Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Slipknot: .5: The Gray Chapter (2014)

Slipknot, Ver .5

So by now I’ve revisited every studio album by Slipknot, a band who shaped my musical preferences long-term—and honestly had a big part in prepping me to be an extreme metal fan. What I’ve learned is that they released a handful of pretty good records with hard rock parts, some metal parts, extreme percussion, angry shout-along choruses and catchy sung melodies. They also released one very good record (Iowa) that was, on balance, a metal album. This revisiting of their catalog hasn’t really done anything to alter my current perception of the band.

Now, a look at .5: The Gray Chapter. This is the band’s first album in six years. It’s also the first since the death of bassist Paul Gray, who was largely credited as instrumental in bringing extreme metal influence to the band. So I expected to hear something different. Happily, I didn’t.

In fact, The Gray Chapter is exactly what I expected. Like most of their catalog, it starts out with several very good tracks that are highly aggressive and clear to be live favorites. “Sarcastrophe” is marginally metal, with blast beats, and “AOV” is definitely a metal song with a sung chorus. Next, “The Devil in I” takes it in a hard rock direction; a sure rock radio staple.

Then, as expected, it sags for the rest of the album. The goth-y “Killpop” continues in the band’s tradition of vaguely rape-y lyrics, and “Skeptic” couldn’t have a more typical Slipknot intro before the rock radio chorus. Then come a couple of ballads and a song with a catchy chorus but uninspired verse (“Nomadic”), an oddly hip-hop-inflected bit (“Custer”), and a bullshit interlude. They then—once again, as expected—put in one more good song before the end, another soon-to-be rock radio standard (“The Negative One”), and end on a moody track.

It’s such a typical Slipknot way to put together an album that it could have been designed by a committee with exactly the purpose of replicating the elements of the band’s success. But then, with nine members, they are sort of a committee. The quality of the songs is pretty much on-par with the band’s general tactic of putting out four or five great songs and a bunch of filler, and I can’t really complain.

It’s like they never missed a step.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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