If I understand correctly, this is the chorus of “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here,” the title track of Alice In Chain’s new album: “The devil put dinosaurs here / Jesus don’t like a queer / The devil put dinosaurs here / No problem with faith just fear.” Now analyze that. Seriously. Because I don’t get it. I mean, maybe the devil did put dinosaurs here — who the fuck knows? — but singing that “Jesus don’t like a queer” is pretty fucking presumptuous. And somewhat insulting. Even the Pope knows you don’t go around saying things like “Jesus don’t like a queer.” You just don’t. Even if the Bible might — just *might*, I’m not saying it does — back up your claim, it’s still not a very nice thing to say. It makes me wonder if the lyric wasn’t meant to be controversial so as to generate some press for the band. But I don’t really think that’s the case because the band’s last album, Black Gives Way To Blue, got plenty of good press and went gold, so it’s not like the band needed to resort to writing bad lyrics — c’mon, seriously, they’re bad lyrics on every level — in order to get attention.
But let’s put the “Dinosaur” song aside and talk about the album in general. Because it’s actually quite good. William DuVall continues to sound almost exactly like Layne Staley, enabling the band’s original members, guitarist Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney, to plod along without fear of shutting out longtime fans.
I suppose some might be bothered that DuVall sounds so much like Staley, but I don’t think that’s disrespectful in any way. On the contrary, getting a singer who sounds like Staley helps keep Staley’s legacy alive because the band can still go out and play his songs and do them justice. You couldn’t say that if they had a singer who sounded nothing like Staley.
As for the new album, there are echoes of grunge, but I’d have to classify it as sludge rock or sludge metal. I might even go so far as to call it stoner sludge metal, which has had a strong grunge influence for years now anyway. Seriously, this album has more in common with bands like The Sword, Electric Wizard and Kylesa than it does with, say, Pearl Jam or Stone Temple Pilots or old Alice In Chains music. Sure, there are some vibes here that are classic Alice In Chains — hints at “Man in the Box” and “Rooster” — but most of the time Kinney pounds the skins in a nice down-tempo manner like a stoner sludge metal god. (I forgot who I was listening to and thought it was High on Fire the first time I played this album.) Meanwhile, Cantrell’s riffs are more like Torche or Mastodon than your old school grunge. You can also hear the influence of all sorts of bands ranging from Queens Of The Stone Age to Pentagram. There’s definitely a doom metal aspect to this album as well. And I think that all of these are good things. There are dozens upon dozens of hair metal bands that keep trying to re-write their old songs on their new albums and I hear them and I’m embarrassed for them. They sound like they think it’s 1991 all over again. And you know that they wish it was. But Alice In Chains doesn’t try to rewrite Dirt or Jar of Flies. They have the wisdom that comes from having made those albums, but they’ve grown as artists, incorporating sounds they’ve liked from a multitude of artists of various genres, and the end result is an album on par with anything they’ve done in the past. Possibly even better.