Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog

by James Weiskittel Rating:6 Release Date:2018-08-24
Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog
Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog

More than two decades removed from the 90’s grunge wave that they helped create, Seattle’s Alice In Chains know a thing or two about overcoming tragedy. Following a five year period that brought the group commercial and critical accolades as one of Seattle’s most important exports, the band’s incredibly talented (and perhaps equally tormented) frontman Layne Staley retreated from public life (ala a modern-day Howard Hughes) and eventually passed away in 2002. But now that Cantrell and company are almost a decade into Alice In Chains 2.0, the band has moved beyond the initial questions of whether or not they ‘should continue,’ as they have clearly handled the continuation of their career with an admirable sense of grace and reverence.

While 2009’s critically acclaimed Black Gives Way To Blue was viewed by many as a nostalgically-tinged triumphant return to form, it was the band’s follow-up The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, where the band finally began to stake out new - albeit shaky - artistic ground. The group’s latest release Rainier Fog (as in Mt. Rainier), continues that trend, as the band confidently builds upon the template that they have spent the better part of three decades creating.

The album opens with the promising “The One You Know,” a song that erupts with slabs of staccato dissonance before eventually giving way to one of the band’s more crushing riffs in recent memory. All of the key ingredients are in place from the get-go, with the signature vocal harmonies of singer William DuVall and guitarist Jerry Cantrell appropriately taking center stage in a mix that is propelled by the ever-thundering combination of long-time bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney.

Once again, Duvall is still the band’s underutilized secret weapon. His participation amounted to little more than a footnote on Black Gives Way To Blue, and his contributions to the follow-up were all but lost in the album’s impenetrable mix (an issue that sadly plagues much of Ranier Fog as well). Alice is obviously Jerry Cantrell’s show, but the scarcity of DuVall’s unaccompanied vocal work might be the record’s biggest sin. That being said, there are plenty of solid moments here. “Red Giant” is an early grinder, while the appropriately entitled “Drone” and the crushing “So Far Under” are clear signs that Alice’s bark shows no sign of losing its bite.

While much of Rainer Fog plods along at an all-too-familiar dirge-like pace, the acoustic-driven “Fly,” the anthemic “Maybe,” and the driving “Never Fade” provide the record with some much needed moments of variation from what occasionally feels like a monotonous sludge-fest. The album-closing “All I Am” is one of the Rainier Fog's strongest tracks; a seven-minute epic that executes the kind of dynamic interplay that is sorely missing from much of the record.

While longtime fans already had it pre-ordered months ago, for anyone else who’s been tepid about checking out a Staley-less Alice In Chains, Rainier Fog is another solid release from the post-millennium edition of this band; as good a point as any to catch up with one of the grunge movement’s last men standing.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great review! This is a band I really wish had let go of the Alice in Chains name and just started again with a new name. Sure there's lots of similarities, and all same members except one, but they could have also pushed in a new, and maybe more satisfying, direction.

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