By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Artist: Alice in Chains
Album: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Release Date: 5/28/13
Since 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue, alt-metal icons Alice in Chains proved that despite the loss of one of the most iconic singers of a generation, their creativity and passion can extend into new territory and a different era successfully. Now, on their sophomore effort as a resurrected unit, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, the band have taken a disparaging look at the effects of extremist religious ideals.
“There are two things you never want to get into a conversation or argument about: Politics and religion. But fuck, I guess we’re going to be talking about this for awhile,” said guitarist and lead songwriter Jerry Cantrell in an interview with Rolling Stone.
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is exactly that. The album boldly asks uncomfortable questions an inevitably concludes with the harsh realities and the de-evolution of the human species in the information age.
The world got its first glimpse of new AIC material back in January, when they premiered the single for lead off track “Hollow.” With the signature sludgy riffs and eerie harmonies in tact, the track sounded as though it fit perfectly anywhere in the band’s repertoire. The accompanying music video was, in true AIC fashion, disturbing and thought-provoking, featuring an astronaut isolated in a space station for 500 days slowly beginning to loose his grip on sanity.
From there, the album hits full on with the delightfully rocking “Pretty Done” and the droning second single “Stone.” Cuts like the title track stir up the controversy with lyrics such as, “The devil put dinosaurs here, Jesus don’t like a queer. No problem with faith, just fear.”
The tracks continue to flow with ease and absolutely no fillers. They’re a tightly-woven piece of art, with every song clearly serving its purpose. The insane sludgy riffs of Cantrell, backed by fellow singer/guitarist William DuVall and pounding rhythm section of bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney, are firmly in place. Although it’s a unique record unlike anything they’ve done in the past, it’s still Alice in Chains.
“We made a unique record that’s completely different from anything we ever did. It encapsulates a period of time, like all records do. You see growth and that the band is moving ahead in new territory that we haven’t been to before, but we haven’t lost our identity,” continued Cantrell. “There’s some real filth in there. That’s intentional, and that’s also just how we sound together. We’re trying to make a record that we dig and we’re trying to keep the bar high for ourselves and see if we can get past it, and I think that we did again. And of course you want people to dig it too and to respond to it, and to have that start happening is satisfying.”
The attack continues on songs like “Lab Monkey,” “Low Ceiling” and “Hung On a Hook,” but the album does come up for air often, providing a variety of sonic textures throughout. A standout track, among many great tracks, would be “Phantom Limb.” Clocking in at just over seven minutes, the track is a rollercoaster ride, filled with many twists, turns and interesting musical moments. Concluding the album is the somewhat experimental “Choke,” experimental in the face of the various guitar textures placed throughout, somewhat of a new step for the band.
One of the most noteworthy elements to The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here are the vocals. DuVall steps out more on this album, which is very pleasing to here. You can tell he had somewhat of a new guy vibe on Black Gives Way to Blue, leaving most of the fronting to Cantrell. Now, probably more comfortable with his position, he shines all throughout the album. With DuVall’s involvement, Alice in Chains is not trying to replace their irreplaceable late leade singer Layne Staley, put simply adding another element to the existing structure.
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here does not feel like an album from a band from a distant era who’s reunited and is trying to take a stab at new material. However, it’s a solid continuation of their musical journey, and stands up to anything and everything in their catalogue. It receives a perfect rating because in an era of a dead music industry and the now “classic rock” acts trying to “keep rock alive,” its a bold artistic statement from a band who has never released anything considered less-than-stellar. Track-by-track, it’s a flawless effort from one of the front running voices of a generation.