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Slipknot headbangs its way back to top of the charts

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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We learned this fall that absence made Slipknot fans' hearts grow fonder.

".5: The Gray Chapter," the masked, Grammy Award-winning Iowa heavy metal group's first new album in six years, premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 after its Oct. 21 release, Slipknot's second consecutive chart-topper following 2008's "All Hope is Gone." Guitarist Jim Root says the debut "feels pretty good" -- and rest assured that's an understatement.

"To be in the genre of music we're in and to have a No. 1 is always pretty gratifying," Root acknowledges, "because normally a No. 1 would either be something Dave Grohl did or something Taylor Swift did. So it's pretty cool.

"It kind of shows there's still an audience for the type of music that we do and (that) people are still interested in what it is we're doing. So that's fuel to kind of keep at it and to keep hungry and to keep motivated and keep the work ethic up."

Slipknot has been working at it since 1995, with each of its four previous albums selling platinum or better. But there were worries that there would not be a fifth; on May 24, 2010, bassist and co-founder Paul Gray died of an accidental drug overdose, bringing the group to a full stop for the better part of a year. Various group members voiced doubt, or at least ambivalence, about the "brotherhood" continuing without Gray, who was also one of Slipknot's primary songwriters. But after the group's return to performing in 2011 Root says he always felt that a new album was inevitable.

"The thought that we wouldn't never really entered my mind; the only question was when it would happen, not necessarily if it would happen," says Root, 43. "The circumstances behind this record were a little bit unusual, but I guess it wouldn't be a Slipknot record if there wasn't something completely bizarre that was happening along the same came.

"We've never had anything easy, ever."

The road to ".5" only got weirder over time. At the end of 2013 Slipknot parted ways acrimoniously with drummer Joey Joridson, while Root left Stone Sour, the other band he had formed with Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, earlier this year. That departure was also on bad terms, but Root says it came with a strong silver lining.

"The main reason we started doing Stone Sour was it seemed like a lot of the fun was leaving Slipknot," Root recalls. "Well, it's seemed like that's turned 180 degrees and Slipknot is where the fun is and it just seemed like this arduous task to try to make thing happen with Stone Sour, which was really making me unhappy.

"Right now there's nothing I can't do in Slipknot. We've become such a diverse band that it just makes sense to focus 100 percent of my energy on Slipknot. There's jsut something special that happens with this band that doesn't happen anywhere else."

With Slipknot further energized by a new bassist and drummer -- whose identities the group has not yet revealed -- Root is hoping to make more of those things happen sooner rather than later. The band has recording equipment set up in its tuning room during its current Prepare For Hell Tour, with the idea of generating material that will bring another Slipknot album sooner rather than later.

"I'd love to be able to bat out another record right after this one," Root says. "We haven't been able to do back-to-back records with this band since our first two releases; there's always been some break or interruption.

"So I'd like to be able to do back-to-back records again. That's kinda where my head's at, and I know everybody else in the band kinda feels that way as well. So that's what we're working towards, and we'll see if it happens."

Slipknot, Korn and King 810

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29

The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills

Tickets are $65 and $45

Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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