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Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter

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For Slipknot, the past four years haven’t been the kindest to them; with the death of their bassist and co-founder Paul Gray, and the departure of long time drummer Joey Jordison, it looked like the remaining members were ready to throw in the towel. But if you have followed their history like I have, you know they never like to back down from proving people wrong. This seems like a tough challenge for them, were they able to overcome it? With Paul there in spirit, they released “.5: The Gray Chapter” on October 17, 2014.

Now it’s been six years since their last studio album “All Hope is Gone”, and a lot of people were wondering, “Are Slipknot even relevant anymore?” Well upon it’s release, The Gray Chapter ranked high on major charts and was favorable among many music critics. So yea, I guess they are still relevant. Many critics praised them for going back to their “older sound from the Slipknot and Iowa albums”, as well as showing that they still have that “spark” so to speak.

Now the question is this, is this album praised simply because it’s been six years since their last album, or did they really prove that Slipknot isn’t dead yet, and dug themselves out of that “irrelevant grave” many people put them in? Well, let’s find out.

XIX – Like all previous slipknot albums, the first song seems to be made as an opener for their concerts and not just an intro song to an album. This one is the best intro out of their previous intros mainly because in this one you can really feel the mood Corey presents in front of us lyrically and the emotion sounds of what appears to be bagpipes and the bells that accompany it.

The first line that says “this song is for the dead” is the first indication of dealing with the lost of Paul, almost as to be hinting this song is possibly meant for him to hear; as well as the use of bagpipes which are usually played at funerals.

It appears Corey is talking about how he has given up on life and doesn’t want to continue. He talks about how he still has to continue and seems to say he is “ok”; hinting that he is lying and is just holding his real feelings in and needs to be surrounded by his fellow band members to help him “get back up”.

The closing lines seem to be about just that and how they should stick together for comfort. Ending with what seems to be a baby crying; possibly symbolizing a rebirth of his new life without Paul? It also seems likely that it hints at the departure of Joey leaving also being the cause of him wanting to give up with the line “I can’t see who knocked me out of my way” that could mean he was already “falling off his path” so to speak and Joey leaving made him fall completely off the deep end. With the album being called The Gray Chapter, this song fits perfectly and helps you set the tone for what is to come.

Sarcastrophe – Named possibly after the punctuation symbol that is used when sarcasm is intended, this song blew me away. What I mean is to me, this sounds like the Iowa era of Slipknot; like they are going back to that “dark time” in this song that they were in during the recording of said era.

Heavy guitar riffs that do indeed sound like they could be Iowa riffs with a little harmony that sounds like from their Vol. 3 era thrown in at the bridge; to me those types of harmonies became really noticeable during that era. The drumming…I didn’t think anyone could fill Joey’s boots, but this drumming style does it great. Now I can tell it’s obviously not him by the tone/mixing levels, and it sounds…I don’t wanna say stiff, cause it’s not, but Joey seemed really loose and it didn’t seem like Joey had a problem playing hard and fast drumming.

The new drumming I guess sounds like it’s trying to get the flow Joey had, again I’m not saying this drumming is bad; it’s amazing and Slipknot’s drum lines have always been fast and hard hitting and this is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Joey always had that “little spark and shine” in his drumming and I can’t feel that same spark and shine here; that’s not to say that this drumming doesn’t have a spark, because it does have its own. It’s just really hard to describe; and I don’t like comparing people to others, but with this I felt like I had to acknowledge it considering the drums are unique to Slipknots sound and this one does indeed check out. Anyways, riffs and drumming aside; the turntable scratching also gives that throwback feel, and I love and missed those scratches.

But now the lyrics; well to start off, the delivery is aggressive! Aggressive to the point where it sounds like Corey is delivering them with his throat instead of his diaphragm. Now him doing this is nothing new, but in recent years he tends to do “clean” vocals for the chorus; however this is not the case on this song. Minus the harmonies on the chorus, nothing but throated screams and shouts are performed. Content wise, it seems to be about pleasure, desire, a hint of betrayal and possibly revenge.

