Review Summary: The Devil Put The Dinosaurs finally lays to rest any qualms about post-Staley Alice. They are a machine and their 2nd album with their new lineup proves they intend to rock as long time will give it to them..
Alice in Chains is back, with what is one of the most anticipated and significant releases of the year. They re-surfaced in 2009, with Black Gives Way to Blue, with much chagrin to the naysayers by creating an outright brilliant album. That album was a feat of perseverance and a triumphant show of a band re-tooling after losing one of the most remarkable and unnerving vocalists of the 90’s.
This release has the burden of proving that Black Gives Way to Blue was no fluke, as detractors wait with baited breath for the chance to still be able to give the proverbial ‘I told you so’. Does this album provide them with the fuel they need or does The Devil Put the Dinosaurs lay to rest, once and for all, that Alice in Chains have indeed returned for the better? I can say there are no doubts in my mind that they have released another hard-hitting album that soldiers on with sound they created with their return in 2009. Nevertheless, this album also does nothing to bolster their legacy any further. As they have decisively proven themselves as not only relevant, but one of the best acts in hard rock/metal, this album feels as if they became almost too comfortable with the sound they materialized with in 2009.
The bone-crushing wall of guitars is here. The darkly seductive vocal melodies remain. What lacks is the sense of urgency and the wonderful variety of songs that pulsed through Black Gives Way to Blue. Their pre-release songs, Hollow and Stone, seemed like a slightly meandering re-tread of their prior single, A Looking in View. While the 2 aforementioned tracks have the same commanding execution as A Looking in View and come across as refreshing hard rock numbers, they feel almost too familiar to the point of sounding redundant. Skipping the tedious A-B comparisons, this album as a whole, consists of songs that initially come across as less potent versions of the songs we were treated to on their 2009 release.
Four tracks into the album, the first real standout appears in the song Voices. It lives up to what we have come to expect from Alice….something new, something old, and altogether great. It begins with a twangy guitar and matching vocal only to lead into a brilliant chorus that seems almost un-settlingly happy and despondent at the same time. Those kinds of contradictions were what made Alice in Chains innovators and still remind us why they still have no peers in their genre today. The following title track gives us more of those strangely dark and trance inducing moments.
All in all, it goes without saying that this is going to be better than almost any other hard rock album coming out on a major label this year. So it is difficult to fault the band for giving the fans music that they have come to expect and that is definitely a breath of fresh air in the landscape of current hard rock. However, a sense that they are almost too comfortable in their new skin can’t help but be noticed. There are far fewer stand out tracks on this album than Black Gives Way to Blue and much less variety. This doesn’t feel like an album that took 4 years to make, it feels like this could have been an almost rushed follow-up Black Gives Way to Blue, especially considering production-wise, both albums feel almost identical. Another minor complaint is that a few of the songs overstay their welcome and don’t necessitate the 5+ minute runtimes that they inhabit.
Perhaps, in an attempt at optimism, one could say, some of these tracks might grow on the listener. However, that being said, most of Alice in Chain’s best songs have almost always been immediately rewarding to the point of compelling the ‘repeat’ button a few times…….
If you already love Alice in Chains, you know the pros…stellar vocals, killer music, etc….
Unnecessarily long tracks
Songs lack variety