, it loses a bit of it's "headbanging quality" with long guitar solos and such.
    I'll need to give this a second listen. I really loved the first 4 or so songs (just had the stream going so I wasn't paying attention to specific tracks) but to me it was really lagging in the middle. It picked up a bit towards the end, but it never reached the start again for me, except The Negative One. From what the rest of you are saying though I'll definitely give it a few more spins.
    The album could've benefited without some bad choruses and shoddy production.