Grunge legends return home for a vintage Alice in Chains album
We know the deal with Second-Act acts. It’s not if the album is good or not, it’s just great that they put out anything at all. Soundgarden’s “King Animal” is perfect example. The grunge sound was kinda there, the persona kinda fit, the late Chris Cornell’s voice was not.
Alice in Chains (AIC) proves to be the exception with Rainer Fog. They combine the earthiness of Seattle with their signature doom and gloom that feels fresh and vibrant 30-plus years in. Listening to their latest is like uncorking a bottle of wine that you weren’t aware was a good year. It’s surprising.
Inspired by the Mt. Rainer Volcano that overlooks Tacoma, Alice in Chains recorded most of this album in Seattle, a first since the passing of their former lead singer, the iconic Layne Staley. This being the third album with Duvall, their past isn’t necessarily forgotten, but their future is certainly rooted in the present.
“The One You Know” kicks off with sharp, jabbing, heavy metal riffs. If listening to Alice is like being in an altered state, this is the bad acid trip in the best way. As heavy as the opener is, it makes it that much more jarring that the title track is next. Imagine the band doing pop, but they’re really, really angry about it. “Red Giant,” is menacing but moreover is a stunner at how vocally close it is to sounding like Staley.
“Fly” is the obligatory “Sap” electro/acoustic jam that also sounds like 2010’s “Your Decision.” The middle isn’t filler but is the weakest part of the album. “Drone” does exactly that. A solid “meh” track.
“Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes” is a rock song on a rock album, sure, while “Maybe” Lives up to its name.
“So Far Under” is the album’s highlight. Piercing riffs, ethereal vocals, that descending riff on the chorus is Hell. This is where DuVall outshines his predecessor. Same for “Never Fade.” I don’t know why it’s buried deep in the album. Peak AIC. I liked “All I Am” better when it was “Black Gives Way to Blue.” Not the worst album closer, but still…
Despite their murky sound, Alice in Chains still sounds like vintage AIC without sounding tired. Listening to them is like listening to a tone poem. The words are there but the feelings are stronger. Let Rainer Fog set the mood for you.