Friday, June 14, 2013
Album Review: Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Even though it seems like Alice In Chains have been around for ever, they are only on their fifth album and second since their reunion and addition of vocalist William DuVall. It feels like this because they have been around for ever. Formed back in 1987, their songs are ones that continuously find their way back onto the soundtrack to your lives. Of course, DuVall’s enigmatic harmonies with the luxuriously oiled pipes of Jerry Cantrell are key to continuing the rhythm of their early material, reigniting the memory banks of times gone.
Initially, the yawning basslines and Neolithic pace of Dinosaurs is like being thrust into the arms of Mother Nature. Up into the sky where the seductive winds blow you gently along, into tight eddies and through shape-shifting cloud formations; deep into the forest where you lie, ear pressed to the dry earth, whilst trees creak and moan as they peer into your soul; and down into the depths of the ocean where lapping waves soothe, cavernous spaces reverberate and dense pressure spots impinge upon your inner ear.
Further in, the band lighten the load, increasing the urgency of delivery, by breaking out their more mainstream material like ‘Voices’, ‘Low Ceiling’ and ‘Pretty Down’. These are songs that Nirvana might have referred to as “radio-friendly unit shifters”. Amongst these distinctly accessible moments are surprising, eclectic touches where they grasp hold of a brilliant middle ground that elevates the album to a coveted position where it allies itself to more contemporary tastes whilst remaining respectful of former glories.
With 12 tracks on offer, there is plenty of time for Alice In Chains to get their teeth sunk into the two styles of attack and, in both, there are, fine examples of why they are masters of their own destiny. The visceral ‘Scalpel’ offers a chance for DuVall to sing alone and he shines, gently twisting the knife. The rough edges of ‘Stone’, on the other hand, bite down hard with Cantrell’s rise-and-fall riff providing a contrast to his and Inez’s walking fretwork that forms the backbone of the bleak, vertiginous ‘Hollow’.
The only weak spots here seem to be those moments which stir up trouble, overreach their concept or, conversely, feel a little undercooked. The big guns like the colossal sledgehammering ‘Phantom Limb’ (the vicious lines “I’ll just hunt you like a phantom limb, I will wear you like a second skin” are like something out of a zombie movie) and the worryingly catchy ‘Breath On A Window’ have no trouble picking these ephemera up like mischievous dust-devils.
As a comeback album, Black Gives Way To Blue felt a little light on content overall and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here has put that right with the value of its unpredictable songs improving with each and every play. It will undoubtedly offer them the same success that King Animal achieved for Soundgarden as it threatens to cultivate the band a crack at retaining their current crowds whilst providing material for a new, altogether more youthful, fanbase.