He starts off with lines that seem to describe a possible betrayal and how he isn’t fazed by it. A line that stands out to me is “Which god is god plus negative one?”, and the mention of friendship one line before. Could it possibly be about how he feels betrayed by Joey’s departure? There are also hints of narrow mindedness as well, so what does it all mean? Well, to me it doesn’t seem to be about Joey; I believe it’s about throwing the middle finger to people who doubt them. The line “Only I’ll end the name I’ve made” makes me think this.. People who doubt him can’t kill him and only he controls his fate. Like I stated before, they never back down when proving people wrong and I believe the song is stating that. “We are kill gods” is most likely that sarcasm from the title that mocks doubters by stating between the lines, “we kill…we don’t get killed”. So yes, that whole “going back to their old sound” is present here, but what about the rest of the album?”

AOV – Abbreviated for “Approaching Original Violence”, I don’t really know how I feel about this one. The chorus reminds me greatly of the Dead Memories chorus. Even though it does have that Iowa sound mixed with Vol. 3, I just didn’t feel anything from this song.

I do like the heavy riffs but the song as a whole gives me an “uncomfortable feeling”, it’s probably just me however as I’m sure they weren’t going for that…or were they? Lyrically it seems to dive into forgiveness, letting go of grudges and becoming a unit once again with the lines “Drug out, pissed on, everything’s the same. Bitch and Moan, it doesn’t matter, nothing’s going to change.

I don’t want to watch another brother fucking die, so discarded, fallen by the side. Don’t tell me it’s the only way, just another reason why you never take the bait”. For some reason, placing this one after Sarcastrophe just seemed like a bad choice to me. Sarcastrophe got me really pumped, with AOV it felt like I had to bring my hype down a notch to the level of this song, it’s just placed wrong in my opinion. Maybe if it was later in the album I would enjoy it more. But as I stated before, it does have parts with that old feel, so that’s two so far. Not a dud song in the slightest, but I just can’t get into it for some reason.

The Devil In I – If you look at all their previous albums, track four is always the lead single for said album, just as this one is; and yes I know, technically “The Negative One” was released first and I will get to that later. But how does this single stand? Well in all honesty, I wasn’t into it at first when the music video debut. I was put off by it but after giving it a few more listens, it’s ok.

This song actually seems like it could be on All Hope is Gone with the way it is structured. A lot more singing and harmonies are present over screaming on this one. Starting off heavy with a driving riff going into the verse, and then it suddenly goes into a softer sound that can be compared to songs like Gehenna or ‘Till We Die. Guitar wise, it’s ok; nothing out of the ordinary that Jim or Mick would play, noticeable guitar effects but nothing new.

Sid sounds completely absent from this song. Which is a shame because in recent years it seems like he has been getting lost in the mix; a lot of scratching can be heard mixed in on the older albums, and since Vol. 3 to now his presence is slowly disappearing more and more to me; I think you can hear him doing an echo effect maybe once but that’s it. If you listen carefully, you can hear what seems to be a beer keg being hit so Clown or Chris aren’t completely mixed out, but it’s mixed so low it might as well not even be there.. Also on the verses I believe you can hear them and at the very end a few percussion hits to accompany the drum kit but that’s about all I hear.

Then again, most of the drumming they contribute is only made clear when performing live. Drumming is ok as well. Nothing special but nothing horrible; I don’t know why but this drumming reminds me of the drumming from Sulfur, I just don’t know why in all honesty. Like stated previously, Corey gives his throat a break on this song and sings more than screams; actually, live he doesn’t even do the screaming parts on the chorus, Clown and Chris do them. But when he does scream, he doesn’t seem to be pushing himself like he did on Sarcastrophe.

They aren’t as aggressive sounding, but you don’t always have to scream to get your point across; and what is his point? Well what I got from this song is that he/they are letting out compressed feelings from within. If it’s anger, guilt, sadness, or fear, it seems to be about letting it all out. Being able to accept something after experiencing these trapped feelings and going through the grieving process. Once again, it’s clear this song is about the experience they went through with losing Paul. Now it being the lead single, it’s obvious this is meant for radio air play, like all the other number four tracks on previous records. But anyways, this song is ok; it’s not as strong as previous songs to me but it’s not horrible, it’s just…ok.

