Review: New Alice In Chains Album Rainier Fog Is A Double-Edged Sword

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Alternative rock and grunge legends Alice in Chains have returned with their sixth studio album, Rainier Fog. The album serves as the band’s third release to feature William DuVall on vocals along with Jerry Cantrell following the 2002 death of legendary frontman Layne Staley. Rainier Fog comes five years after 2013’s The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.

Rainier Fog is a great example of a band who know their strengths- and most of the time- can play to them very, very well. If by now you haven’t jumped upon the Alice in Chains train, there’s not much they can do to convert you. Wicked, haunting vocal harmonies, great dual vocal interplay and fantastic guitar work aside, if that’s not your cup of tea, it just isn’t. And that’s fine.

At this point, Alice in Chains are who they are. Rainier Fog is a double-edged sword in that way. The band has no shortage of hits throughout their fantastic career. From back in the heyday of 90’s grunge, they’ve always been counted upon to serve up solid, anthemic alternative rock songs that at times dabble in the metal and folk world simultaneously. And with that notion in mind, Rainier Fog does just that. They’re not going to go electro-pop all of a sudden! They’re not going to bow to modern day views on what mainstream music looks and sounds like. And for that we love Alice in Chains. But we love them because we’ve always loved them. And for what they’ve so consistently provided us with.

When listening to Rainier Fog, a couple of things are strikingly apparent. The first is that the album is a consistent listen of solid, anthemic alternative rock songs that at times dabble in the metal and folk words simultaneously (see what I did there?). And with that comes an album whose highs never go too high and whose lows never go all that low. And that is great. The only downside to that is there isn’t a “Man in the Box” or “Them Bones” here. And I know. We’re dealing with Alice in Chains 2.0 here. But even so, there isn’t a “Check My Brain” or a “Stone” here, either. Again though, it’s the consistency factor.

Rainier Fog moves along at a far more consistent clip than The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. So, even though that album had the huge hit single, there was a certain lack of focus and a tendency for songs to go on for a minute or so too long throughout. By comparison, Rainier Fog is leaner, tighter, more focused and most of all, because of all of this, a much stronger album. Bands do’t always age like this. I can name a few “shells of their former selves” but I’ll spare them the indictment. Rather, Alice in Chains deserve to be commended for their mastery of their craft and their passion to not water down their discography with subsequent releases- but to enrich it. And that my friends, that deserves high praise. Let’s take a look song by song of their solid new album, Rainier Fog.

  1. The One You Know

The first taste we got of Rainier Fog, “The One You Know” sets the bar high for the new album. Disjointed guitar riffs and some nice snare work send us off to the races. The off time riffs and maniacal vocal attack are classic Alice in Chains. Going from Jerry Cantrell alone to the blistering vocals of William DuVall works to great effect to build the momentum before Alice crash into one of their strongest chorus’ of the DuVall era.

2. Rainier Fog

There’s never been a shortage of great bass lines through out the years with Alice in Chains. See “Would” or “Rain When I Die”.  Here, on the title track, Mike Inez busts out a great bass riff eerily similar sounding to the days of the band’s self-titled album. The main riff of the song is a straight up the middle classic Jerry Cantrell riff. The song carries a lot of energy which lends it to being a great choice for the album’s tour.

3. Red Giant

The opening harmonies of “Red Giant” will literally shock, scare and surprise you. The track makes great use of vocal distortion which only helps to build up the beautifully unsettling verse vocal. Throughout the track, if you just lose yourself in the music, you might actually find yourself mistaking William DuVall for Layne Staley. That is a compliment of the highest order. As you’ll see throughout this album, DuVall really makes his impact felt in a bigger way than on his two previous Alice albums and for that, the album is better.

4. Fly

“Fly” carefully treads the line between classic sounding Alice in Chains and “forced” classic sounding Alice in Chains. The track has all the ingredients that normally make for a solid Alice in Chains track. But on “Fly”, the one real misstep on the album, the acoustic guitars with the sheering leads played over them sound a little too safe and a little too uninspired. The song never really takes off where you’d want it to. Possibly a victim of it’s expected arrangement.

5. Drone

“Drone” begins with a sludgy swing reminiscent of Down with it’s thick guitar and the grinding bass line underneath. The vocal harmonies on this epic track sway about nearly pulling you off the edge of your seat waiting for them to come full circle. The wah-drenched lead guitar work of Jerry Cantrell takes center stage as he lays down one of the finest guitar solos in a career filled with memorable guitar licks. Where the previous track suffered from being too safe, “Drone” really succeeds with its brooding swagger and unexpected left turns.

