The Heavy Metal Review

Album Review: Alice In Chains ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’

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AliceInChains_TheDevilPutDinosaursHereAlice in Chains is a tough band to impartially review. There is the old iteration of the group, featuring the late Layne Staley on vocals, which released all the classic records – Facelift, Sap, Dirt, Jar of Flies and the lesser, but still solid, Alice in Chains. This catalog is untouchable in many fans’ minds who believe there is no Alice in Chains without Layne Staley.

Then there is what could be referred to as the coping/hibernation phase of the band, or the Jerry Cantrell solo albums, Boggy Depot and Degradation Trip, the latter record being an awesome reflection back on Cantrell’s career and the passing of Staley. It’s a monster in its own right and one hell of a double-album.

Which brings us to Alice in Chains circa 2013, featuring Jerry Cantrell in full-on frontman mode and adding William DuVall on backing guitars and vocals (with some standout leads peppered throughout). At this point, Alice in Chains is very much Cantrell’s band (though there are plenty of core members still around). So we get sort of a blurred mixture of his solo efforts without the raw emotion Staley added to the mix

Black Gives Way to Blue was the huge 2009 comeback record, and while perspectives (and reviews) were a bit biased, this was one of the best returns to form in quality for any reuniting band. Alice in Chains in 2009 was still foreboding and dark, but also more cleanly produced and polished, which could be good or bad depending on your perspective. Staley was declining rapidly towards the end of his career and this album was easily better than the band’s last self-titled record.

And now, in 2013, the at-first strangely titled The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here marks the next point in Alice in Chains’ career. The album does not grab the listener the same way Black Gives Way to Blue did, but there is no way it could. While the previous release had some amazing songs (“Check My Brain,” “Last of My Kind,” “A Looking in View,” the list goes on), the follow-up record is a more complete listening experience due to the band no longer having to prove it can still move forward without Staley on vocals.

The album kicks off with the first single from the record, “Hollow,” which competes with anything the band has ever done. Its easy to see the similarities between this track and Cantrell’s solo records, however, this time around the core members Sean Kinney and Mike Inez are also present. Which makes it classic Cantrell fronted Alice in Chains.

“Stone” delivers with a signature simple, yet crushing, Cantrell riff and is easily the strongest track on the album because of this. It is also one of the most metal moments of the band’s career. There are still plenty of acoustic-driven numbers (see “Voices” and “Scalpel”). This is actually where longtime fans might be divided on the album as even the electric guitar-driven tracks are a little more mellow overall than past efforts.

After multiple spins, this actually makes The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here a great record to throw on in the background while working or writing, and its not near as doom-and-gloom sounding overall as Black Gives Way to Blue, an album  which, while great, you have to be in the right mood to fully take in.

The title track’s opening guitar line is eerily reminiscent of Facelift’s “Love, Hate, Love,” and even brought out some chills on first listen. It’s great to see the band incorporating some moments like this into the mix. And let’s not forget “Phantom Limb” and “Hung On A Hook,” which are two of the best Alice in Chains’ tunes of its post-Staley career. Interestingly enough, these are two songs that more heavily feature William DuVall (who has now been in the band as long as Staley was).

It would be great to see a 50/50 mix of Cantrell and DuVall on the inevitable follow-up record to The Devil Put Dinosaurs here. This album paves the ground for the band to emerge as Alice in Chains 3.0. Sure, it’s great DuVall is paying respects and letting Cantrell run the show, but DuVall has proved he is a great singer, backing guitarist and contributor to the band. Let’s mix things up and let him share the spotlight.

The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is a great record and it’s doubtful it will be beat out by any other hard rock release in 2013. Alice in Chains is once again here to stay – and damn it feels good.

Final Verdict: 9.5 out of 10.

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