Dark, heavy and brilliant: A mix of the old and new from ‘Alice in Chains’ (Music Review)

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With the release of their sixth studio album, “Rainier Fog”, American metal band Alice In Chains has lived up to the massive hype and high expectations of fans, who were waiting expectantly since their last release “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” in 2013.

For those among the fan base who think that with former singer Layne Staley’s passing away in 2002 the band had effectively died, this album is not for them. This album is worth every dime of your money. “Rainier Fog” is a masterfully crafted and beautifully layered and produced album which is very worthy of being in the Seattle band’s near flawless discography.

Nothing in this album feels disjointed or screams “filler”. This album might be the closest they have come to sounding like their older stuff, but with a new spin, where the cleaner production and heavier riffs tonally come closer to their earlier fuzzy sound. The best way to describe this album for anyone familiar with the band’s catalogue is Dirt meets Tripod meets Black Gives Way To Blue meets the Jar of Flies.

This album yet again features everything you have come to expect from Alice In Chains, Sabbath-inspired doomy, sludgy and heavy riffs, brilliant vocal harmonies, dark lyrics and atmosphere, non-shreddy but brilliant bluesy guitar solos and powerful ballads.

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The opening track, “The One You Know”, which was the first single released and generated the hype for this album, is a banger. The song kicks off this simple but crunchy doom metal riff. The verse, handled mostly by Jerry and complemented by William, is rather sinister in nature. The chorus, which is where the dual harmonies come in, is a trademark of the Alice In Chains sound — melodic and powerful. The song features another typical tasty Jerry Cantrell wah pedal solo. Overall, this is a simplistic, somewhat repetitive but killer track and a great beginning to what is a fantastic album.

But then comes the behemoth track, “The Red Giant”, opening with a super thick, dark and fat riff. The song has sinister verse followed by a melodic chorus and a brilliant solo. In short, this is an extremely powerful doom metal song which has just the right mix of everything and is definitely a highlight of this album. Then moving from that heavy monster we come to “Fly”, a softer rock ballad which sounds like something off the Jar of Flies EP. Very melodic verses and chorus over a bluesy scale and having a slight country aesthetic to it. The bass line is great and the solo is beautiful, overall this track is chill and smooth, a definite appeal to those who like the band’s older stuff and is another highlight.

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Next up, “Drone”, might be of note to some as it is probably the most blues and Sabbath-inspired track of all. The riff is akin to what Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath would have written. “Maybe”, one of my favourite tracks of this album, is a stellar rock ballad. The song has one of the most brilliant and melodic choruses I’ve heard and a brilliant guitar solo. “So Far Under” is yet another highlight of the album. This is also the first track which was written by William DuVall, co-vocalist and rhythm guitarist. DuVall plays the guitar solo and does most of the vocals in this track.

“Never Fade” is a simple but brilliant hard rock tune, that pays tribute to three persons — DuVall’s grandmother, the late Soundgarden and Audioslave singer Chris Cornell and AIC’s own original singer Layne Staley.

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The final track, “All I Am”, is undoubtedly one of the finest. The only way to describe this song is pain made beautiful with poignant lyrics, great melodies. The song has a dark, emotional atmosphere. In fact, it won’t be too bold a claim to say that this song rivals “Nutshell”, or to say that all the ballads of this album are easily comparable to or may even surpass songs from SAP or Jar of Flies.

Alice In Chains was among the best metal bands to come out of the 1990s. They are masterful songwriters and have proven it this time again. Today where most of the things that pass for music is computerised, lifeless commercial pop-garbage, Alice In Chains has released a record which carries a lot of inspiration and soul and they continue to prove why they are among the best. Nothing more to say, just buy this record.

(Anand Venkitachalam can be reached at [email protected])



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