Review Summary: walk with me
Over the past few years, the future of Slipknot has been in serious jeopardy. With eight remaining band members after the tragic loss of bassist and founding member Paul Gray, tensions escalated over time in the wake of the loss they experienced. Between vocalist Corey Taylor stating that he wasn’t sure if the band would continue on at all if their 2011 Sonisphere shows didn’t go well to drummer Joey Jordison going as far as to stating that the band would continue on without him if need be, the question of wether or not the band would ever make it into the studio to record a fifth record was one that was up in the air at best. It’s been a long road to get to this point, but here we are years later with their new album finally out.
One thing that is always interesting about a new Slipknot album is seeing how far the band have matured since their last release, being that they are scarce. With so many members involved in other projects, a new Slipknot album is hardly a common occurrence. With The Gray Chapter
the band have returned to their root while retaining the songwriting that made Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses
one of their best works musically. Opener “XIX” starts off in a mellow manner similar to the aforementioned album’s opening track “Prelude 3.0”, with Taylor crooning on top of drowning keys and ambient effects. Although the song builds up only to come back down, it showcases Taylor’s great melodic vocals before descending into the frenzied “Sarcastrophe”. With a quiet intro that quickly evolves into fast paced razor sharp riffing, “Sarcastrophe” puts guitarists Mick Thomson and Jim Root at the forefront and shows again why they are such a vital part of the band. The riffs are something that have always been one of the points Slipknot nails on nearly all of their work, and The Gray Chapter
is no exception. From the galloping riff that kickstarts “The Devil In I” to the crushing breakdown midway through “Skeptic”, Jim and Mick provide some of the best musicianship on the entire record.
With drummer Joey Jordison now out of the picture, the drums were another thing that many wondered would live up to expectations. While not nearly as good as fans make him out to be, Jorsidon’s drumming was one of the aspects of the band that pushed their fast, almost thrashy sound in recent years. While the new drummer hasn’t been named yet officially by the band (although rumors have all but confirmed it to be Jay Weinberg) his performance on the record certainly lives up to the Slipknot name. The frenzied drumming at the end of “Killpop” and the blistering pace on “The Negative One” sound just as intense as any of the band’s past work while also keeping an emphasis on the riffs rather than just playing fast for the sake of playing fast (which Jordison sometimes had problems with). Chris Fehn and Shawn Crahan also add their additional drums very well on this release especially on “Killpop” where it drives the song during the intro and verses. With their founding bassist now gone, the band enlisted several players to fill Gray’s spot during the recording process. Root and Thomson handled a majority of the tracks, while session bassist and former Slipknot guitarist Donnie Steele played on others along with new Slipknot touring bassist Alessandro Ventruella. For the most part, the bass tracks blend into the guitars as they did on previous Slipknot releases. The one exception, however, is on “AOV”, where the bass takes over in the middle for a melodic solo that is one of the highlights of the record and something I wish the band would do more often.
While some of the songwriting is the best they’ve put to record in years, The Gray Chapter
is not without its faults. The length of the record is questionable, and the middle part does sometimes blend together at points. The addition of “Goodbye” is one of the times the band does get a melodic ballad down really well, but “The One That Kills The Least” brings the album down out of the momentum it built with so many superb tracks before it with the awful Stone Sour-esque b-side vibe it brings. One can only wonder why the band chose to include it instead of one of the two excellent deluxe edition bonus tracks "Override" and "The Burden". “Custer” is classic Slipknot in the vein of their self-titled debut, but also comes with the lyrical maturity of that record. The record finishes strong, though, with “The Negative One” and “If Rain Is What You Want”. The former is a scathing track that recalls the days of the Iowa
era while the latter is a sludgy, ominous closer that has eerie vocal interplay between Taylor and percussionist Chris Fehn.
It took six years, but Slipknot have returned with their best record in years with The Gray Chapter
. With the disconnected, overly polished sound of All Hope Is Gone
thrown out in favor of mixing their classic sound with the better songwriting they’ve achieved since then, it brings together all of the aspects many love about the band while also expanding their sound. With a new lineup and a revitalized energy, the band sound the best they have since 2002. Hopefully a progression from this record won’t take nearly as long, because I’m even more keen on seeing where they go from here.