Review Summary: The new Alice in Chains effort bursts with enough vitality to make a lasting impression on the quartet's fans.
There's a glaring discrepancy while evaluating an album like The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
. The question always arises whether to take into account the progress of the outfit or only the consistency of the material on display. For better or worse, the second offering of the revamped Alice in Chains can be deemed safe and by-the-numbers. Jerry Cantrell, who's always been the group's catalyst, almost never steps beyond his comfort zone, rehashing his signature darkly enchanting songwriting with hardly any new influences shown.
In consequence, the record expectedly seethes with monstrous riffs, churning rhythms, bleak lyrics and layers of superbly harmonized vocals, the attributes that defined seminal Dirt
back in 1992. The fact that Cantrell opted for using the band's name anew after Layne Staley's death may verge on sacrilegious for some, yet it feels appropriate nonetheless since there's no real alteration in the musical direction on the act's new release. Following on hugely successful Black Gives Way To Blue
, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
is a quintessential Alice in Chains endeavor that mostly serves as a trip down memory lane to the the glory days of grunge. It's to Cantrell’s credit that the record feels like a natural continuation of the outfit's musical path, paying homage to Staley's legacy instead of tarnishing it.
The new album certainly makes for a less immediate experience than its predecessor because the quartet indulges itself in more complex, longer forms. This more progressive approach doesn't work nearly as well here as on Cantrell’s second solo album Degradation Trip
though. Clocking in 67 minutes, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
feels overlong and samey at times. If such tracks as “Low Ceiling” and “Phantom Limb” were trimmed down, the whole presentation would be more concise and effective. Instead, it takes plenty of spins to truly embrace many of these tunes, which makes for a fairly surprising conclusion given the group's instantly identifiable aesthetics.
Despite the album's homogenous nature, there are still enough highlights to guarantee the high replay value. The opener “Hollow” is an ideal encapsulation of the outfit's strengths, boasting sweetly venomous harmonies of Cantrell and William DuVall on top of kaleidoscopic riffs and a tight rhythm section. The effect proves even more resplendent when both singers wail in unison: “Silence, so loud / Silence, I can’t tell my up from down,” exerting a profound impact. In contrast, “Stone” overflows with a groove-laden lead riff that supremely blends with Mike Inez's throbbing bass line and Cantrell's trippy soloing. The title track, which is curiously a sardonic critique of fundamental Christianity, overwhelms with its compositional magnitude. Elsewhere, “Breath On A Window” marks a pleasing shift in mood, radiating with its upbeat arrangement that adroitly builds to a trance-inducing outro. Amid moody ballads Alice in Chains have always been renowned for, the country-tinged “Scalpel” stands out as the most inspired and memorable.
At its core, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
is a rock solid record that sees Alice in Chains settling in the confines of their established style. Cantrell remains at the top of his game, delivering a set of finely composed songs that emanate a familiar sense of dread. While the album's handicapped by its refusal to venture beyond the quartet's stylistic constraints, the fans should be perfectly pleased with its nostalgia-evoking content.