by Chris Familton
Showing both strength of character and musical relevance, Alice In Chains survived the death of their singer, regrouped and recaptured the essence of their sound without it sounding like a retrogressive exercise. Their comeback album Black Gives Way to Blue confirmed that and now The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here finds them sounding even stronger and more self-assured.
Alice In Chains’ trademark churn and grind is still at the core of their sound and they stick firmly to the template of dark twisting riffs, vocals that often mirror guitar lines (as on the title track’s excellent chorus) and a big prowling rhythm section. Thematically the album is loosely a critique of right-wing ultra-conservatism with comments on religion and politics without sounding too preachy. With fewer acoustic turns than the past they instead slow some tracks, like the latter part of Breath On Window, whilst keeping things heavy and adding more melodic subtleties. Singer William DuVall (and indeed Jerry Cantrell) continues to sound eerily similar to the sadly departed Layne Staley, something that has allowed the band to retain a strong sense of continuity and surely they’ve now out ridden the ‘irreplaceable singer’ criticisms.
The strongest moments on The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here are when the band opens up with howling vocals and unabashed metal riffing. Phantom Limb, the excellent first single Hollow and Stone fill that bill and ensure that the few mediocre and plodding tracks are consigned as footnotes rather than frustrating failures. Sludge metal, hard rock – call it what you will, Alice In Chains are still one of the best proponents of heavy guitar music and showing no reason to court extinction.
this review was first published in Drum Media and on themusic.com.au