If someone would have asked me 10 years ago if I thought that I’d be writing an Alice In Chains review in the future, the answer would had been: “Never in a million years”! Alice In Chains were, together with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, one of the Big 4 of Grunge and grunge was, to put it mildly, not my bag. Fact is, I hate grunge. It’s dull, depressive and it lacks everything that I love in music – in both sound and looks. The nineties were, musically, the most horrible decade of my life. So it’s safe to say that I do not own any albums by any of those bands – or any other grunge / alternative bands!
However, I must confess that Alice In Chains had some good songs – and they were easily the best band to come out of the whole grunge movement. But no matter how much I might have hated grunge and everything that was associated with it, I could but surrender when Alice In Chains released their come back album Black Gives Way To Blue back in 2009. Why I even decided to give the album a go is anybody’s guess, but I did and not only did I enjoy that album – it turned out be one of that year’s most brilliant releases. To make matters worse, I discovered that I also found the latest Pearl Jam record, from that same year, Backspacer, to be brilliant as well. And since then I can also admit to be very much into the latest Soundgarden album King Animal. So, have I changed my views about grunge now? Well, actually not. Going back and listening to these bands earlier albums once more after discovering the new efforts, has changed nothing. Still think they suck.
But that doesn’t change the fact that now when Alice In Chains release their follow up, I’m excited to find out how it sounds and frankly, my expectations on this album are high. Really, really high! And that is one sentence I never thought I would say / think / write. To be honest, when I first heard the first single and opening track “Hollow”, I knew I had nothing to worry about. The song is just so brilliant that I had hoped. It’s very much a true Alice In Chains number and I can’t think of one reason for any AIC fan, especially for those who loved the last album, to not like this song. “Pretty Done” is brilliant and sounds like a spin-off from the last album’s “Check My Brain”, “Stone” is just so awesome – dark and heavy as f**K, “Voices” is based around acoustic guitars and has all the recognisable elements that is AIC, but still almost poppy and very catchy and the title track is heavy, slow and draggy – all of which is meant in a good, no, great way. In “Low Ceiling” they keep the AIC sound while they run off on a pop melody, “Breath On A Window” sounds like it could have been off the last album and I love that song and “Scalpel” is so very melodic and also acoustic based. They close the album in a fantastic way with “Choke”, a semi acoustic half ballad that makes my hairs stand up – brilliant!
So for a non fan – who has obviously turned fan – I can say that Alice In Chains has done it again! For all people who liked Black Gives Way To Blue, you could buy this album unheard. There isn’t one song here that even comes close to bad and everything you’d want from an AIC record is here (well, if you don’t crave Layne Staley, that one could be a toughie) the harmonies, the dark and heavy vocal melodies – Jerry Cantrell (guitars and vocals) and Staley’s replacement William DuVall really works well together in the vocal department. I’m not sure if there are any true and life long AIC fans out there who will agree on this, but I believe that with this line up, AIC are better than ever. And with their new album they have a contender for the Album Of The Year title. Enjoy!
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
02. Pretty Done
05. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
06. Lab Monkey
07. Low Ceiling
08. Breath On A Window
10. Phantom Limb
11. Hung On A Cook