Killpop – Did I accidentally pop in a Stone Sour CD by mistake? That’s right, this one sounds really different from previous things they have done. Even though they have done things different like with the Vermillion songs and Snuff, this one’s just done in a special way.

Now to me, this song is good. Not as heavy as other songs obviously but the lyrical meaning is what makes it a good song to me. Like other “softer” Slipknot songs, “she” is used to represent something that seems to be obsessed over but can’t be pleased. I can’t really tell what “she” is suppose to be in this song, however it is clearly something that Corey seems to have a love-hate relationship with though.. I actually really like Corey’s singing voice on this one, and the harmonies make them sound even better.. Instrument wise, the song starts off with I believe a digital effect accompanied by some percussion work.

Entering with Corey are the drums and bass. Now it’s nothing really special sounding to me, but this is the first real time we can clearly hear the bass and that’s refreshing. The drums aren’t over complicated but these grooves just sound so good to me. Sometimes the simplest things sound the best, and this drum line does to me. With the guitars, I just love the way those two single note played power chords at the end of the verses sound. The overall guitar work in the verses just give me chills that have real lingering feelings to them. In a few parts it does get heavier sounding but nothing special. I didn’t think I would but I did enjoy the song. Those catchy chords in the verses keep me coming back.

Skeptic – Pissed! Yes, pissed indeed. Right at the start, the Iowa sound kicks in and you know what to expect. This song actually pumped me back up to how I was during Sarcastrophe. Jim with a wah pedal I believe kicks off the song with the drums and then nothing but heaviness for the rest. Again, nothing difficult but just the structure of the drums and guitar are a great sound.

The later parts of the bridge seems to be influenced by riffs found on “My Plague”; actually most of the instrumental parts of song seems to have been influenced by it. The aggressive tone in Corey’s voice is present once again, probably just a notch lower but still affective. Sid is heard clearly in the mix on the bridge as well as sneaking in during the verses and chorus. Going back to the bridge, it sounds like Sid is doing a vocal scratch of Corey’s vocals to add a kind of reverb effect which is a technique he does that has felt absent in recent years.

If you listen carefully, Sid is present through the whole song. Basically to summarize the run down of what I got from the lyrics, it talks about Paul’s musical side, his personality, and how they will make him be remembered. Though having a simple chorus, it is however pretty straight forward and gets the point across that he was a great person that was taken. Overall I enjoyed the song, again simple words for the chorus but it doesn’t take away from any feel on this song.

Lech – Possibly a shortening for lecher, who is a lustful person; this song possessing a haunting sound during the verses; that old type of “creeping and watching” sound they use to do in the old days. Riff wise, the ends of the chorus and during the solos there is really good groove; other than that they sound like typical power riffs.

The drums have a good “ground and pound” sound to them and I think they are what really helps give said good grooves that good flow and sound. Corey has a semi aggressive tone as well has having that low “stalker” tone during the verses with his low heavy breathing between the words. Lyrically, it pretty much seems to talk about being a lustful and greedy person.

It’s been pointed out before, this song could be about Joey. I mean we really don’t know what caused him to leave the group so it could be about them describing him. At the same time, we all know there are huge egos in this band so it could be about describing that bad part of their personalities; which who knows, that could be part of Joey leaving, we just don’t know what the story is. Like with AOV, I just wasn’t feeling this song either. All the things I love about the old Slipknot are here; the “creeping and watching” sound with the heavy breathing, Sid making his presence known, and some good sounding grooves.

I really don’t have much else to say, this one feels more like a filler song to me. When listening to this album over again, skipping this song wouldn’t take anything from the experience; there are a lot better songs on here.

Goodbye – I think it’s fair for me to compare this song to “Vermillion” when it comes to the mood right? Well yes, staring off slow and filled with mood before hitting that distortion pedal, this song seems to take influence from “Vermillion”. Now going in this album, everyone should know that all if not most songs will be about Paul.

