A new Slipknot album is always going to be an event, but this really is something else. A whole lot has changed in the six long years that have passed since the 'Knot's last record, All Hope Is Gone. They're two founder members down, for a start: Paul Gray, of course, tragically passed away in 2010, and Joey Jordison, the diminutive percussive powerhouse, was ousted last year.
So, there's plenty of added spice to make this more than just another album. In fact, this record is such an event that it doesn't come to us - we go to it.
Rhythm headed down to Warner's swanky Kensington HQ for a date with the album, so here's what we learned (and didn't learn) from hearing it...
1. The mystery drummer
Ok, so we start with the one thing we didn't learn - who the hell is playing drums?!
While rumours persist that former Against Me drummer Jay 'son of Max' Weinberg is the man at the kit, there has been no confirmation from the Slipknot camp, and it seems that the band have no plans to officially unveil the identities of their new drummer or bass player.
2. They're not hiding the mystery man's playing
Whoever it is at the kit, they have done an incredible job. It would have been easy for Slipknot to have come out and hidden their new drummer's work beneath Corey Taylor's roar and the monstrous guitar work of Jim Root and Mick Thomson, but instead, the new boy is put right up front and centre and basically told to give it his best. It's a brave move - Jordison is so adored that the playing by his replacement on this record will be picked apart - but we think it's one that pays off.
3. This guy brought his A game
The real drumming action starts on the record's second track, Sarcastrophe. It's got the lot, kicking off with big, high-pitched toms, before an almighty wave of crashes. Then we're in, off and running amidst a flurry of fills and a punchy, Lars-esque (don't worry, we're talking Black album rather than St Anger) kit sound.
We're smashed around the chops with pummeling double bass and scattergun fills all over the kit, but there's plenty of light to go with the shade thanks to some neat snare, kick and hat interplay, something that becomes a theme that runs throughout the drum work on the record. This is the sound of a drummer keen to impress, and one who has the chops to back up his lofty ambitions.
4. It's lyrically dark
To be expected, but The Gray Chapter is most definitely a dark, uncomfortable listen when it comes to lyrics. Opener XIX is dark, brooding and - when it comes to drums - sparsely populated. Taylor gives us the first glimpse of the raw lyrical journey we're about to set out on by screaming, "Don't let this f***ing world tear you apart".
The shadow of Gray's loss clearly hangs heavily over the band. Skeptic is centred around the lyric, "The world will never know another man as amazing as you, the world will never know another crazy mother f**ker like you," while Goodbye's, "No one is bulletproof" could be a nod to either Gray or Jordison.
5. Musically, it's not quite so dark...
While The Gray Chapter may be punishing lyrically, it has its fair share of lighter musical moments. Stone Sour-ish melodic choruses dovetail with brutal, double kick-led verses on tracks like Killpop.
6. Joey will be missed
The six years between Slipknot records have been crushingly difficult for the band, and they sound like they're very much in transition. The new man at the kit has done an impressive job, but it could be argued that The Gray Chapter misses the spark of Jordison's signature drumming.
The Gray Chapter is released on 22 October.