Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter
On October 17, 2014, Slipknot's fifth album was released. An album that marked the band's "restart" after the dismissal of drummer Joey Jordison and the death of the band's bassist Paul Gray after whom the album is named.
You're probably wondering why we say "restart", there's no hiatus here that went out for a break or broke up and suddenly decided to make a comeback. Slipknot is also a band that takes its time and do not release album after album at a crazy pace, so what exactly are we talking about ???
This album marks a new beginning. A reboot of a band that lost one of its important members and in addition fired another member who was also very important to the band. Both together were the founders of the band and the core that moved it forward.
The bassist, Paul Gray, was found dead two years after the release of the band's fourth album "All Hope Is Gone". He was found lifeless in a hotel in IOWA after an overdose of morphine. His death severely affected the band members as he was a very dominant figure in terms of writing, creativity and dynamics among the band members. If you remembers, in this album, Paul is the one who drove the creation of the album and tried to unite all the band members who were completely detached from each other. He was the sane and embracing character who managed to connect the band members together.
The song that opens the album "XIX" is a lament that Corey Taylor wrote and opens with the sentence
"This song is not for the living 'This song is for the dead."
Shawn Crahan who lost his parents said that losing Paul was even harder, the song made all the band members fall apart especially when the belwo sentence appeared:
“Walk with me, just like we should have done right from the start…. Walk with me, do not let this fucking world tear you apart. ”
The unclear dismissals, to this day of Joey who also passed away in 2021, were also a not-so-simple blow to the band. Joey, who is also one of the band's founders, also took a significant part in the creation and writing, under his hands came out a considerable number of the band's hits. Joey is also a drummer with a rare talent, the technique, speed and combination of rhythms and transitions are phenomenal. He was one of the standout musicians in the band that gave it its very special sound. After being fired, Joey claimed he learned about the dismissals from the media and did not receive any notice from the band members at all. Both parties did not share the real reasons for the dismissals and gave a laconic announcement that they parted ways as a result of musical disagreement. A few years later it was discovered that Joey had a disease that prevented him from expressing his abilities and did not allow him to play. It's a little weird since he formed another band after leaving, so we'll leave it as is...
After Paul's death the band members who were still committed to touring continued without him while recruiting a new bassist. Since it was difficult for them to have someone else take Paul's place, the new bassist played behind the stage when Paul's suit and mask were lying on the stage. After the tour it was clear to everyone that there would be no new album soon, they were too painful and distant and this time there was also no one to form this extreme band. Only after a few years did they manage to communicate with each other and come up with ideas for the album. Taylor said they were very distant from each other but the relationships were spontaneously renewed at once. They started sharing materials and cosmically everyone flowed with the same idea, which doesn't happen much in Slipknot but we know tragedy is uniting.
The group entered the studio but did not immediately start working, they had a very hard time letting go and feeling free in the studio. The same unbridled, unobtrusive group suddenly looked like a group of yeshiva students waiting for a rabbi to arrive. Taylor said it took a while for them to feel comfortable enough to create in light of Paul's loss. Shawn decided that in order to be inspired but also to show respect he puts Paul's Ibanez guitar in the recording studio with part of his mask hanging on it, as if he is creating and present with them.
This album has all the powerful and familiar elements of Slipknot, from the old to the new. Murderous drums with brutal guitars, deafening roars and screams, electronic elements that give a dramatic atmosphere as well as a melody, clean singing, exciting and disjointed ballads. An album consisting of 14 strong and intense tracks, both musically and emotionally.
Songs like the first single from the album "The Negative One" which came to introduce the attack of the riffs, the crazy rhythm and the power. The complex and slow "The Devil in I" that takes you through dramatic passages to synchronized and focused explosions. "Custer" is simply a pile of 5 kg hammers that give you a head indiscriminately. And "Killpop" that starts slowly and intensifies with dramatic keyboards and clean singing by Taylor until everything goes into a blender and gets a shredded and decomposing devilish mixture... and more... and more...
We owe a little story about the "new" drummer Jay Weinberg that we didn't know before Slipknot and we've just adored him ever since. Regardless of being the son of Max Weinberg the famous drummer of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and a regular drummer on Conan O'Brien's famous show is a space talent. It's really not easy to get into Joey's huge shoes but when you've been a fan of the band since you were a teenager, when your dad took you to gigs and put you in a meeting with the band members behind the scenes and you've crazy talent !! You do it smoothly and perfectly. We will not make comparisons here but he is undoubtedly a significant, influential and prominent part of the band today.
When Weinberg just joined the band, Shawn decided to do a baptism of fire for him, after all, Slipknot is no normal rock band, it is a collection of talented psychopaths. He flew with him to Paul's grave in IOWA and had him stand in front of the grave for long minutes to pay his respects and recognize Paul's value and contribution to the band. From there they flew together to the recording studio in Los Angeles and for several consecutive weeks Shawn and Chris Fehn (Shawn's friend of percussion) did him an accelerated "Slipknot Course", tough mentors. They stood in front of him and screamed at him for hours every day, trying to challenge him, get him into a frenzy, make him step out of his comfort zone and hone his talent and abilities. Taylor said that only in retrospect did he realize that this was also something they had to do for themselves, deal with leaving a friend and making a new friend.
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