I’m not a fan of every song being about the same topic, but here I respect that and understand. The death of a person isn’t easy for anyone and this album is Slipknot’s way of expressing how they feel about it. This is a grieving album and that’s fine; as musicians it’s the best way to get compressed feelings out.

To sum it up, it feels like this song was written with all band members sitting in an isolated room, and comforting each other. All coming to the realization that yes, Paul is gone and will not be coming back. Overcoming any remaining denial together as to not feel alone or abandoned. Also making it clear that even though they accept his death, that doesn’t mean they will ever be 100% again; no one really ever is if you think about. One possibility is that maybe Joey couldn’t accept that Paul was gone and didn’t want to do Slipknot without him. Just a thought but who knows. Not a bad song in the slightest, a grieving song that I’m sure all listeners can respect as well.

Nomadic – First thing to notice is the glitchy electronic sounds. Now during the pre-chorus you can hear Sid scratching away so I’m wondering, is it Craig this time around doing the sounds in the beginning? Main reason is because on the DVD “Disasterpieces” it shows Sid doing a solo and he has some of those glitchy sound effects. More than likely it is Craig because when it come the production of the album, he is more involved.

The guitar work, again nothing out of the ordinary from power chords and single notes. From now on, I don’t think it would be really wise to keep repeating myself about the guitar work in every song since I don’t have really anything other than it has a good groove, catchy riffs, ect. Same goes with the drums, I’ll comment on the difficulty or power of them but other than that, no need to repeat. So I won’t mention much about either unless something like said things catches my attention.

With that said; out of the two solos, the 2nd one is way better, which is Jim. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I like Jim’s playing way better. He’s really good when it comes to technique and putting some feeling into it. Any guitarist can learn to play fast and do all this amazing speed solos, but putting feeling and making that solo alive is way harder. In the earlier days he seemed to take the role of rhythm guitar and Mick lead, but it seems ever since Vol. 3 it’s been reversed. It only makes sense since their “soft, slower and melody” song writing began to become the norm and Jim can put feeling in solos and even some of the riffs; and the switching of the roles was for the best in my opinion. Lyrically it seems to take off of the previous song “Goodbye”.

While the previous expresses feelings of sadness and depression, this one seems to express the anger and hate side. I mean let’s face it, when something traumatic like a sudden death happens, you lose control of your emotions and your in shock until you finally accept it. You may cry the first week, and by the next week you may curse the person because you weren’t ready for this. Grief is a powerful thing to experience, and people do indeed experience it differently. Anyways, not a bad song; I actually found myself banging my head once in awhile to this song without realizing it. So yea, good song.

The One That Kills The Least – Sadly, this song seems like a filler to me. I know when it comes to Slipknot people always “oh all riffs are repetitive” and that is true, but this one really doesn’t seemed to be worked on that long to me. One thing I will give it is the chorus is really catchy and the harmony from the solo leading into the last chorus sounds so good. If the riffs were worked on more I like I could love this song, but just the chorus alone can’t save it for me.

Lyrically I get a guilty conscience from this song. Like guilt is overcoming him to the point that he believes it’s going to come back to him. I’m not really sure the guilt he is hinting at however because the symbolism here can be an exaggerated thing or not. “I mirror what I love, with what I hate” is a great line however. But yea, not much to say; again it feels like a filler song that has a catchy riff during the chorus that if worked on more as a whole, could be way better. If skipped, your not missing anything.

Custer – “Tu tu ta, tu tu ta, tu tu ta ta ta!” Oh yea, this is a good one to me. Starting off with Clown going over the rhythm of the song, it then blasts in with guitar and drums. Though not the most creative of words for the chorus, the verses seem to help out.

It seems to be about the realization of just how the world is horrible and so are the people on it. With the line “When all is said and done, you see the last man standing gets no pity”, it seems to imply that even if you were the last man standing on this earth, it still wouldn’t matter.