6. Deaf Ears Blind Eyes

One thing Alice in Chains have consistently succeeded at more than some of their contemporaries is creating a mood with their music. Their songs aren’t just songs. They are living, breathing beings. “Deaf Ears Blind Eyes” is a shining example of this. You don’t just hear the vocals- you feel them. The impassioned yearning of Jerry Cantrell’s vocals hit the spot on this burner.

7. Maybe

The a capella lead in to “Maybe” gives way to a subdued track that relies on the fantastic vocal work of Jerry Cantrell. The acoustic-tinged track is reminiscent of Jar of Flies– era Alice when they relied less on crushing guitars and more on the simplicity of acoustic-driven alternative rock. The track is a great juxtaposition to a lot of the other aggressive, in your face grunge rock throughout Rainier Fog. All due respect to Mike Inez and his fantastic bass work here, as well.

8. So Far Under

The second track to be released ahead of the arrival of Rainier Fog, “So Far Under” will go down in history as William DuVall’s greatest moment. Written entirely by DuVall, he said “The lyric is a cold, hard assessment of a difficult situation.” On his two previous Alice albums, DuVall has more than held his own among the immense legacy of his predecessor. But here, the confidence and power in his vocal in the chorus will stand the test of time as the moment when he officially got his Alice in Chains’ wings. And that guitar solo! DuVall’s mark is felt all over this album but that guitar solo is one for the books.

9. Never Fade

“Never Fade” is a great modern take on the classic Alice in Chains sound. The music has a modern feel while the vocal approach and effects in the verses is a nice tip of the hat to Dirt-era tracks like “Godsmack”. The song is elevated by the driving rhythm section with Sean Kinney really carrying the song along. “Never Fade” has the most potential at rock radio and is the strongest track on the album in that regard. The strong chorus melody and instantly relate-able nature of the lyrics are the perfect storm for another strong Alice in Chains’ single.

10. All I Am

“All I Am” brings the album to a close in a big way. Calm, eerie and chilling, The song carries with it an understated sadness. The lyrics can be interperated in a number of ways- or better yet, possible be in reference to any number of fallen friends Alice in Chains have known throughout their career. It’s easy to look at this track and immediately see Layne Staley or Chris Cornell as its subject matter. And while that may be a possibility, what’s more important is that Alice sees the album to its conclusion with this unexpectedly heartfelt song to see us of. Ending the album with a track like this is no doubt a risk. But it’s a risk that more than pays off.

If you have been anxiously awaiting Rainier Fog, you won’t be disappointed. The album is very good addition to their extensive back catalog. At the current moment, I believe this to be the ultimate WIlliam DuVall era album we’ve seen so far. The band’s chemistry and comfort together really comes through in the music. Perhaps going back to Seattle played a role in this as this feels the most like the band’s heyday since their actual heyday. In 2018 and with the state of rock as we know it today, it’s wonderful to see Alice in Chains deliver the goods once again.

Must Listen Tracks: Drone, Rainier Fog, All I Am.

  • Olga Stewart

    Thanks for posting this excellent review of the album.

    • Katie

      I agree. Wonderful review. Thanks Joe… 🙂

      • Chris

        I cant wait to hear this!

        • Katie

          Yeppers!!! Absolutely…

      • Olga Stewart

        Yay for great mailbox gifts. :).

        • Katie

          I agree Olga. 🙂
          Ok, so I pre-ordered the CD – T-shirt pkg. Today, I checked my UPS tracking number… It says my pkg is in TN, and I live in Western NC, and the *Estimated delivery date* is TUESDAY 08/28/18. WTH?!

          I paid almost $10 US in shipping…!

          It had better arrive tomorrow or Saturday morning at the latest or the local UPS transfer station is gonna get a call from a cat-angry Katie…
          (lol)

          • Olga Stewart

            An Irish woman with red hair will be telling them off?

            Then I sure as he’ll hope that the CD and t-shirt get to you tomorrow.

            Else that local UPS transfer station is gonna wish that there was a hole in the floor that they could drop into. Ha ha!

