Since returning from the dead in 2009, Alternative Metal/Grunge icons Alice In Chains have given us a renaissance worthy of our attention. After dealing with the worst possible tragedy any band could ever endure, they have not only survived, but persevere in a manner few have dared. Thus, their latest release, Rainier Fog, pays homage to the past while charging forward with the band’s history.
After nearly 30 years, Alice In Chains have aged like the finest of wines. They’re just as sharp, haunting and biting as ever. Several tracks from Rainier Fog are solid proof of this. While the band may not be trending into any new territory stylistically, they prove they do not need to, sounding vital and fresh on their first new offering in five long years.
Rainier Fog opens with the stomping lead single, “The One You Know.” The down beat-heavy riff literally stomps with hypnotic crunch until the soaring melody of the chorus briefly pulls it up from the mud, only to throw it right back down on its face! The gorgeously melancholy title track features the signature Jerry Cantrell/William DuVall harmonies that send shivers through the spine, while standout track “Red Giant” provides massive ominous riffs that bridge the gap between Gothic atmosphere and filthy Sludge metal. The soaring “Fly” is briefly reminiscent of Facelift, while “Drone” provides a Sabbath-esque Blues groove that gets blood pumping.
Alice In Chains circa 2018.
Side Two showcases the more somber and introverted aspects of the band’s songwriting, with a deeply personal touch that is irrefutable. The melodic “Deaf Ears Blind Eyes” and “Maybe” really drive this home, reminding listeners that Alice In Chains was always much more than a chugging heavy rock band, but a deep complex beast that has influenced a generation of groove-heavy fuzz-wielding musicians.
From there, “So Far Under” features slamming riffs and sharp lyrics courtesy of DuVall, who sounds as comfortable as ever throughout this record. The album concludes with “Never Fade,” a touching tribute to fallen frontman Layne Staley and the recently departed Chris Cornell, before closing with the confessional “All I Am,” a track with heartbreak seeping through every note.
While Rainier Fog has its share of darkness, there is always the running notion of four individuals seeing the beauty in despair, with hints of optimism and a strong sense of survival felt throughout the record. And Alice In Chains are the very embodiment of survival, coming through the other side of the tunnel wiser, yet not without some scars.
All in all, Rainier Fog is a record the will please long time fans, and hopefully convert any straggling non-believers still skeptical of an Alice In Chains without Layne Staley. Tracks like “The One You Know,” “Red Giant” and “So Far Under” certainly bring the heavy. However, standouts such as “Maybe” and “Never Fade” showcase the wit and sensitivity of one of Rock’s most enduring acts. A must-have for fans young and old!
Dennis Sanders of Spirit In the Room. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
LA’s Spirit In the Room have spent nearly the last decade making noise, pushing boundaries and finding new extremes within familiar territory. Featuring an innovative and inspired sound, the project has taken proverbial Rock and Roll ideas, and dragged them through barbed wire, leaving the listener dazed, confused and begging for more!
In an era of polished and processed music, where the idea of pushing sonic boundaries seems a far cry to some young artists, where marketing and timing are everything, and in order to keep the attention of a fan base one must Snapchat every mundane daily moment for a culture of short-term attention spans, Spirit In the Room pisses in the face of such notions.
Led by multi-instrumentalist and frontman Dennis Sanders, Spirit In the Room have been making a name and chipping away at the scene since 2009.
“I can’t lie, that sounds pretty crazy when I think about it. It feels like we’ve just begun,” said Sanders.
Sanders, a NOLA native, has spent time in numerous projects in and around his home town before briefly joining the Wes Borland-led Black Light Burns as a touring member from roughly 2008-13. However, with Spirit In the Room, he finds the optimal creative output.
“I fronted a few different types of bands when I was younger but never anything that I felt extremely passionate about. I’d always loved the weirder bands, the more extreme and experimental sounding bands. Whether it be something like The Jesus Lizard, Throbbing Gristle, Fantomas, or Portishead, etc. It’s pretty much all about chasing the sounds in my head. And so I started to toss around the idea of putting something together based around that kind of stuff,” explained Sanders.
Although the project has had several lineups throughout the years, one constant is Sanders’ drive and ambition to push forward.
“I’ve worked with numerous lineups and musicians for the project and finding people that are willing to play what you write and trust your vision is also another very challenging and tedious process. I write and record a lot, so to work with me often means that you’re gonna be getting a new batch of songs and ideas every couple of weeks. So I can imagine it may be hard to keep up. But it’s not impossible. Drive, dedication and inspiration is all it takes,” Sanders said.
