Tag Archives: Alice in Chains

Music Review – Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (Album)

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.


Check My Brain

Another original article tonight…

 


 

For me, it’s unusual to be able to buy an album and love it on the first listen. There are only three artists…four at a push, who I can be sure will make me smile as soon as I hit the play button. In no particular order Bob Mould is one, Swervedriver is another, the third is who I’m going to tell you about now.

Sadly, and it’s always sad when this happens, even if it’s expected, the singer of this band came to an early demise on the fifth of April, 2002 through misadventure, I’m sure you know what I mean. Unsurprisingly the group then split up, seemingly for good. However the members were each active in a number of capacities, not least of which was as fundraisers for a bunch of good causes.

Then in 2005 the three remaining members came together to perform as a band, for a charity gig. Over the next three years they continued doing this, drafting in a number of high profile guest performers to fill the distinctively voiced original lead singer.

I was at work one day in 2009, with no idea what was about to hit me when suddenly I noticed a link someone had pasted, to a new song from an old band. The song was called A Looking In View and the band was called…

 

Alice In Chains

 

 

I was somewhat excited…to say the very least.

I grew up (sort of, I was about eighteen when I first heard them) listening to these guys tearing a hole in rock music and crawling through the ragged cavity with guitars from the netherworld and vocals which sounded like they were being wrought from twisted steel and shards of glass. Suffice to say I was a big fan!

I hesitantly clicked on the link and crossed my fingers, hoping that whatever they had done wouldn’t destroy all my memories of the band. After pulling on my headphones the song started and I was thrust into a new world of respect for a band who could undergo such tragedy and come back with original material as strong as anything in their previous canon.

The thirteen year hiatus in new material had, if anything, reinvigorated their lyrical and song-writing skills. Not to forget that replacing a front-man can be deleterious to a band, but with William DuVall, previously of Alice in Chains-a-likes Comes With The Fall, they had found a slightly new sound and a fantastically different type of figurehead for the group.

The first album after the reformation which was Black Gives Way To Blue didn’t really hint at the influence DuVall would have on them, however what it did have was ten pieces of heavily overdriven, raucous musical violence, and then, oddly, an ultimate track which is a duet with Mr Elton John?

My favourite track from this record is by far and away Check My Brain. It has string bends which sound too low to be possible and a fantastically cheerful [sic] chorus, which seems to suggest that anyone living in California needs to see a psychiatrist. The rest of the tracks are perhaps not as heavy but with titles like Acid Bubble and Private Hell some of them come pretty close.

What was incredible, to me at least, was that they have kept the amazing split lead vocals which defined the band in their previous heyday, Cantrell and DuVall sound like they were made for each other.

The fantastic offset harmonies continue throughout their last album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The title is a little conceited but apparently the new singer had finally been allowed to start displaying his political and religious views. All the members of Alice in Chains are staunch atheists, but never before have their views been so obviously displayed as through their new album, and especially its title track.

The song, which is track five on a dozen track, hour long symphony of grunge, verging towards their early career metal roots doesn’t pull any punches and outright tramples over religion of all kinds. The first three or four tracks are shockingly heavy, Hollow starts us off and has a fantastic riff which drags you kicking and screaming behind its vapour trail, until it stops five and a half minutes later. This album hardly lets up all the way through and by the end you can’t help but be sad that it’s all coming to a close.

Before I finish I need to tell a short story, which might give you an idea of the influence this band have had on my life and how much they have given me over the years…

Five years ago my lovely wife, who I obviously care for more than life itself, was pregnant with our first and only child. I was on my lunch break at work and had been for a walk around town. On my way back I happened to walk past Rock City, a club in Nottingham, where we used to live, which occasionally hosted interesting concerts. A new poster of upcoming dates had been pasted in an attention demanding spot and on the list was Alice in Chains.

My mouth dropped open, followed swiftly by my wallet as I walked through the door in a stunned state of consciousness and purchased a ticket. I started back to work and looked a little more closely at the entry pass I had just become the proud owner of, my eyes skipped lightly over the details until a nagging feeling made me look again.

The date on the ticket seemed very familiar, the reason being that it was my wife’s birthday, her only birthday while pregnant, and five months pregnant no less. So I had just purchased a very special ticket to a very special gig on a night which should have been very special for a completely different reason.

I called my wonderful partner and explained the faux pas and, because she is the most fantastic lady on the face of the planet she said that it would not be a problem and that I could make it up by buying her something fabulous. I believe I did!

This story explains both what Alice in Chains mean to me and why I love my wife so much.

I’m looking forward to the next album!