          • Katie

            AhhhhhHahahahahahahahah!!! You know me well Olga. heh

          • Olga Stewart

            Well if there’s one thing we ginger haired Irish women are known for, it’s our tempers. :).

          • Olga Stewart

            Did the CD and t-shirt arrive today?

          • Katie

            It arrived Monday 08/27. I’ve have worn that CD OUT. And lucky for BMG music because I had already typed *An Open Letter To BMG Music*. It was not pretty… heh

          • Olga Stewart

            Yikes!

            And I can only imagine what was in that open letter. Ha ha!

    • Bobby Digital

      I really like how they reviewed each song compared to just the whole album.

      • Olga Stewart

        As did I.

  • PhoenixForce5

    I’ve gotten a chance to listen to samples from the album and right off the bat Red Giant was my fave. Fly, Drone and All I Am.

    • Doggington Von Arf

      I agree with all these points.

      • Doggington Von Arf

        And btw, Stone was nothing special.

        • PhoenixForce5

          I liked it actually. I think Inez did an awesome job on the bassline.

          • Katie

            The lead bassline on Stone is nothing short of phenomenal.

          • Bobby Digital

            Yeah the bassline is bad ass.

      • Katie

        Can’t wait until I get this CD in the mail…

        • Doggington Von Arf

          I’m at work and I got notification that mine is sitting in my mailbox at home. arg.

  • Katie

    I’d like to take a brief moment to say Happy Birthday to Layne Thomas Staley – who would have turned 51 today. Rest easy with the Angels Layne, you will never be forgotten. Peace

  • Hot Topic

    Didn’t read the review, but i must say, the album is 10/10.
    Didn’t like the Duvall (so far under) song very much, it’s still better than his Last of my Kind (the song is not so bad, but it’s like a child wrote the lyrics).
    Vocally Jerry is becoming stronger and stronger.
    Thank you Jerry, I love you man!

    • Katie

      Thank you Jerry, I love you too man!!! 😀

  • Cunt Fuckula

    I remember when the guy who runs this site gave TDPDH a lame review five years ago and that album was the best thing they’ve done since Dirt. The review here is very faceless and doesn’t really tell us anything and I’m sure the album will be much better than the cursory listen this guy gave it.

    • Bryan Stroup

      I’ve been into the band ever since seeing “Man in the Box” for the very first time on MTV. Dirt was in my top three favorite albums of the 90s, and I also loved SAP and Jar of Flies. The three legged dog album was a step down, but still had a handful of really catchy songs, and they then later released “Get Born Again”, which was another extremely hooky single to go along with the likes of “A Little Bitter” and “What the Hell Have I?”. When Black Gives Way to Blue only had a single song on it that I would consider classic AIC in terms of having an earworm, and that was “Check My Brain”.

      The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here had absolutely nothing at all that I found redeeming. It sounded like a record that was released just to put out a record, and very unenthusiastic and underwhelming, stuck playing a similarly boring midpace throughout. Almost like a collection of B-sides from Jerry’s solo stuff.

      • IrregularJohn

        My exact thoughts. The only thing I recall about Black Gives Way To Blue is “Check My Brain” oh and there was Elton John somewhere on that record. Dinosaurs is a complete blur and I would never want to subject myself to it again.

        • Cunt Fuckula

          Which is hilarious, considering it was released on the same day as Like Clockwork and absolutely defecates on that album in every way possible, lol.

          • IrregularJohn

            Huh? BGWTB was released on March 29th 2009 while Josh Homme & some dudes’ Like Clock word was released on May 31st 2013. Both records suck heavily if you ask me. The second similarity between them is Elton John cameo however.

          • Cunt Fuckula

            Which might explain why we’re talking about TDPDH — released on the same day as Like Crapwork — and not BGWTB, as you surmised.

      • PhoenixForce5

        I disagree. Phantom Limb, Hollow and Stone were amazing.

      • Cunt Fuckula

        Totally disagree about the Dinosuars album. It was this long, sprawling masterpiece for me that was unrelentingly heavy and focused. Hollow, Choke, Voices, Stone and Phantom Limb are all instant AIC classics.

        I remember they released that album on the same day as QOTSA’s Like Clockwork album, and laughing out loud at how shitty and anemic Like Clockwork sounded in comparison to TDPDH. Here’s Josh forcing his emotions and phoning in a QOTSA album that comes nowhere close to their previous records, and then here’s Alice making a sprawling masterpiece that stands up with Dirt and Tripod.