Photo courtesy of facebook.com.
Spirit In the Room have managed to maintain a unique and ever-evolving sound, especially evident in recent years. While singles like “Jumping the Gun” sound close to Electriclarryland-era Butthole Surfers, cuts like “Demon 6” present the project’s more experimental tendencies, with a brooding, claustrophobic Swans-like production. However, cuts like the infectiously upbeat and NIN-esque “Robot” and the snarling “We Hate” show a slightly more user-friendly approach. Overall, the band’s sound successfully encompasses Goth, Noise Rock, Hardcore and Industrial, while not favoring one over the other.
“These days I’m still just as interested in the stuff I was interested in as a kid. My taste has definitely developed more as I got older but I still love the bands I listened to then. Once I moved to California I basically rediscovered the record store!” said Sanders.
He said that the availability of record stores on the West Coast has opened him up to more of the music that moves him.
“There were only three where I’m from and once those went away, all we had left was Best Buy. Which is horse shit. I really enjoy old Italian film scores. I collect a lot of soundtracks on Vinyl. A lot of horror. A lot of the Waxwork and Death Waltz reissues, DagoRed is a great label for that stuff as well. I’m a huge fan of composers like Stelvio Cipriani, Ennio Morricone, Riz Ortolani, Bruno Nicolai, Claudio Simonetti to guys like Clint Mansell, Henry Mancini, John Carpenter etc. I’m also a huge fan of Ween, The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, etc. This list could go on and on, music is everything to me. I get anxiety when I think of all the great bands and music that I haven’t heard yet. There’s just so many great records in existence. It’s insane. There’s a lot of great local music in LA as well. Some of my favorites are The Great Sadness, Qui, LA Drones, Annie Hardy, Cat Scan, Bob Villain, Egrets on Ergot,” explained Sanders.
Although Spirit In the Room have released a wide array of singles over the past few years, Sanders said that the full-length album format is still his preferred method of experiencing recorded music.
“I like albums. Full length records. I get bored with EPs. But it can be a little expensive to release full lengths to the appropriate places like Spotify, iTunes, etc. And if you’re releasing it on your own then chances are your reach may be a bit limited. I also made the conscious decision to pull back on releasing so much music. I have a lot of it in the can that definitely separates itself from my previous releases and I want to make sure the timing is right and that these songs get their proper platform and promotion instead of just putting something out on Bandcamp or SoundCloud at my own leisure. I’d like to find a label that feels just as passionate about it as I do,” said Sanders.
Sanders also weighed in on the current state of music distribution via streaming platforms and how he has utilized them.
“I think it’s great. Obviously the monetary compensation aspect of it is garbage but as far as discovering new music and the convenience of it all, I love it. I’ll take music any way I can get it. And the more the merrier. I make a new playlist every week. I love it. And it’s all in my back pocket. I can tune in and drop out at anytime and I truly appreciate that part. Bandcamp is great for direct support. Spotify, etc, is great for the long haul. Streaming is where it’s at. Even though there is nothing like holding a vinyl, CD or cassette in your hand and reading the credits, staring at the artwork, but when you’re on the go and you need some theme music, nothing beats streaming services or downloading music on iTunes,” explained Sanders.
As for the local LA music scene, Sanders said although he’s not very plugged in to it, he is well aware of a lot of great music happening all along the West Coast.
“There’s some great bands out here. I love it. The Bay Area has some really great aggressive and experimental music happening as well. Death Metal and extreme metal, etc. But they’ve probably always had that going on. I don’t know. California is a really eclectic place for art and personality. I love it. But I also like peace and quiet. Which is why I can always see myself living in the woods in the future,” laughed Sanders.
As for the future of Spirit In the Room, Sanders said more live shows are in the cannon, but he’s also cautious of maintaining the right image for the world abroad.
“Current plans include playing more shows. We’d love to get back on the road at some point but it’s so damn expensive that it really takes a minute to get it together. I’d like to get this new record out sooner than later as well. There’s a lot piling up. Probably gonna need to do a music video or two at some point which gives me anxiety. Those things have a tendency to be really tedious and cheesy. It will have to be done right. I’m not interested in putting shit out just to be seen,” finished Sanders.
In the meantime, Spirit In the Room will be performing a slew of live dates over the grater LA area including a date opening for Phil Anselmo’s Black Metal outfit, Scour, at the Whiskey a Go-Go on Dec. 15! For more on Spirit In the Room visit spiritintheroom.com.