Alice In Chains | Rainier Fog Album Review
The Seattle group's first album recorded in their hometown for over 20 years is all gloom and doom - much like their 1995 self-titled effort made in the same place. The echoes of late frontman Layne Staley are still relevant, but leader Jerry Cantrell is pushing Alice's sound while maintaining their signature, gut-busting aura.
Alice In Chains have yet again failed to disappoint - once more, Jerry Cantrell and his band return, this time with their gloomiest approach since their 1995 self-titled effort - the last testament of original frontman Layne Staley.
Rainier Fog is a satisfying mix of both the light and heavy Alice that grungers have come to know and love. This is demonstrated in stand out tracks such as 'Red Giant', 'Drone' and 'All I Am', combining heavy riffs and harmonised vocals (an Alice staple) to contrast some of the softer acoustic guitars in the mix.
The record contains strong choruses, including those present on singles 'The One You Know', 'So Far Under' and 'Never Fade', the latter of which will certainly cater to the tastes of festival goers and Alice fanatics in a live setting. As well as immaculate songwriting, the guttural bass tracks from Mike Inez do a solid job of maintaining song structure, paving the way for Cantrell's classic, powerful solos and distorted riffs that he’s mastered since the Facelift era.
Distorted riffs aside, the pairing of Cantrell’s wailing guitar between punchy choruses and well-written licks are perhaps waning thin on a few points on the LP, evidenced by the choppy demeanour on the opening single. However, the song shows lyrical promise: “Tell me does it matter? If I'm still here, or I'm gone? Shifting to the after, an imposter, so disowned.”
It seems the Layne Staley pebble in William DuVall’s shoe is still wearing him down - a shame, considering DuVall is more than capable of holding his own and should not be obliged to fill such large boots. Another evident feature of the record more than likely adding to self doubt is Cantrell's noticeable vocal presence from the onset and throughout; it is obvious that the production predominantly puts Cantrell as the louder singer. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for listeners - with tracks such as 'Red Giant', 'Fly' and 'Drone', Cantrell dominates, yet these are some of the finest examples of vocal work on the record.
Speaking of ‘Fly’; what a fitting tribute - both in name and in composition - to Alice’s remarkable and first ever Billboard number one EP, Jar Of Flies. The track is also a great example of Cantrell leading vocals, as well as showing the bands aforementioned ability to go lighter in tone, incorporating acoustic guitars into the mix.
Alice In Chains have aged like wine; they have kept their much-loved sound but are still progressing forward into new territories. As Cantrell himself said, “It’s a record we haven’t done yet”. Rainier Fog is a solid album which is consistent throughout and cements its place in Alice’s legacy, and one can only hope that the legacy they started almost 30 years ago is maintained as they push onward.