Well, he never really went anywhere, did he?
Despite the obvious turmoil and sadness surrounding the very public drug addiction and untimely death of former bandmate Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell has managed to keep doing what he does best: writing and recording awesome heavy tunes.
The last Alice in Chains record was released in 1995. Since then he has released two excellent solo albums. 2002’s brilliant Degradation Trip in particular served to demonstrate to the world that Cantrell was the real creative force behind the Alice in Chains juggernaut, while Staley was just a cool looking guy who sang some nice harmonies. Oh come on, it’s true!
Anyway, now 14 years later here we all are, a lot older, not much wiser, and hanging out to get our hands on a new AIC album.
And it’s brilliant.
The brooding opening track All Secrets Known sets a sad but positive and forward-looking tone to the album. This wipes the slate clean, and sets us up for a killer punch from the hooky and hugely addictive single Check My Brain.
There are a couple of simple, beautiful acoustic tracks as you’d expect from the master songwriter himself, and a couple of slow, minor key dirges reminiscent of where the band left off fourteen years ago.
The haunting title track that finishes the album is Jerry’s very classy tribute to Layne. Hell, it’s even got Elton John on piano.
The key ingredients of Cantrell’s sound are still there – low tuned guitars, lumbering riffs that are so big they seem to move like dinosaurs, unusual but effective vocal harmonies, and an uneasiness that runs throughout the verses which makes the occasionally catchy choruses even more uplifting and cathartic.
New singer William DuVall does a perfectly acceptable job as Cantrell’s vocal foil, and the band sound tighter and more cohesive than ever. All of this is filtered through the crisp and punchy production of Nick Raskulinecz, who is building a very impressive CV.
Alice in Chains are back, and the world is a better place for it.
Rejoice and be happy!