Release Date: May 28, 2013
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
There’s no doubt in my mind that if you’re a sucker for filth, grime, and still bear the softest of spots for the Seattle grunge movement of the nineties, you're in for a treat. This is as Alice in Chains as it gets: warmongering riffs, alluringly haunting vocal harmonies and a sinister tone that maintains the band’s identity with as much aplomb as when the late great Layne Staley was urging forward his tensed-throat vocals in the early nineties. With The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, the band have reinforced the statement they made with 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue.
There’s hardly been a more controversial rock reunion in recent memory than that of Alice in Chains. Naysayers condemned the idea, the very notion that the Seattle group could continue without deceased lead singer Layne Staley seeming sacrilegious in many ways. But those naysayers be damned; the group handled their resurrection with remarkable dignity, letting their reunification happen organically over several years, never forcing the matter as some cash grab.
Review Summary: The new Alice in Chains effort bursts with enough vitality to make a lasting impression on the quartet's fans.There's a glaring discrepancy while evaluating an album like The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The question always arises whether to take into account the progress of the outfit or only the consistency of the material on display. For better or worse, the second offering of the revamped Alice in Chains can be deemed safe and by-the-numbers.
In metal, frontmen have long been replaceable entities. Even so, following the death of Layne Staley in 2002, few would have predicted that Alice In Chains had much of a future. Happily, the band’s fifth album proves that their 2009 comeback ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’ was no fluke. New vocalist William DuVall has made the role his own, while the likes of ‘Stone’ and ‘Phantom Limb’ confirm that Jerry Cantrell’s megalithic riffs were always what made them special in the first place.
The second record that Alice in Chains have released since their return to activity in 2005, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is an evolution in concept and politics, if not a dramatic departure from their distinct style and execution. It is also the second full-length produced without founding vocalist Layne Staley, who passed away in 2002 and was replaced by William DuVall. The seminal rock band originated in Seattle in the late '80s and therefore are often associated with the grunge movement and compared to groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
Alice in Chains’ last album, 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue, came with plenty of baggage. After the band’s studio hiatus of nearly 14 years, Black shouldered the burdensome moniker of “comeback album,” with loyal listeners—now sporting mortgages and Mazdas rather than ripped jeans and flannel—anticipating the record with that peculiar amalgam of giddiness and trepidation that comes when something precious buried in our youth later gets unearthed in middle age. More daunting, of course, was the emotional reconciliation of pressing on with new singer-guitarist William DuVall while also paying tribute to late singer Layne Staley.
They may be terrible paleontologists, but on The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, Alice in Chains prove that grunge fossils can still churn out slithery menace. It's the band's second LP since the 2002 death of singer Layne Staley, and though new vocalist William DuVall doesn't have his predecessor's talent for shaping Seattle sludge into molten-dread anthems, founder Jerry Cantrell's expressively torpid guitar steps up to become its own kind of lead voice, chugging mordantly on "Hollow" and wailing like My Bloody Valentine on "Pretty Done." Standout cut: the seven-minute "Phantom Limb," which evokes Staley's memory with stomping survivor's pride. .
Cross The Beatles with heavy metal and you get the modern incarnation of Alice In Chains: blessed after their creative and commercial rebirth with a polished, muscular sound and a singalong approach lifted straight from the 1968-era Fabs. It’s Alice’s second album since they recruited William DuVall to fill the not inconsiderable boots of their late singer Layne Staley, and the recipe sounds mature, complete and not a little poppy. In fact, grungers who cherished the original Dirt/Jar Of Flies miserablism may well find it all a little too cheerful, especially when the layered choruses of Voices and Low Ceiling come swooshing in, all slick harmonies and descending chords.
The big task for Alice in Chains on their 2009 comeback Black Gives Way to Blue was to prove they could carry on battered and bruised, missing Layne Staley but still in touch with their core. They had to demonstrate the band had a reason to exist, and Black Gives Way to Blue achieved this goal, paving the way for another record just like it. Enter The Devil Put the Dinosaurs Here, a record that is pretty close to identical to Black Gives Way to Blue in its sound, attack, and feel.
Alice in Chains were one of the most successful grunge acts of the 1990s, but they were also one of the most derided. They started life as a glam-derived metal band, for which they were dismissed by the same people who embraced Seattle’s other big glam-derived metal band, Mother Love Bone. Layne Staley’s drug metaphors and horror-show vocals made hits out of “Man in the Box” and “Would?” but he could often sound self-satisfied regarding his addictions, which ultimately made it difficult for them to tour.