        Black Gives Way To Blue felt like they were just giving us “an AIC album” at the time, which was understandable. TDPDH is a highlight album in their discography.

        • Katie

          Yes, but without BGWTB, and the title track (BGWTB) – we would have never heard the angst in Jerry’s voice singing about a brother he’d lost…
          And I agree, TDPDH is an Epic Masterpiece, but perhaps not for everyone.

        • JoelS

          TDPDH is definitely sprawling, maybe a little too much towards the end. That said, I did enjoy it better than Like Clockwork. And the Queens last album, yeesh, other than 2 maybe 3 songs, it’s a dud.

          • Cunt Fuckula

            Queens have lost their edge. Two consecutive albums of faceless, turgid modern rock. I wish Josh would go stand in the shadow of Dave Grohl for another Them Crooked Vultures album and regain some semblance of direction.

  • Joe Costigan

    I loved TDPDH and was glad that released an album full of longer songs – Hung On a Hook is a top 10 AIC song . I have only heard the three singles so far – I think So Far Under is the strongest of the three. I am sure I will be able to listen to this album all the way through and be immersed in the full album experience just as I have been able to do with all of their releases. I am sure Rainier Fog is going to be another excellent offering – looking forward to it’s release.

    Thanks for your review Joe. I appreciate it.

    I did find it funny that Brett decided to post his own thoughts on twitter about this album with the thought that anyone would care. This is when your penchant for posting bogus clickbait headlines comes back to bite you since your credibility has been shot.

    • Alternative Nation

      I only posted them because a longtime reader asked, if they hadn’t I wouldn’t of. I also enjoy talking AIC with people, so it turned into a discussion with some people. Joe was the best person to do the written review of this album.

      When did I have this credibility I had that I lost? Are you referring to when the site had 1/5 the traffic it has right now and was not on a long term path to survive?

      • Katie

        :X !!! 😀 heh
        I believe a lot of folks are new and don’t remember the *Grunge Report* days of old. And congratulations on the success of the site. Literally… the only place I post on the web and the only place I seek out news on Alice In Chains. Thanks.

      • Cunt Fuckula

        The “traffic” you’re getting is basically people questioning your headlines, articles and credibility at every given turn, from what I’ve gathered in my short time here. So if that traffic is supplying you with a healthy Disqus check each month and that’s all your after, then more power to you, I guess. But the downside is that your site has no merit or legacy to it outside of egregious clickbait and people taking you to task for it.

  • lima85

    Nice review, sounds good, I’ll have it.

  • Sean Reardon

    Finally! It is so cool to have been able to look forward to the release of the album / an actual “rock” album and then be able to immerse myself in the listening experience. This is how it “used” to be. I think AIC is one of the very, very few bands that has the ability to at least try to make hard rock great again. AIC and Boston should both be in the Rock HoF, no questions asked.

    AIC v.1 last two songs “Died” and “Get Born Again” are awesome and I was just listening to “A Little Bitter” this morning: awesome. Jerry C’s two solo albums are arguably the best / most overlooked / underrated solo / rock albums in a long, long time.

    Thanks for the great review and AIC thanks for this new album and giving rock fans something to look forward to and enjoy….Go get em boys!

  • Hwang Sunghyeop

    New songs are pretty cool.

  • Eddie Yarler

    Just listened to the whole thing. Love it from beginning to end. MASSIVE improvement from Dinosaurs, which really just felt like a less inspired darker version of Black Gives Way to Blue.

    There is so much I want to say but don’t even know how to put into words. The entire album surprised me. Just when I thought a song was going to get too repetitive or redundant like on Dinosaurs, some insane change happens that captures my attention all over. Deaf Ears and Drone especially do this.Its too soon to tell but I think Red Giant and Rainier Fog are my two big ones for this album. Congratulations boys. What a beautiful inspiring soundtrack to a year at a shitty job, tumultuous relationship and helping a friend regain the self esteem her shithead abusive boyfriend took from her. Alice in Chains is a fucking miracle and I’m so lucky to be alive at the same time this band makes music. Another home run.

    DISCLAIMER: I don’t hate Dinosaurs, I just think its the weakest of the 6.

  • Gregory Marini

    Nice review! Solid album.

  • Sean Reardon

    Red Giant: “And I’m coming to burn this down and laugh my ass off” Great lyric!