Album of the Week 22-2013: Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here


‘Black Gives Way To Blue’ was the 2009’s best release. This comeback of Seattle’s greatest Rock band Alice In Chains had something to prove and it did. It prove that after Layne Staley’s death, Alice In Chains could still record an album worthy of the band’s moniker. It became Alice In Chains’ second best album so far, only topped by the classic ‘Dirt’. The second post-Staley album is out now and although ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’ lacks the urgency that made its predecessor the masterpiece it is, it’s still a trademark Alice In Chains album. Dark, twisted, a bit sick and above all: good.

Alice In Chains definitely sounds more comfortable on ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’ than they ever have before. All the trademark elements are present here. The slow, heavy, Black Sabbath-inspired riff work is the basis upon which the double lead vocal harmonies of Jerry Cantrell and Staley’s successor William DuVall rest. In fact, these twin leads in the vocal department are probably even more prominent than ever. DuVall was brought in to replace Staley and while he does a more than adequate job as such, most solo lead vocals seem to be abandoned in favor of the double leads. Plus, Cantrell seems to take most of the former, which seems like a wise decision, since it masks Staley’s absence. I’d love to hear more of DuVall though. I still remember seeing the band in Amsterdam and being overwhelmed by his performances of ‘Love Hate Love’ and ‘Sludge Factory’.

Where ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’ had a few songs that grabbed the listener by the throat upon first listen (‘A Looking In View’ and ‘Acid Bubble’ spring to mind), ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’ seems to have less immediate standouts and be a somewhat more consistent effort in that matter. That is both a pro and a con. It’s good, because listening to the entire album is a pleasant experience, but it also means there aren’t quite as many hooks that stick immediately. After a couple of spins, the brilliance of some of the separate tracks shines through though.

‘Hollow’ is the perfect opening track, as it’s textbook Alice In Chains. It won’t draw anyone in who wasn’t into the band before, but it will assure fans of the band they will get what they want to hear. An early favorite of mine was ‘Lab Monkey’, which sounds like it could have been on the band’s untitled third album and serves as proof that with slight changes in dynamics, one can actually play the same riff for two and a half minutes without boring the listener. That chorus is amazing too. The title track, with its weird lyrics and quasi-acoustic main riff, reminds me of ‘Frogs’ a little, though nowhere near as deranged. ‘Phantom Limb’ has a start-stop riff that requires headbanging, ‘Choke’ is by far the best of the – furthermore surprisingly unremarkable – acoustic-based tracks and ‘Hung On A Hook’ is a little dark masterpiece that makes maximal use of space.

Fact is, this second post-reunion album probably means Alice In Chains is here to stay. And since they basically single-handedly shaped the sound they’re playing, it’s good to have the originators around to make some more of this great music. This is about more than just cashing in on former glory, this is about creating more from the same well that provided that glory. Until we have a new album – hopefully with a shorter title – I will keep hoping that the next Alice In Chains product I will review is a live DVD with this lineup and a few of these songs.

Recommended tracks: ‘Lab Monkey’, ‘Hung On A Hook’, ‘Hollow’

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