Key Tracks: “Voices,” “Pretty Done”
A cut-and-paste rock album with a different singer might not be what all the 90′s revivalists are looking for, but Alice In Chains prove they still have some energy and spunk left. It’s been eleven years since the death of the original Alice In Chains singer, Layne Staley. He was a reclusive and tormented man, which brought life to the dark lyrics of Alice In Chains’ early music. The band’s reunion in 2005 with a new singer, William DuVall, was seen as misguided by many. But the band trekked on and released “Black Gives Way to Blue” in 2009 to surprising critical acclaim. Original guitarist and composer Jerry Cantrell picked up lyrical duties as well, becoming the band’s chief songwriter.
Their new album, “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” is more of the same for the band. The lyrics are typically gloomy and cover a wide spectrum of dark topics, including songs with titles like “Scalpel,” “Choke” and “Hung on a Hook.” The lyrics, penned by Cantrell, are effective, although the title track’s tackling of the blending of politics and religion just flat out does not work. The music is still loud and shrieking, with the monstrous and sludgy guitar tone from their previous album returning. Even in their advanced years, Alice In Chains are still being praised for bringing originality into heaviness.
“Devil” flows surprisingly well. The transition between the album’s first two tracks, “Hollow” and “Pretty Done,” is nothing more than a moment of silence before a similar rhythm comes in. Likewise, the fourth track, “Voices,” one of the slower songs, ends by building up volume before transitioning into the more haunting sound of the title track.
There is a problem with volume, however. The band focuses on the volume of it’s doom-and-gloom guitars, but it is consistently overpowering the vocals. DuVall and Cantrell share vocal duties, both with strong voices. On many tracks, though, the lyrics are only audible enough to hear, not audible enough to discern.
Alice In Chains’ original run had a number of emotionally powerful albums bolstered by Staley’s lyrics coming from real pain. Cantrell, chief lyricist, successfully follows in Staley’s footsteps in the manner of dark and haunting poetry. Post-Staley Alice In Chains, however, sounds like a band having fun in the studio, a band that probably is not feeling the lyrics they are singing. There is not necessarily anything wrong with this, it just further separates them from the 1989-1996 Alice In Chains that was popular on rock radio. “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” is an inventive rock album that plays around with traditional rock music while maintaining the sound. It does not resemble the original Alice In Chains, but it is still an enjoyable listen overall.