It was recently my birthday – Yay – and one of the things I tend to ask for is new (or old) music, as it’s a luxury I would probably not buy for myself.
This year I felt very lucky to get five albums by four different bands including:
- Rainier Fog by Alice in Chains
- Fallen Empires and Wildness by Snow Patrol
- Dumb Days by Tired Lion
- Pacific Daydream by Weezer
If you know me at all you probably won’t be too surprised to find out that the first one I listened to all the way through was the latest Alice in Chains release Rainier Fog. And it is exactly what I was hoping for!
As I’ve mentioned before, Alice in Chains started out in the midst of heavy, hairy metal and, if you listen to their first album and some of the unreleased stuff that came to light when Music Bank came out, you can really hear how close they came to skirting Grunge altogether and finding a place among the other Rock heavyweights of the time.
But they chose a different path and became the leaders of a new style which was much darker and, generally, more depressing than their Seattle based compatriots, comprising such cheery topics as drug addiction, depression, war, loneliness and psychological problems, they blazed their own trail through Rock and spurned a host of copycat acts.
This, their sixth studio album, sits alongside their back catalogue, including solo projects and other bands that have come and gone along the way, so snugly that it is hard not to think that you know some of the songs already.
The opening track, The One You Know, starts like a screwdriver to the temple, which is then joined by a marching squadron of zombies. The percussive drumming continues through the verse then the chorus opens up into a wonderful musical field of primroses, sounding a bit like they got confused and mixed up the order of the parts of the song.
After setting the scene they waste no time reaching into their back catalogue with the title track, Rainier Fog, which could have been a recently discovered outtake from Facelift…but with better production.
Red Giant is a slightly different beast, sounding like the bastard child of Metallica and Layne Staley. The harmonies are so dark you need a match to see the lyrics. At the moment this is probably my favourite track on the album!
Fly, however, sounds like Pearl Jam writing a new track for Jar of Flies. Acoustic guitars and a screeching electric solo really take you back to the nineties.
The next track is called Drone, so you can guess what it’s like without too much effort. Bluesy sludge through the verses with a melodic fingerpicked solo reminiscent of Lies by Guns ‘n’ Roses.
We’re back with Lars and the boys for the intro to Deaf Ears Blind Eyes, but then segueing to classic Alice in Chains territory for the chorus with a minor key harmonic piece of introspection.
Maybe hails back to the 1970s and, strangely, sounds like nothing so much as The Mamas and Papas. Jerry and William work beautifully together to produce something which is more than the sum of their voices. In this case though all the trees are not brown, they’re dead!
Dirt is the album that So Far Under would fit most comfortably on, with a chorus which has been pitch bent until it snapped. Antagonistic sounds are smashed together between the verses and choruses, but make the track into something that is difficult to turn your ears away from.
In Never Fade du Vall takes over. Sounding a little like Comes With The Fall, a bit like Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, and a lot like early Alice in Chains and, as is his way, it sounds like a love song or paean in memory of someone you used to know. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t give him more chance to lead, as he’s quite riveting when he does so.
The final track All I Am does the opposite and hands the reigns to Cantrell. It’s slow, it’s introspective. It could have come straight from Degradation Trip and is none the worse for that.
If you’re a fan then you either have it already or are saving up your hard earned pennies/cents to get it as soon as you can, if you’re not then look them up on YouTube and spend some time getting to know what you’re missing, then buy it and find out what it is to be one of the most popular Grunge bands in the world.