As was heavily reported the last couple of days, Slipknot's bassist Paul Gray was found dead in a hotel room in Urbandale, Iowa this past Monday. He was 38.
Gray had been one of the three members of the Grammy-winning metal band's original lineup still in the band, along with drummer Joey Jordison and percussionist Shawn Crahan.
I shouldn't have to tell you what a tremendous loss this is for the band, their fans, and the heavy metal community in its entirety. Slipknot has become one of the most successful bands of the genre over the past twelve or so years, and Gray's passing is just devastating.
When I first heard Slipknot's debut self-titled record on Roadrunner Records, it was BY FAR the heaviest music I had ever heard (I was about 14 at the time). (Sic), the album's pummeling first track, actually frightened me upon first listen, it was so brutal to my ears. From then on, I was a Slipknot fan, even buying some t-shirts in my high school days (but never really wearing them). I saw the band a few times, on the Pledge of Allegiance tour with System of a Down, as well as the first installment of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. Each time, Slipknot, led by enigmatic lead singer/chaos bringer Corey Taylor, led a full-scale assault onstage, and Gray was there plugging away on the bass with precision.
As far as I know, the band hasn't made any statements concerning if they will continue on in Gray's absence, but as they're on a break after the touring cycle for 2008's All Hope is Gone, they probably aren't in a hurry to think about doing anything just yet.
I have a feeling they will continue on in the future, just like how the Deftones have continued on during bassist Chi Cheng's coma.
I feel obligated to touch on something that has been bothering me about stories such as this. There have been an alarming amount of unexpected deaths in the news lately, including former Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Jose Lima (who died in his sleep at age 37 last Sunday), Brittany Murphy's husband, and rock legend Ronnie James Dio. Gray's death was just another shocking, saddening entry to that tally of recent memory.
It's been noted that Gray had battled with drug addiction through the years, and I've noticed some people use that as a way to write off the tragic angle of his death, saying things such as "oh well, that's what you get for doing drugs", but as far as I'm concerned, there's no reason any drug-addicted musician doesn't deserve the respect and honor of anyone discussing his or her untimely death. Yes, Bradley Nowell of Sublime was a heroin addict, but that's no reason to dismiss him as unworthy of respect. Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon may have overdosed on cocaine, but that's no reason to take away from his tremendous (and extremely underrated) talent.
Paul Gray's death is sad, just as anyone who dies far before their time's death is. His wife, who is expecting a child, now will have to raise the child without him.
As a Slipknot fan, my heart and condolences go out to the band and their friends and families, as this loss is truly a sad one for fans of the band, of metal, or of music in general.
R.I.P. Paul Gray.
Here's a video from the De Moines Register in which the members of Slipknot (sans masks) pay their respects to Gray. It's touching, sad, and powerful.