Alice In Chains
"Rainier Fog"

(BMG)

1. The One You Know
2. Rainier Fog
3. Red Giant
4. Fly
5. Drone
6. Deaf Ears Blind Eyes
7. Maybe
8. So Far Under
9. Never Fade
10. All I Am

RATING: 7/10

When ALICE IN CHAINS regrouped in 2009 with that year's "Black Gives Way To Blue", longtime fans of the Seattle grunge-era rock icons approached its release cautiously. Vocalist Layne Staley left enormous shoes to fill in the wake of his death in 2002. With that 2009 release and its 2013 follow-up, "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here", the group bounced back to rejoin the modern rock scene as a vital band, commercially and critically. This was due to new vocalist William DuVall and the rest of ALICE IN CHAINS staying the course in the group's songwriting, content and confident in its well-worn sound and sticking with what worked for the band previously, instead of attempting to sound more modern for what rock radio had become by 2009.

The integration of DuVall into the vacated vocalist space continues to pay dividends on the band's newest record, "Rainier Fog". While ALICE IN CHAINS' modern-era lead voice doesn't quite match the vocal intensity of Staley – in part simply because he isn't channeling the same demons that were driving his predecessor – DuVall's vocal melodies slide perfectly into guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Jerry Cantrell's existing blueprint. Cantrell and DuVall's vocal pairings shine immediately from the opening track. "Rainier Fog" leads off with "The One You Know". The song is a relatively low-energy stomper, but as DuVall and Cantrell coalesce their vocal melodies on the chorus, the stage is set for another album that will be pure comfort food to longtime ALICE IN CHAINS fans.

From the second track that shares its namesake with the album title and forward, "Rainier Fog" is a fairly safe by-the-numbers ALICE IN CHAINS album. While the group's edge has dulled with age, and there are no tracks here as instantly catchy as "Check My Brain" from "Black Gives Way To Blue", a record that scratches all of the sweet spots we've become accustomed to is preferable to any attempts to modernize or otherwise fix what isn't broken.

Cantrell has long been one of the modern era's more underappreciated rock guitarists. While the vocal melodies will always be the most signature aspect of the ALICE IN CHAINS sound, Cantrell's guitar shredding seems a bit more prominent on "Rainier Fog". His rhythm riffs are as crunchy as ever, but his solo work really jumps out in the first half of the record, most notably during the bridge on "Red Giant" and during the dirty blues trudge of "Drone". Acoustic guitar work that underpins tracks such as "Fly" and "Maybe" provide a haunting atmosphere that would have allowed those tracks to fit comfortably on 1994's "Jar of Flies".

The new record is a mostly mid-tempo effort. Later track "Never Fade" is a fast-paced heavy rocker that is quite infectious, though a couple more of those tracks would have been welcome during the first two-thirds of the record as well. There are also a few tracks that are overly stretched out in their running times. Album closer "All I Am" is a 7-minute acoustic-driven attempt at an epic crescendo, though realistically it presents about five minutes of actual ideas. The aforementioned blues stomp of "Drone" would have had more power as a three-to-four-minute interlude, instead of the six-and-a-half-minute drag it becomes at that length.

Those minor quibbles aside, "Rainier Fog" is otherwise business as usual for ALICE IN CHAINS, and most fans that are longtime listeners will enjoy the record. It's unlikely to rocket to the top of the preference list in the band's discography, but Cantrell's guitar work and the duo vocal melodies of Cantrell and DuVall remain comforting to the ear.

COMMENTS

To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).