In a way it seems fitting that 90's grunge dinosaurs Alice in Chains' new album is titled The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. The band had been dormant for over a decade and following the deaths of former members Layne Staley (vocals) and Mike Starr (bass), it seemed like a reunion was impossible.
However, Alice in Chains rose from the tar pits of 90's nostalgia a couple years ago with a new lead singer in the form of William DuVall. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the follow up to their 2008 comeback album, Black Gives Way to Blue.
The album starts off very well with a couple of churning mid-tempo sludge rockers, including the first two singles, "Hollow" and "Stone". "Stone" in particular has a nice riff from guitarist Jerry Cantrell which helps carry the song. The second track on the album, "Pretty Done" is also noteworthy. These openers tread on the border of modern hard rock and an almost doom metal sound, which is quite an interesting mix.
"Voices" is the latest single from this album and harkens back a bit more to the band's 90's sound. It acts as a bit of a breather after the opening trio.
Next we get to the somewhat controversial title track. "The Devil Put Dinosaurs" here is supposedly meant as a commentary on the hypocrisy of some fundamentalist religious believers. I'm pretty liberal and have no problem with sociopolitical commentary in song lyrics, but the quality of lyrics like "The devil put dinosaurs here/Jesus don't like a queer" are very debatable. An even bigger problem is that at six minutes thirty-nine seconds the song is just too damn long and repetitive.
"Lab Monkey" also suffers from being bit too long and plodding, but the band recovers on the next two tracks, "Low Ceiling" and "Breath on a Window", which both feature some great guitar work, vocals and songwriting.
The remaining songs on the album are bit of a mixed bag, but overall there's more good than bad to be found. In particular, I found "Phantom Limb" to be one of the highlights of the album. It starts off with some killer guitar riffs and manages to keep up the pace enough to justify its seven minute running time.
The closer, "Choke", is also pretty catchy and I could see it as being a potential single.
Overall, while there are a few tracks which can drag a bit and the production and songwriting evolved slightly to fit into the modern era, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is a very good hard rock/alternative rock album. Fans of the band shouldn't find this album to be sacrilegious.
Highlights: "Hollow", "Stone", "Low Ceiling", "Phantom Limb", "Choke"