.5: The Gray Chapter
Slipknot has never been accused of having a sunny outlook on life. But the fatal drug overdose of bassist Paul Gray in May 2010 propelled band members into a collective downward spiral so deep they weren't certain they would ever recover.
Shock at Gray's tragic demise (no one in the band knew he'd caved in to a drug habit they thought had been conquered years before) gave way to grief, guilt and rage. Frontman Corey Taylor characterized his emotional response as "malignant anger," and said of one new song, "It's about, 'Why didn't I think of something? Why didn't I do something? Why didn't I try to be a better friend, to be a better brother?' You'll keep yourself awake nights thinking that s---."
Now, more than four years later, this already infamously volatile rage-rock act has unleashed its metal-mediated mourning in an album that's sometimes poignant but more often gives ferocious, devastating lyrical vent to that "malignant anger."
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Album opener "XIX" finds Taylor saying of his grief, "Nothing appeals to me/ … I'm in no shape to be alone," before metaphorically inviting his deceased friend to "Walk with me/Just like we should've done right from the start." While obscenity-laden, "AOV" agonizes, "I don't want to watch another brother f---ing die." Taylor also wonders if "just one word" might have changed the outcome. "Skeptic" testifies about Gray, "You had a gift, you were a gift/ … God, he was the best of us/ … God, stop taking the best of us." The song also insists, "Miracles are real/They help you heal/They make you feel/Like things will get better." Similar emotions turn up on "Goodbye," where we hear, "A long time ago, we discovered that nothing could stop us/This hasn't torn us apart, so nothing ever will."
"If Rain Is What You Want" talks about the difficulty of facing our fears, then honestly asks, "Is there any chance in hell?/Any chance at all?" "Sarcastrophy" counsels, "Discover what you truly covet/ … Prepare for judgment day," suggesting that deception undermines relationships. An ambiguous couplet on "Nomadic" asks, "Can you stand on your faith with your feet on the Bible?/Who could ask for a better disciple?" Equally opaque yet still thought-provoking is this pair of questions on "The Negative One": "What do you believe?/Does it matter now?"
"Skeptic" repeatedly says of Paul Gray, "The world will never see another crazy m-----f---er like you." Harkening back to the band's early years, "Custer" instructs (19 times), "Cut, cut, cut me up, and f---, f---, f--- me up."
"Be Prepared for Hell" suggests that the devil's domain is where Taylor expects to end up ("'Be prepared for hell,' and I say, 'Oh well'/Just tell me when I can open my eyes and realize I've died"). On "The Devil in I," he screams, "Undo these chains, my friend/I'll show you the rage I've hidden/Perish the sacrament/Swallow, but nothing's forgiven." An unexplained allusion to Satan turns up on "The Negative One," where we hear, "The lord of lies/The morning star/You had to be set free/Opposing sides/Your choices are/The negative one and me."
"Sarcastrophe" screams, "Before I kill your f---ing light/Burn open your atmosphere/ ... Desecrate your temples," and instructs in the chorus, "Kill everything that kills you (gods)." Death and obscenities mingle on "Lech," which begins, "I know why Judas wept, m-----f---er/The fires burn on the summit/Shining a light on the ones I've killed/Survivor's guilt, undetermined/I could murder the world in all the blood I've spilled." Then the song gets cannibalistically macabre ("And I'll eat the skins of my brothers/The alabaster bones will make a perfect wall"). Incendiary rage kindles on "Nomadic," where Taylor suggests, "I am the trigger that will make you all obey/I'm going to make you cry tonight/I'm going to make you hate me/ ... F--- it all! Light the acetylene/No other choice, I can't explain/Life keeps taking things away." He sneers on "The One That Kills the Least," "No one else survives/I've seen you live, now watch me die/ ... There's no better way to go, no better way to be/I've got my demons, go get your own."
Taylor also uses suicidal language when he fumes, "Just one more sin and down we go/But the news is out/And I think I'm going to kill myself/F--- myself." He adds, "In the silence there's a nihilist/Who doesn't care and never did/ ... Drugged out, p---ed on, everything's the same/B--ch and moan, it doesn't matter, nothing's going to change."
Dark romance, drugs and a death wish consume "Killpop" ("She's sticking needles in her skin/I turn with an ugly grin/Her canvas doesn't leave a lot to fantasy"). The song concludes with Taylor repeating, "We were meant to be together/Now die and f---ing love me." An unprintably graphic reference to oral sex on "AOV" uses the c-word.
As is always the case when it comes to Slipknot, .5: The Gray Chapter delivers a pummeling, punishing assault—both sonically and lyrically. What's even more jarring here, though, is how the band can sadly reflect on the tragic death of a friend one moment and breathe vile, sadistic, death-dealing threats the next.
I get that there's a lot of that "malignant anger" still lingering with these guys. I get that that's always been a huge component in Slipknot's masked shock-rock shtick. Still, I wonder at how experiencing death firsthand hasn't sensitized them even a little bit when it comes to spewing out rancid imagery glorifying the deaths of others and themselves.