There are a lot of evil things in this world, if it’s greed or if it’s just how unfair the world is; there is no denying we live in a horrible world. Corey’s vocals as well give that old feel that hasn’t been heard in awhile; and I more than positive that singing that chorus in a huge group at concerts feels pretty kick ass. Instrumental wise, this sounds like another song that could be from the Iowa album. It’s got those heavy aggressive riffs; however it has those build up verses that reminisce of “Spit it Out” from the self-titled album. It seems to be a song that blends both feels of Iowa and the self-titled album. So if you want to hear the new Slipknot perform a song that sounds like an Iowa song, go to this song immediately.

Be Prepared For Hell – This one can’t really be called a song, it’s more of an intro to help lead into the next song. I guess the short lyrics basically talk about coming to the realization of something bad; not much to work with on this one. It is actually done by Clown this time instead of Corey.

However it does have a scary sound to it that does indeed sound scary. As a matter of fact, back when MySpace was at its popularity, on Clown’s real account he actually uploaded short little “songs” like this that all sounded creepy and bizarre. His account is still there but the creepy songs that use to be there are gone sadly. Other than that, nothing else to say, creepy little intro, but that’s it.

The Negative One – Well just like with “The Devil in I”, I didn’t like this song when the video came out. How I stand on it now, I have a love-hate type of feel for this song. First off, what do I hate about this song? Well the “main” riff just sounds so unnatural to me.

At times it kinda doesn’t go with the timing of the drums being played behind it to me. It’s a really lazy and generic sounding riff to me; and I’m sure people will say “oh your not a real maggot if you hate one of their song”, but oh well so be it. Anyways yeah, another thing that really annoys me on this song is that weird pig squealing sound that pops up. It just really takes me out of the song because of how distracting it is. When I first heard it I actually wasn’t sure if it was a sound effect or Corey doing one of those deathcore vocal squeals.

Now what I like about this song, first it sounds like all members are present this song. Sid’s mixing sounds really good in this one, and from what I figure, those “squealing” sounds are Craig. Chris and Shawn also make the drums sound really good and heavy. Actually, it’s the drums that make that “main” riff listenable to me. I wouldn’t call the drums the hardest or most technical drum line in the Slipknot catalogue, but here the simplicity works to me. My favorite part would probably have to be the chorus and the instrumental part on the bridge before the verse that starts with the line “No accountability, divisibility I point a finger…”.

I’ve heard a lot of people assume this song is about Joey considering the pun of the title. Now I can see why, the song seems to dive into the theme of overall selfishness. Many can argue that Joey was being selfish for quitting and for not continuing, which is something Paul would have probably wanted for all Slipknot members; to continue with this band. The other theory of Joey being selfish for substances abuse when overdose took part in Paul’s death, and others can say Slipknot is selfish for firing Joey via a singing telegram…yea. Now regardless of which story is true, there was indeed selfishness involved in the departure of Slipknot and Joey in some form.

If Rain Is What You Want – Well here it is, the closer song that wraps up everything. This seems to inform us all that yes they are grieving, and even when they are done grieving; they will never be the same again. Thought not as good as “‘Til We Die” from AHIG, it still has a sentimental feeling that is enough to get the point across. This one for me seems to sound the most like it could have been made for AHIG.

I don’t know but it seems a bit anticlimactic to me. Again, it does get its point across but “‘Til We Die” really seems like your reading that last chapter, and then close the book; this one doesn’t. It just seems like your not done, but I guess that’s why the special addition has extra tracks, to possibly give a proper epilogue to “The Gray Chapter”.

Not only Paul, but Joey as well were very important pieces to Slipknot. Paul was very into keeping the band going if it’s working on the production to helping members out from fighting and keep all things good for their own benefit. This album overall is good. Not every track I enjoyed but as a whole, very good.

Again this album seems to dive into every emotion the band experienced when Paul died and the best way to get over the grieving process is to just let it all out. On a scale of 1 to 5 I’d give this a strong 4. The mixing of the older sounds really made this album good. I’d like to see more attention to the new members as well; the idea of keeping them nameless is a bit disrespectful. I mean what are we suppose to call them? Just the new members forever? They have really big roles to fill and so far they are doing it very well. Only time will tell what is in store for Slipknot in the future, but I think it is now clear to everyone; no matter what obstacles are put in from of them, nothing will ever stop the heartbeat of the Knot.

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