The Devil Shuffled His Feet a Lot
After the first album with new singer William DuVall was a moderate success, Alice In Chains was now set on producing another album in the hopes of shifting their sound further away from the classic Alice In Chains we have all grown used to. Unfortunately, experimentation does not always end well as we find out here.
At the turn of the decade, going into the 2010’s a lot of older bands decided it was high time to put out albums that put their older stuff to shame. Albums such as Behemoth’s The Satanist, Meshuggah’s Koloss, Suicide Silence’s The Black Crown and Hate by Thy Art is Murder. Alice In Chains had been on a strong supporting tour for their previous album and it was time once again to enter the studio.
At the start of the article I said that a lot of older bands made music that would put their older stuff to shame, Alice In Chains however is not one of those bands.
From the beginning we are thrown into a 67 minute long album with a lot of problems that need to be spoken about, but where to start?
Perhaps with the intro track, ‘Hollow,’ which is actually a really decent song, but unfortunately decent is where it stops. An enormous problem with this album is it sounds nothing remotely close to Alice In Chains, it sounds like a tribute band that made some songs 2-3 times longer than they should have been. ‘Hollow’ takes far too long to make its point and feels like a 3 minute song that’s been stretched to fill a 5 minute time slot. Which is rather sad because the chorus for this song is simply amazing. A recurring theme of this album is very dumb lyrics ,and much like some of their earlier songs, you would be better off NOT knowing them.
Track two, ‘Pretty done,’ sounds more related to the classic sound and is even a reasonable length of time. I can’t really say anything bad about this track other than it’s perfectly crafted for a new album, with very little in the way of flaws to point out, this is a very good recovery from the far too long first track. Sadly though, this marks the first time that the first 2 songs weren’t both awesome. Its lyrics are also not unreasonably stupid and cringey, which is a huge refreshment from most of the rest of this album.
‘Stone’ is another strong song. It’s a good length, its got a very addictive tune and it’s not straying too far away from the good Alice In Chains sound that we are slowly becoming accustomed to. And while it does have some strange sounding sections, it’s forgivable overall. ‘Stone’ lends itself to a very well made third track. There are only a few songs on this album with little to say about them, and thankfully this is one of them.
The fourth track, ‘Voices,’ however DOES have a lot that can be said about it. This is tied for my least favourite song on the entire album with the sixth track. With an annoyingly pop-y sound to it and a very whiney sounding chorus, it is without a doubt the single most annoying song on this album. Between the horrible tune, bad chorus and long length I’m not sure what I dislike most about this song. This is one of the songs I skip the moment it comes on without fail every time and is, in my opinion, well within the 10 worst songs by Alice In Chains (might do an article on that later on if anyone is interested).
‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs here,’ the self titled fifth track, is a huge redeemer for this album in general. While it is very long and quite slow, it has been done the right way. It goes for 6 and a half minutes, and much the same as ‘Rooster’ and ‘Over now,’ it shows us one of the few times where going slow was the best approach for them. Though it is a mouthful to say and an earful to hear, it is a song worth hearing if you plan to listen to this album intending to skip the mediocre or bad songs. It does tend to get a little bit boring towards the end and feels a bit over done after the first few listens. For a self titled representation of this album though, they definitely could have done much, much, worse. It is a little funny hearing William’s rendition of Layne’s dying cat noises.
‘Lab monkey,’ the sixth track, is equally as terrible as ‘Voices’ and has many of the same problems that the mentioned track has. You can pretty much just apply the review of ‘Voices’ to this as I dislike this song so much I don’t think it’s worth continuing to review it further.
Track seven, ‘Low ceiling,’ straight up sounds like a song from Facelift, and surprisingly manages to be pretty good even with the very pop inspired choruses. Like many of the songs on this album it does suffer from being stretched out far too long, you could achieve the same impact from a song 2 minutes shorter here, but what’s done is done, and if this is what we are stuck with then I’m glad we didn’t get worse.
An outstanding performance when ‘Breath on a window,’ the eighth track, comes on. This is the Alice In Chains I want to hear more of, it’s amazingly well written. It’s heavy and fast, it’s an outstanding track making for a brilliant transition towards the end of the album. It’s an odd blend of the sound styles seemingly from all of the previous albums at some points, it works out very well and I’ve got to say this is easily in the top 20 Alice In Chains songs (another list I can make if you guys are interested).
Aaaaaaaand right back to a bad, bland, and boring song. ‘Scalpel’ sounds very much like a knock-off Smashing Pumpkins song, albeit a bad Smashing Pumpkins song. With a tune that is badly in need of a rewrite and verses that are downright painful to listen to, this song is yet another track from this album worthy of a 10 worst position. The general vibe from this song is calm but it doesn’t sound right for an Alice In Chains song. Sadly, it does feel like it fits on this mess of an album.
When we finally escape the clutches of ‘Scalpel’ we get to my favourite song on the entire album. ‘Phantom Limb’ was actually the first song from this album that I heard when it randomly played through my PS4’s Spotify app’s, “weekly songs you might enjoy” playlist. ‘Phantom Limb’ is singlehandedly the reason why I bought this album (that and it was on sale for $9). Despite Alice In Chains reputation with long songs not being the greatest, this is a completely different story. At a grand total of 7 minutes its the 3rd longest song they’ve done and it is a mystery to me how they made it bearable and amazing the whole way through; but I gotta say they did really well with this and I hope to hear more songs like this in the future.
Thankfully, from here on out its only good songs. The second to last song, ‘Hung on a Hook,’ is an amazingly well produced song, and though it is slow and moody, it’s done the right way. It picks up during the chorus and maintains momentum through the rest of the song from there. It does drag on a bit, but it’s bearable and its true colours show towards the end of the song. Whomever made the decision to put this as the second to last song is a total genius.
The final track is the new Alice In Chains’ equivalent of ‘Over now’ and is another song from here that’s in the top 20. ‘Choke’ was the right choice for the final track here, it’s a sad and emotional song, that despite being slow, manages to be heavy in a way that I didn’t know Alice In Chains was capable of being until I heard this. One of the cases where slower made the song better, and certainly a case where not trying to sound like Layne really worked to William’s strength. Overall, a great ending to this album but it does leave us with only one question.
What next? With only 1 single being made since 2013 and with a totally different and unrecognisable sound to it, that frankly doesn’t sit well with me, the future for Alice In Chains is uncertain. The new album is expected to be released in early to mid 2018, and we can only hope that it can return more towards the sound of Black Gives Way to Blue.
Overall I’d give this a 5/10, its mediocre to the point where the truly amazing tracks aren’t enough to redeem it higher than average but its not horrible enough to dip to Sap levels of bad. Well thats all the reviews for Alice In Chains out of the way. If you would like I could do a top 10 worst and top 20 best Alice In Chains Songs at some point later on, but for now it’s time to choose something. Would you guys rather that I do a series on Thy Art is Murder next or a single random album review?
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