August 26, 2018

Alice In Chains - Rainer Fog Review


As a group that has shown perseverance and evolution through its tumultuous beginnings and tragic loss, Alice In Chains has become a shining example of an act who's show can, and must, go on. Jerry Cantrell, original founding member and songwriter of the group, learned to find his voice after the tragic overdose of legendary vocalist Layne Staley left him with no other choice but to step in and become the lead. Of course, all wouldn't have been as easily possible without enlisting the help of close friend and co-vocalist William DuVall. Through this questionable decision to continue on without their chief vocalist Staley, Alice In Chains have been able to grow into a healthy, heavy, and critically acclaimed second act in their career, first with the release of their 2009 comeback album Black Gives Way To Blue, and then in 2013 with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The loss of Staley can be felt, but the alchemy between Cantrell and DuVall created a new future for a band that was originally thought to never be able to get back on its feet. Now, with an equal split of albums through two generations of Seattle's defining grunge and alternative metal band, Rainier Fog is another step in the right direction for Alice In Chains, despite falling for some of the cliches of an aggressive band getting older, and some thematic material getting recycled.

When it comes to album artwork, Alice In Chains have always put forth a strong visual aesthetic in their covers, usually accompanied by a specific colored mood or theme. Starting most notably with probably their most acclaimed album, Dirt, with an orange filter over a girl lying in the desert, and followed up with their third eponymously titled album featuring a three legged dog licking his lips over a neon yellow (sometimes green) filter. This aesthetic is also very apparent on their last album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, featuring the skull of a triceratops over a red filter. As far as this continuity is concerned, the band seems to have rather abandoned the idea entirely and opted for a more lazy and obvious route of using the all-seeing eye, and pyramid Illuminati imagery. The artwork itself features a man walking into the pupil of the eye, which is enclosed in a faded outline of a sun, within a pyramid, and furthermore is surrounded by what's likely to be the forests of Washington state. Whether they felt somewhat of an obligation to put this as their album's artwork, or if they wanted to fit into a culture already saturated with this type of tiresome imagery, remains to be seen, but unfortunately, it becomes one of the most glaring missed opportunities of the band to refuse to make a statement all their own in terms of visuals.

The album opens with their first released single in promotion of Rainier Fog, "The One You Know", and it has all the classic Alice In Chains notes. It's a strong start to a new chapter, featuring the heavy guitar riffs and vocal harmonies that have defined them. Their title track follows close behind and builds up the driving energy that helps to carry listeners through the album. "Red Giant" takes on a more metal Slayer styled riff structure and it captures an essence to them that can't be matched by any of their metal rock contemporaries. There are plenty of tracks that make their play-throughs worthy for longtime fans, such as songs like "Fly" and "Maybe", taking their softer songwriting skills to the forefront. Most of their head bangers on here as well have their moments to shine, such as their second released single, "So Far Under", towards the final leg of the album. This is the Alice In Chains that has pervaded the minds of 90's youth, and haunted our musical imaginations since they stormed onto the grunge scene, to deliver the darkest and badass version of the musical movement. It is tracks like "So Far Under" and "All I Am", an unforgettable and defining closing track, that make the band feel like they haven't aged one bit.

Rainier Fog carves a special place in the already critically acclaimed discography of one of grunge's defining bands. As a full album, it never falters as much as it delivers more of what fans already love about the band. This entry can work as a fresh jumping off point for new fans, although I would personally recommend a chronological listen to fully appreciate how far they've come. Now with three albums post-Layne, there is an equal number of early versus later albums to explore, and Alice In Chains are proving that in their maturity, they have not even come close to hanging up their guitars.

Rainer Fog - 7.75/10

Recommended Tracks: The One You Know, Drone, So Far Under