Four years after Black Gives Way to Blue blew the rock world’s collective mind, Alice In Chains has come back with their fifth full-length album and second to feature guitarist/vocalist William DuVall. That album’s success and ensuing tours gave the band the right to be complacent. But while The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here upholds the band’s expectations for excellence, it’s a much safer listen than its oddball title would suggest.
For the most part, the album doesn’t stray too far from the one before it and could be described as a “typical” Alice In Chains effort. Jerry Cantrell continues to dominate and define the sound as his riffs provide a murky atmosphere and his vocal harmonize well in the rare moments when he is not singing lead. Fortunately, the other members still stand out as DuVall is a little more prominent than before and Mike Inez’s bass playing is as prominent and powerful as ever.
But in an odd twist, this album is somewhat brought down by it lacking the depressing mood that the band has thrived on since the days of Dirt. The tone is certainly morose and would be absolutely melancholic with a lesser band, but the ballads don’t tear your heart out as badly and there isn’t a heavy track that truly makes you want to crawl in a hole and die. It’s as if the band exorcised their last demons with Black Gives Way To Blue and is still figuring out what to do with their newfound freedom.
Fortunately, the band’s songwriting prowess ultimately prevails and the songs continue to showcase their signature variety. The heavier songs prove to be the strongest as the sludgy riffs on “Hollow” and “Stone” make them obvious choices for singles, the title track serves as a smooth successor to “Love, Hate, Love,” “Phantom Limb” is an doomy update of “Sickman” and “Junkhead,” and “Lab Monkey” dares to be among the slowest songs under the Alice In Chains name. The ballads are also put together well with “Voices” being a particular highlight.
If Black Gives Way To Blue was the glorious comeback that no one expected to be good, then The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the great album that everyone expected to be glorious. They’ll certainly never get to the same mindset as their early 90s reign, but this album is cut from the same cloth as its predecessor and should please a good bulk of its fans. Now where’s another acoustic EP? You bastards are way overdue…
“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”