Review Summary: Jurassic Fantastic...
So, here it is. The 2nd full length from Alice In Chains 2.0. Nearly four years after the release of Black Gives Way To Blue, Jerry Cantrell & co. returns with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The band originally began working on the record in 2011, only to have it delayed due to Jerry's shoulder surgery. It is the second record to feature vocalist/guitarist William Duvall.
Choosing the opener Hollow as the first single was a brilliant idea, as the track shows all the elements of Alice In Chains wonderfully. From the dual vocals from Cantrell & William Duvall (not the mention the mammoth guitar riffs) to the rumbling bass of Mike Inez and the drum groove from Sean Kinney, Hollow is a great introduction to TDPDH. The riffs that Duvall and Cantrell play continue to be mostly unique, and the rhythm section of Inez and Kinney is still one of the best in rock music. Inez's bass adds the fullness and depth of the songs, while Kinney lays down solid rhythms for the guitars to ignite over.
Pretty Done and Stone are the two shortest songs on here at 4 minutes, and while the former pounds along on a mid-paced crawl, Stone features probably the catchiest riff on the entire album. It's damn repetitive but still awesome. Voices and Scalpel bust off the acoustic guitars, and Scalpel bears a striking country influence that is really cool to hear from Alice In Chains. Lab Monkey is a very trippy song that has a great interlude that begins at the 2:30 mark, while Low Ceiling sounds deceptively sunny. Choke is a definite album highlight, as the album finale it is a softer song, but the chorus is wonderful and thoughtful.
The two centerpieces on The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here are the title track and Phantom Limb, for entirely different reasons. The title track sounds like a bastard cousin of Love Hate Love, and it features the most prominent lyrics on the album. It is a sly attack on religious extremism, and boasts a chorus of "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, Jesus don't like a queer." In the hands of a lesser band, the lyric could've come off as awkward, but Alice In Chains makes it work. Phantom Limb on the other hand is a 7 minute slab of metal that features a behemoth riff sequence, and the heaviest song by far on TDPDH. The way "I'll haunt you like a phantom limb" floats off the lips of William Duvall is bone-chilling and spine-chilling at the same time.
Many users on Sputnik have compared The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here to the seminal Alice In Chains album Dirt, which would be accurate. The main difference is that Dirt is focused on despair while this album seems to be focused on anger. Another thing that will be noticeable on TDPDH is the striking similarities that some of the new songs have to older, Layne Staley era Alice songs.
I already mentioned how the title track is comparable to Love Hate Love, but the other song on here to notice is Hung On A Hook. It bears a likeness to Down In A Hole that is uncanny. Breath On A Window meanwhile sounds a little bit like Lesson Learned part 2. I'm not accusing Alice In Chains of recycling material, but it is noteworthy how the band seems to paying homage to their 90's output on The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.
I must warn you, if you go into The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here expecting another Black Gives Way To Blue, you will be disappointed. BGWTB was a singular moment in Alice In Chain's history as their rebirth after Layne's passing, and it would be foolish to ask Alice In Chains to give us another moment like that. However, if you go into TDPDH with your only expectation being a great Alice In Chains album, you will find it in spades on here. My only gripe with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is that there is only one song (Hung On A Hook) that William Duvall gets to carry on his own, but it is a minor annoyance, as the dual vocal approach of Cantrell & Duvall continues to work well.
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is not as immediate as Black Gives Way To Blue, and it takes a spin or two to fully reveal the greatness that is to be found, but it is extremely satisfying, and well worth the four year wait. After the critical and commercial success of Black Gives Way To Blue, some (including me) wondered what Alice In Chains would have left creatively, as it was obvious how much emotion was poured into the creation of BGWTB. As this record shows, there is plenty left in the gas tank of Alice In Chains. Don't worry about Alice In Chains, they've still got it, and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here proves that Black Gives Way To Blue was no fluke.