Vera : Alice In Chains used to be one of the figureheads of the grunge boom from Seattle in the nineties, while bands such as Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots also got their summit of brilliance and fame. Especially with the latter one, Alice In Chains has some proper similarities and then we are not only talking about their drug infused front men Layne Staley and Scott Weiland. We are talking about the drawling vocals and the beautiful, fluttering guitar leads that always have a kind of psychedelic touch.
In 2006 Alice In Chains came back in business with William DuVall as front man and in the meantime ‘Rainier Fog’ happens to be their third album with this coloured front guy. A nice detail is the fact that ‘Rainier Fog’ appears to be recorded in Seattle and that was a long time ago, more precisely twenty years ago since their debut album. For the ancients – guitarist supreme Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney, but also bassist Mike Inez who joined the band in 1993 – it turned into a painful catharsis from time to time, while DuVall felt a bit strange and unaccustomed in the first place, but this confrontation with the past was really necessary. It has resulted in a very familiar sounding album on which the band returns to the roots, without being heavy nor prickly, but they play music with a natural flair. And DuVall remains drawling, without flying into a rage.
When listening to the opening track ‘The One You Know’, it could not be more familiar. Steady riffs, smooth chants and classical tinged guitar soloing with any nice vintage distortion (wah wah) resounds. And they still sound amazing! The somewhat polished style of the band in the title track is relished with psychedelic guitar skills. Of course the sound of Jerry Cantrell reigns forever, but let us not forget or underrate his contribution to the rather sweet harmony vocals with DuVall. One can label this as a typical American feature, since the Land of Uncle Sam happened to be the birthplace of The Byrds and CSN&Y, titans in peaceful harmony chants. And these days one can draw the line a bit further towards Black Label Society and Alter Bridge, bands that excel in perfect harmonious (sometimes polyphonic) vocals. Here we get it all regaled with very grungy overtones and soaring guitar skills, that speaks for itself. In this respect, there are loads of things to enjoy, with the magnificent ‘Fly’ (sung by Cantrell) as first highlight. We stay up in the skies with ‘Drone’, characterized with heavy riffs and a spiritual atmosphere. Nowadays ‘drone’ is related to a projectile, raised by the government, which could be coming out of the movie ‘The War Of The Worlds’ as invasion tool from Mars. Or a genre that only focuses on walls of sounds and guitars. Well, there is nothing of this on this quite smooth, peaceful and engrossing sounding new album from Alice In Chains that mainly impresses by its excellent guitar skills and well-known slow-performed chants. Nothing more, nothing less.