Review Summary: A solid album that will please both the older side of the fan base and the younger side too.
It's a known fact that Jerry Cantrell likes to stick to what he knows. A lot of people say that all of their songs sound the same, which is definitely not true. One thing that is expected of an Alice In Chains record, is the bleak lyrics and sludgy, doomy guitars, and there's definitely plenty of that here.
No one thought they could top 2009's Black Gives Way To Blue, which was an excellent record but for the most park, Jerry and co have succeeded.
Where would Alice In Chains be without the vocal harmonies between Jerry and William? They exist on most of the songs on this album and they never get old. They make the band stand out from the peers and they add an extra layer to the songs that make them very pleasing to the ear.
One problem I have with the album, which a lot of critics have picked up on, is the length of the album. When everything sounds slightly samey, 67 minutes seems slightly overlong and overwhelming. However if you get past the first half of the album, you'll get to some of the best tracks on the album such as 'Lab Monkey' and spectacular album closer 'Choke'. The messages behind both of the songs are powerful and yet cryptic.
There's some experimentation in the song 'Voices'. The acoustic intro leads into terrific vocals, and the song follows a verse chorus verse formula which really works. The chorus is extremely catchy and it will be stuck in your head for a while.
The first real glimpse we got of this album was back in late 2012 or early 2013 which came in the form of 'Hollow' which is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The slow, doomy riff really compliments the vocal harmonies and the drum work is terrific. Everything you love about Alice In Chains is on show in this song. I have an eargasm every time both fantastic singers wail "Silence, so loud / Silence, I can’t tell my up from down". It really is a beautiful and haunting moment.
Then we have the second single 'Stone' and let me tell you, it has a monster of a guitar riff in the opener and the chorus. But the best part is easily the bass, which is prominent throughout the song. It's good to hear Mike Inez playing some awesome lines, getting the attention he deserves.
The title track has fantastic harmonies and spectacular lyrics which are a critique of Christianity, which get the point across without being too full on. A great example is in the chorus "The devil put dinosaurs here, Jesus don't like no queer". A very powerful line.
This album is overall, a lot less immediate than some of the bands previous works, and that can cause it to drag for some listeners. It's definitely an album that requires a few listens to really appreciate it. It's definitely not as depressing in sound and lyrics as 1992's Dirt was, but the doom laden lyrics and guitar keep the album from being too upbeat.
So overall, this album really is a trip down memory lane for fans, and it's good enough to make the band some new fans along the way. By playing it safe and sticking to what they know, the band has successfully made an album to please not only their 90's audience, but also their 2013 audience, and that is a feat that should be commended.