Sunday, 2 June 2013

Review; Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

Track Listing:

1. Hollow
2. Pretty Done
3. Stone
4. Voices
5. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
6. Lab Monkey
7. Low Ceiling
8. Breath On A Window
9. Scalpel
10. Phantom Limb
11. Hung On A Hook
12. Choke

Alice In Chains' comeback after Layne Staley's death has been well documented so let's just suffice to say that the album 'Black Gives Way To Blue' was a surprising and successful return, with guitarist and vocalist Jerry Cantrell taking the helm of the band, backed up by newcomer William DuVall, also on guitar and vocals. Along with bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney, the line-up is as strong as it ever has been. As is the material they're putting out.

Opening with the early-released song Hollow, which we all know to be the kind of song we've come to expect and love from Alice In Chains. With the album as a whole it also makes a solid opening salvo. The album then proceeds into the drone-laden 'Pretty Done'. Welcome returns are made by the A.I.C. trademark vocal harmonies that, as always, are dead-on. It's during songs like this that Alice In Chains show that, for a hard rock band that was lumped in with the grunge movement, they have decent metal credentials. The influence of both bands like AC/DC and Metallica, equally, can be heard by intuitive ears. The dual-guitar approach is hardly new to music, but Alice In Chains have their own uniquely recognisable sound with it, as every great band should.

The album's instant-hit 'Stone' kicks the door down with a slick bass line before the guitar accompanies it brilliantly. The whole tune sounds like it could've been written back in the days of the 'Dirt' album. Sean Kinney keeps the song flowing brilliantly behind the Godzilla-proportioned groove. Cantrell's voice is on fine form on this sludgy and heavy-as-hell cut. This will end up a live staple for the band from here on out, mark my words.

I imagine the band took a clear look across their entire career for inspiration when writing for this album; Voices, a low-key, country influenced song reeks of the band's 'Jar Of Flies' EP, bringing to mind the song 'No Excuses'. The title track has a creeping quality to it that is reminiscent of the first album 'Facelift'. It's beautifully unsettling verse riff is classic Alice In Chains. Cantrell and DuVall's vocals haunt the song. The band have lost none of their unique sense of melody, that has always been one of their calling cards throughout their career.

At this point in their career, the band wouldn't be expected to have any curveballs to throw, nor any progression to make in their sound. So, it is all Alice In Chains as we know them. 'Lab Monkey' is the song that most reminds me of the previously mentioned 'Black Gives Way To Blue' record, in a good way. While 'Low Ceiling' is a slow-burner, and ironically, it feels like a lower point on the album when compared to the first five song. Luckily, though; 'Breath On A Window' pulls the reins tight again with Cantrell's much-utilized string-bends making for a solid riff for the band to work off of.

The acoustic feel-good country vibe on 'Scalpel' makes for another peak point on the record, with Cantrell showing his Oklahoma roots in good fashion. It's the kind of song that would make a good soundtrack to having a bourbon while chilling at the campsite of a summer festival in the evening. 'Phantom Limb' has a strangely fast-tempo riff for Alice In Chains, but it's a catchy one that will stick with you. 'Hung On A Hook' brings things back down again, with yet another droning, introspective verse, before soaring into choruses that show just how well DuVall and Cantrell's voices work in the Alice In Chains format. It's definitely a decent homage to the band's heyday, but there is an air of predictability to the songs on show that may alienate some listeners.

The big worry was that the post-Layne return of Alice In Chains was going to be short lived, or purely nostalgic in nature. The two solid albums they've released now are surely enough to prove that these worries are redundant now. The Devil Puts Dinosaurs Here has been as worth the wait as any previous Alice In Chains album ever was. Those who call themselves long-term fans of the band will be suitably satisfied with the end results. As the album comes to a close, I find it relieving to know that the legacy of this unforgettable band remains untarnished.

Rating: 8/10

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