For some, Alice in Chains ended the day Layne Staley died of a speedball overdose on April 5, 2002. It was tragic that Staley’s road ended in a dilapidated apartment, but it would’ve been more tragic if Alice in Chains, the beloved monster that Staley and Jerry Cantrell built together in the late 80’s, didn’t move forward. The band could not die with him; it was his legacy as much as it was Cantrell’s. However, it took years for AIC to reform and take flight. In addition to returning members Sean Kinney and Mike Inez, Cantrell brought a new vocalist into the mix—William DuVall. Some called blasphemy. Others accepted it as a promising indication that AIC was going full-throttle again, but that one burning question lingered in everyone’s minds—what was the new Alice in Chains going to sound like?
Needless to say, Black Gives Way to Blue excelled as a comeback album and a moving tribute to its tortured front man without coming across as trivial. It announced the return of Alice in Chains with little fanfare and few traces of different styles or studio wizardry. It sounded exactly like their previous records, yet it moved forward with an air of assurance. Listeners and critics responded positively across the board.
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, the second entry of Alice in Chains’ new chapter, is every bit the seamless continuation that everyone expected it to be. The muddy guitars, plodding drums, and Cantrell’s unmistakable growl harmonized with DuVall’s is all here. When this album plays, one gets the sense that while most bands are in a constant state of flux, Alice in Chains stays shielded from the winds of change, soaking in a perfected brew of angst and reflection.
I found this album a bit more challenging than the last; the tracks don’t offer much in the way of complexity, but they contain a lot of depth. The title track and Lab Monkey swiftly show off the same brooding twists and turns that Dirt offered up decades before, and Stone is a bad-ass anthem that wears an equal measure of nostalgia and confidence on its sleeve.
Of course, the album isn’t without its faults, which are minimal. The first single and opening track (Hollow) goes on a little longer than it should because the structure is quite sparse for its nearly six-minute runtime. As a result, you’re subjected to the same prominent guitar riff over and over again, which would have been acceptable if the song was cut down by half. Pretty Done falls into the same trap, but the album regains its footing by the time Stone rears its head and Voices provides much needed reflection to compensate for the face melting riffage preceding it.
If you’re still on the AIC bandwagon, you’re not going to have much trouble picking this up. This is an album that rewards its fan base with more of the same, but when you make music this good, that isn’t a bad thing.
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