Friday, May 24, 2013

Alice in Chains : "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here"

I was pleasantly surprised with their comeback album " Black Gives Way to Blue" and while I gave it  repeated spins when it was released, it hasn't really stood the test of time for me like the bands more classic material. The Layne Staley fill-in was hidden behind layers of Cantrell's vocals so he never really came out from behind the curtain. Well the band has grown  more comfortable with him and allow you to see more of him, though Cantrell still thinks he's fooling you with his multilayered vocals surrounding him. This causes one of the albums main problems which is the vocals are often overpowering the guitar in the mix like a pop album.

As far as the songs go, when Layne died it was easy to put the band up on a pedestal and overlook the fact that their 1995 self titled album was pretty lackluster follow up to "Dirt"  in fact if I go back and listen to it only half  the songs are woth a Damn that river. This album follow that tradition.

The single "Hollow" cranks things off, sure it's low tuned and half way decent , but compare to their other songs it sounds like a throw way for a Last Action Hero type soundtrack, The chorus is where the song really fails to do anything for me, but the sound is there it's just crafted around a lazy structure. They follow it up with more lazy songwriting in "Pretty Done" the guitar sound is there underneath the vocal layers, which if they are going to be in the forefront should at least be doing something interesting. Even Cantrell's color by numbers solo is buried in the mix.

"Stone" is the first song that gets my attention and sounds like the band gave half a fuck when they wrote it. Grunge has become radio rock so what might have passed as metal in the nineties is now classic rock. To their credit the melody weaves around the guitar and the lyrics aren't as silly as some of the cliche ridden things sung on this. The drive on this song is believable even if the bass heavy mix doesn't do it any favors .

"Voices"  is a step or two ahead of Days of the New, but it should be considering the influence they have on the band, on the first verse I think there is a chance I could like this song until the pop country sounding chorus comes in. The title track has a creepy element to it I like and when Duvall's voice tries to creep out of the shadows it's so effects laden you can't tell. Still the effect works for this song. Though this song does wander off like the dinosaurs into a tar pit and get muddy in it's direction though there are more good ideas jumbled together here than not.

"Lab Monkey" the lyrics try to have the Layne Staley junky appeal but come off as cheesy, they have sung about drugs in a much more believable fashion before. The choruses are once again this songs weak point and the hooks seemed to elude their writing process this go around. "Low Ceiling" is really straightforward like something one of the radio imitators like Five Finger Death Punch would have written, sadly its almost more catchy that some of the better plotted songs.

The snooze fest continues with "Breath on a Window" like the previous song , this one is a little too happy. The chorus is another pointless misstep as the crafting of any kind of interesting melody seems a fleeting commodity.  Then there are songs Like "Scalpel" that seems like the band has their sound on map qwest but keep stumbling into the Temple of the Dog album.

The only song that resembles metal is "Phantom Limb" the band finds themselves on this one , it has almost mid-tempo Slayer groove to it, Well Tom Ayraya does the little spoken word thing on "Dirt" so they are fans, though when the layered vocals come in it sounds more like a ambitious version of Godsmack , but it's better than most of the other songs on here. Less heavy the "Hung on a Hook" has a " Down in A Hole " feel to it, the chorus isn't this songs strong point but the hazy swagger it holds balances this out more. " Choke" is a ballad and once upon a time Alice In Chains wrote some pretty good power ballads , this one doesn't have a lot of power but the melody is one of the album's best.

Well You didn't think they could keep the winning streak forever, if you are a hard core fan you might give this another point I'm saying  a 6 is being generous , I'm not their biggest fan but I have a tremendous respect for the band they used to be.      


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