When you think of a phoenix rising from the ashes, you usually envision a majestic fiery bird that shines a light upon everything around it. But once in an eternity, there is a rare phoenix that is pure black. Disfigured with the scars of heavy losses, mangled with the ripped skin of betrayal and abandonment. But, somehow, you still see beauty in this vitiated beast. Despite all the ruinous damage, you find a beautiful creature, albeit dark and demented from years of pain and torture. This is what .5: The Gray Chapter personifies. A twisted, devilish phoenix that has arisen from the blackened ashes after the heartbreaking loss of bassist Paul Gray and the departure of drummer Joey Jordison. For the better part of the last few years, Slipknot has been going through a rough time. But this album is the culmination of everything they’ve gone through. Every last ounce of suffering that the band dealt with is personified with every last song on this record. Being veterans of the metal genre, Slipknot has always done everything they could to try and outdo their last release. With .5: The Gray Chapter, the band takes the heaviness and brutality of Iowa and the melodic nature of Vol 3: The Subliminal Verse to create what is arguably the best material they’ve put out since the release of Iowa. Laying all the blood, sweat, and tears they could possibly shed on the table allowed them to leave nothing untouched.
The album starts out with an interlude, just as every Slipknot album before it has. But the calmness is short-lived as “Sarcastrophe”, while starting out eerily soft, quickly transform into what everyone expects from Slipknot: Pulse pounding, ear shattering, mosh inducing metal. This trend continues through most of the album. It’s like being assaulted and beaten down. Corey’s brutal screams will slam you into the wall as the instrumental work curb stomps your auditory receptors in repeatedly with no mercy.
One of the calmer tracks on the album “The Devil In I” shows the more melodic side of Slipknot. The song is strongly reminiscent of Stone Sour, but still holds onto that Slipknot feel. That sound carries over into the next track “Killpop” which has strong memories of the lost track “Purity” from the very first album’s re-release. Corey’s voice still has that brutality, but he shows a more vulnerable side to it, also.
The unrelenting heaviness returns in “Skeptic”. With an anthem sound that gets a room jumping, the song holds a key line that is a tribute to the late Paul Gray. Corey screams out “The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you! The world will never know another man amazing as you!”. This was something that everyone saw coming, and this song is an excellent tribute/dedication to the founding bass player. “Lech” continues the thrashing, as Corey starts out the song screaming “I know why Judas wept, motherfucker!”. This is one of the heavier, more brutal tracks on the album as it shows no signs of softness or weakness. The album takes another slowdown on the next track however, as “Goodbye” is definitely the calmest non-interlude track on the album. To me, the song sounds like a letter from Slipknot telling everyone that no matter what happens they are here to stay and nothing will ever tear them apart.
The best track on the album (in my opinion) is being hailed by more than a few people as “Surfacing” 2.0. And that is for good reason, too. “Custer” is the heaviest and most hate filled song on the album, and the closest the band has come to the pure hateful power that was featured prominently featured on their self-titled. This track is everything Slipknot is known for: Angry lyrics, hateful screaming, and clobbering instrumental work. Everything in this song works to perfection, just like the rest of the album.
I could go on and on in excessive detail about every track on this album, as each one seems to have a great story behind it and perfectly portrays the evolution Slipknot has gone through since their self-titled. However, it wouldn’t do any justice to it. This album is the best album Slipknot has put out since Iowa, and it definitely has an argument to be their best album released to date. Slipknot is truly like the blackened phoenix I spoke of at the beginning. They overcame death, betrayal, and loss to put everything they could into this album. And it didn’t just live up to the hype. It slammed it onto the ground, pummeled its face into the ground, and painted the walls a bloody red with its corpse. This is everything you could ever want from a metal album and then some.