|Cover artwork by Ryan Clark.|
To their credit, the band doesn't hide the fact that they haven't changed much. Jerry Cantrell has said as much, "I don't think you'll be surprised by anything you hear. ... It's us." I remember being disappointed by the band's self titled album that came out in late '95, otherwise known by fans as 'Tripod'. It was a little too Alice in Chains, seemingly cynically so, if you know what I mean. Songs like "Grind" and "Again" were a little too on the nose as they say, which nowadays are two of my favorites from the band, now that I've mellowed considerably with age. But at the time it really sounded a little too much like everything else they'd ever done and a little over the top with their sound to boot. In other words, the album was seemingly a cynical cash grab for a bunch of drugged out losers. Those were the ignorant impressions of a fourteen year old. I turned my back on the band for years, until the box set 'Music Bank' came out. That's what kind of impact a band not changing, growing or updating can have on an impressionable youngster.
Fortunately, these days, most Alice in Chains fans are just like me: older, fatter and uglier, with less fight in them.
And anyway, why does a band need to constantly re-invent the wheel anyway? Alice in Chains have had an established sound now for over twenty years, one that's near and dear to the hearts of millions. Jerry Cantrell and company have nothing left to prove to the world, they do what they do, which has always been unique to begin with. A confident band just does what it does and lets the bodies fall where they may.
And fall they do. "Stone", "Hollow", "Phantom Limb", "Pretty Done", "Voices" and "Lab Monkey" all have the potential to fully enter the realm of all-time fan favorites for the very same reason that they may alienate casual fans. Because they are all very much Alice in Chains. Bold strides are rarely taken on this album, but still, I'm reminded of Argus' album title 'Boldly Stride the Doomed'.
"Voices" is a standout track, which is sure to be a single. Cantrell seems to always have at least one of his signature power ballads or acoustic hits on every album, from "Down in a Hole" to "Heaven Beside You" to "Your Decision" and now "Voices", which may be the best of this bunch. We'll see. "Down in a Hole" and "Heaven Beside You" are undeniable classics, but give it time, "Voices" will settle in at or near the top. It's catchy from the opening line "Who am I? / Is this me?" It gets caught in the head like ... well, like peanut butter on the brain.
|Photo by Johnny Buzzerio.|
Maybe it's not too convincing for a stoner / doom reviewer not to mind a band repeating itself. After all, this stoner / doom genre was built on bands droning on a single, simplistic riff for upwards of eight minutes. But really, this is coming from an Alice in Chains fan. I was a fan of this band LONG, long, long, long before I'd ever heard of Doom Metal or Stoner Rock for that matter. I can't help it if I'm happy with the band giving me exactly what I want, which is a straight up no bullshit all-new Alice in Chains album.
Highlights include: "Stone" and "Voices"
1). Hollow (5:43)
2). Pretty Done (4:36)
3). Stone (4:23)
4). Voices (5:43)
5). The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (6:39)
6). Lab Monkey (5:58)
7). Low Ceiling (5:15)
8). Breath on a Window (5:20)
9). Scalpel (5:21)
10). Phantom Limb (7:08)
11). Hung on a Hook (5:35)
12). Choke (5:44)
Total Run Time: 40:51
Jerry Cantrell - Guitar, Vocals
Sean Kinney - Drums
Mike Inez - Bass
William DuVall - Vocals
From: Seattle, Washington