By Lane Oliver
When Alice in Chains announced they were working on new material back around 2008 with new vocalist William DuVall, a lot of people were skeptical including me. I pondered how will Alice in Chains sound after over a decade between albums and with someone other than the late great Layne Staley on vocals. 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue shattered all denial for me and confirmed that after all of these years the band still had it. I can’t necessarily compare DuVall era Alice to Staley era Alice since they are both their own respective entities. Black Gives Way to Blue showed us a band that did not want to reunite just revel in their former glory; it showed us a hard working band who is interested in moving forward. Four years later Alice in Chains give us The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here; the fifth full length album from the band. This highly anticipated record had a lot riding on it since it being the follow up to a pretty solid comeback album. So is The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here a big step forward or two steps back?
On The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, Alice in Chains offers what you would expect from the band after so many years and more. On the whole, Devil is darker, heavier and sinister sounding than its predecessor, music wise and in subject matter. With lyrics like “Jesus don’t like a queer” and “future between a gun and your head, pieces of me on a tile floor”, you are bound to turn heads. But these dark, introspective lyrics are to be expected from Alice in Chains at this point. Music wise, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here build upon past efforts while adding a nice spin to things here and there. Alice in Chains still utilize their infamous two-part vocal harmonies between Cantrell and DuVall, which sounds the most haunting on the album’s title track. The band also implores their heavy, down-tuned grooves on singles “Hollow” and “Stone”. These tracks are the kind of headbangers Alice in Chains are known for writing, with their crushing sludge-ridden chords, memorable hooks and an overall brooding atmosphere. But, these tracks seem a lot angrier, more angst-ridden and just a hell of a lot heavier than a lot of songs they have done in the past. Alice in Chains break out leaden, faster-paced alternative numbers that still retain remnants of their dark side without reveling in it. These songs would include “Breath on a Window” and “Low-Ceiling”, which offer a break from the doom and gloom of the songs that came before them. Those songs in question are the churning, Sabbathian “Lab Monkey” and the haunting title track. The title track is worth noting for its overall moody atmosphere that are accented by Cantrell and DuVall’s spectral vocal harmonies and guitar lines that seemed to have been conjured from a Ouija Board. The nearly seven minute demonic dirge could be considered the bastard step-child of “Love, Hate, Love” from Facelift. Alice in Chains also blend the haunting atmosphere of the title track with their more alternative ditties to produce the slow-burning, depressing “Hung on a Hook”, which ended up being one of my favorites. There’s even two nice acoustic driven numbers, “Scalpel” and “Choke” that also allow a little more breathing room between the album’s musical dirges.
Unfortunately the aforementioned musical dirges tend to drag on way too long on some tracks. The majority of the tracks are over five minutes long and show off their guns way too early and end up exhausting the most memorable parts of a song. Tracks like “Phantom Limb” and “Breath on a Window” are essentially solid songs, but the band stretch out the length of the songs to the point that they become dull and repetitive. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is over an hour long but some of the songs slow that hour to suicidal crawl.
So, to answer the question asked in the first paragraph, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is a step forward from Black Gives Way to Blue. I enjoyed the overall dark and distressing atmosphere of the record and enjoyed the increase in heaviness this time around. The better parts of this album show a band progressing forward without forgetting their roots. While the lack luster parts of this album show a band burning out ideas. On the whole I enjoyed this record despite its little faults. Obviously if you are long time Alice in Chains fan, you are going to like this record; that’s a given. For the most part it’s Alice doing what Alice does best; rocking out.
Release Date: May 28th, 2013
Favorite Tracks: “Hollow”, “Stone”, “Hung on a Hook”, “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” and “Lab Monkey”