First off, the angst and the aggression of frontman Corey Taylor. Like I said, I used to find the band to be extremely hardcore, but now their aggression is quite mild. Corey is still a decent screamer, even if his trying to be hateful lyrics can be pretty cringeworthy. What is way more intolerable though, are the switch-ups between the screams and the clean vocals. Again, Corey can scream, but his clean vocals just sound so wimpy, and his lyrics are so melodramatic and the vulnerability sounds so forced. The sappy, sad alt metal bands like Staind have aged so poorly, but on The Gray Chapter, I don't even think Slipknot sounds all that better. This is especially the case for "Killpop", which made me laugh a little, relistening to it, just because of how whiny it is. And what are songs like "The One That Kills The Least", is not an Imagine Dragonsification of a Slipknot song? Some of these clean melodies that Corey sang too, just sound like he came up with the off the top of his head, like on "Goodbye", or the subdued moaning passages on "If Rain Is What You Want", but he should be way above this.
I don't like the vocals or the lyrics on the album, but I don't care for a lot of the instrumentals here either. Slipknot was never a band where I felt the presence of their 9 members, and that is especially true for this record. I feel that the additional members are mostly used to have a larger array of masks for live shows, because the riffs are so rudimentary, with very little nuance. Jay's drumming is consistently pretty impressive, but a lot of these riffs are the same somewhat bouncy, down-tuned chugga-chug riffs that have been left behind with 2000s nu metal. I guess that the guitar tone still sounds savage, even if there is just one tone for the whole album, but I just wish the production wasn't so clean, and that you could actually make out the bass in the mix. Then there is "The Negative One", which is just one bad instrumental idea to the next; the Papa Roach "JUMP THE FUCK UP" riffs, a slower chugging riffs, some turntables with glitched vocals, then an even slower version of the chugging riff; it's quite the mess in its 5 minute runtime.
The Gray Chapter is at its best when there is a harder hitting or heavier track. "Sarcastrophe" is the best track by a mile, and its fierceness could compete with that of Iowa. I like the speedy ascending riff, and Corey's screams are pretty badass as well. This starts a mildly impressive streak, then the following "AOV" is pretty intense too, and "The Devil in I" has a crushing chorus, even if the cleans are kind of cheesy. A few years ago, I would have been headbanging to this album, but now, it does little for me. I could see The Gray Chapter being a high point in Slipknot's discography, because it is a bit heavier than the previous two albums, and it is mostly them meeting the standard of what a Slipknot album should be like, but I guess my Slipknot phase is over, and this isn't rekindling it. The vocals, the melodies, the riffs, the production, and the dramatic, angsty lyrics, truly do not have the same effect on me as they once did.
Favorite tracks: "Sarcastrophe", "The Devil in I"
Least favorite tracks: "Killpop"