The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here: Alice in Chains Do it Again… Mostly
If the challenge Alice in Chains had to overcome with Black Gives Way to Blue was to prove that they could be a band without Layne Staley, then the challenge that they have to overcome with their latest release, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, is to prove that Blue‘s success wasn’t simply the result of sentimentality.
The good news is that AiC have, indeed, overcome this challenge… mostly. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the weakest album of the band’s career — but given how goddamn talented these dudes are, it’s still pretty damned good.
The album has two issues:
First of all, as was the case on Black Gives Way to Blue, most of the songs are on the slower side. That’s not the biggest deal in the world, obviously — there are bands who make entire careers creating slow music — but after awhile, all the songs begin to sound kinda same-y. The closest thing to variety that Devil offers are a few semi-acoustic ballads (“Voices,” “Scalpel,” and “Choke”). Put another way: imagine if Facelift and Dirt were chock-full of songs like “Love, Hate, Love” and “Rain When I Die” and didn’t have any tracks along the lines of “We Die Young” or “Them Bones.” All four of the songs I just named are awesome, but there’s really no need to have an album full of either one.
The other issue is that the band continues to treat vocalist William DuVall like a placeholder, and Cantrell almost always overpowers him in the mix. I understand that Cantrell’s co-vocals have always been a huge part of AiC’s sound, and it was easy to understand why they held DuVall back a little on Blue — to do otherwise may have seemed disrespectful to the memory of Staley. But if he’s gonna be in the band now, he should be given some parts that allow him to steal the spotlight, the way Staley did on classics like “Junkhead” and “It Ain’t Like That.” It’s not a question of DuVall’s vocal ability; he sounds great on the one song on which he does get to take (most of) the lead, “Lab Monkey.” It’s just that he’s given too-few chances to prove himself. He’s been in Alice in Chains for seven years now, which, hard to believe, is as long as Staley was in the band. It’s time to let him have his own personality.
But like I said: the good news is, those are really the only problems with the album. If I don’t go into specifics to praise the rest of it, that’s because, well — it’s all just good, old fashioned Alice in Chains shit. If you like Alice in Chains, I can’t really imagine you actively hating this record. It may not stand up to comparison with Dirt or even Black Gives Way to Blue, but it’s still a thoroughly solid release, and one worthy of Alice in Chains’ legacy.