Review Summary: A slightly different monster that bites just as hard as their previous efforts.
One does not simply replace Layne Staley. Then again, Black Gives Way to Blue
was a shockingly good album. William DuVall laid down the gauntlet on "Last of My Kind" and it was a jaw-dropping stunt. The incomparable sound and the fresh dynamic worked so magnificently it hit everybody when they least expected.
The new album hesitates slightly less than its predecessor to crush your brain as hard as it can. Hollow
are AIC in their pure sludgy and doom form, both musically and lyrically. Add that to the almost drone-like Pretty Done
, and you have a brutal start to something big. It’s not hard to feel overwhelmed by how heavily distorted Cantrell’s riffs are as opposed to the slower introduction we experienced with "All Secrets Known".
The overall pace of the record is mildly calm and sometimes even uplifting. It leaves room for slow-burners like Lab Monkey
, a personal favorite reminding me of the Dirt-era Alice in Chains. The fuzzy and talk-box solo rips through the melodic riffs as DuVall’s vocals blend in with Cantrell’s insanely well. “Sundown brings a welcome change” in Breath on a Window
, a slightly happier and bluesy track, only to be crushed by the doom metal juggernaut in the form of Phantom Limb
, when DuVall finally lets loose.
There’s an equal balance of sludge, reminiscent of their self-titled record, and the acoustic and absolutely fresh "Jar of Flies". The band’s double layered vocals, the ping-pong between Cantrell and DuVall and the latter’s harmonies with the former’s lead vocals sound as dark and gritty as ever. Voices, Scalpel
and Hung on a Hook
take Alice on a new path that shows intentions of successful experimentation adding to the record’s already rich dynamic.
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
is a logical step for Alice in Chains who are attempting to build a post-Layne legacy. The good news is that they are pulling it off little by little. However, Layne is replaced here by Cantrell rather than DuVall. After hearing so little of him on the previous album, I expected a stronger presence on this occassion. The album won't stand the test of time like "Dirt" or "Facelift", but it's a more than fitting addition to their impressive catalogue. It's a slightly different monster that bites just as hard as their previous efforts.
: Lab Monkey, Voices, Hung on a Hook, Phantom Limb