Sound — 9
Alice In Chains is certainly a band that causes some controversy in the modern rock world. If you explore around the community of AIC fans, you'll stumble across those who believe the band should be named differently due to ex-lead singer Layne Staley's passing, some who believe the band continuing at all is an insult to Layne, and some who just don't like the new music/singer... And then there are those that simply want a new album to listen to the grunge gods of the '90s give it one more go. If that's something that you are interested in, "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" is certainly an album that should move to the top of your "purchase" list. The sound of "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" might not be what you expect if you're looking for "Black Gives Way to Blue 2." Certainly, a few pumping mid-to-fast-paced modern rock tunes are present here ("Pretty Done," "Lab Monkey," "Phantom Limb"), but what I and most people who give this record a chance will be pleasantly surprised to find is the classic Alice sound at its tightest since "Dirt." I can speak for many Alice fans that "Black Gives Way to Blue" didn't really satisfy in terms of the atmosphere older albums like "Dirt" and the self titled album could create. Tracks like "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" and "Hung on a Hook" take the classic "Angry Chair" formula of taking a simple guitar lick or vocal melody and turning the atmosphere up to 10. Those missing the band's "Jar of Flies"-esque slow songs will find themselves satisfied as well, "Scalpel" and "Choke" are among the album's strongest songs. Overall, "TDPDH" has a solid mix of all the styles Alice in Chains does well: Modern rock, sludge rock, slow and deep acoustic numbers, and atmospheric tunes as well. Cantrell has a few very notable guitar solos ("Stone," "Low Ceiling," "Will DuVall" has a nice solo on "Phantom Limb"), and just as on "Black Gives Way to Blue," he and new singer William DuVall harmonize beautifully on just about every track. On some tracks ("Hollow") this can feel like too much of a good thing, but I think it's a good sign that they are sticking to what made them legends. Mastering-wise, there are a few gripes with the production of the CD. The overall mix is pretty darn loud, and on some songs the bass is almost unbearable if turned up too loud. There's also a mixing issue with vocals, but I'll get to that next.
Lyrics — 8
As always, Jerry Cantrell's lyrical skills are solid. However, nothing really jumps off the page. None of the lyrics are anything you're going to be quoting, but they all have that classic AIC stoner-like feel. The lyrics are hardly important in comparison to the vocals themselves, however, and in that department this album really shines. If you aren't really a William DuVall fan, surprisingly this album may be for you. "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" is pretty much the Jerry Cantrell show. It does hurt the band feeling overall when he writes the songs and then dominates the mix on all of them, but then they had to give DuVall very limited lead singing parts. I was very disappointed with this fact, that was never the case with Layne until his drug addiction started to eat at his voice (their self-titled album was basically written around this fact). I don't think DuVall has any such problem, so it's disappointing not to hear him more. My mixing gripe from the previous section also has to do with Jerry and Will. Jerry's vocals are all pumped up to 11 while Will is probably resting down at about a 5. Jerry needed to come down, Will needed to come up. Other than that, I have no complaints about the singing on this album. There were moments when I thought I was once again being subjected to the maniacal harmonies of "Dirt" and other times where Cantrell turned into his "Jar of Flies" self, and that's something to make any AIC fan happy. Rating comes down because of the lyrics just being okay and the mixing ruining the vocals a little, but the structures of the vocals are so brilliant they deserve to be praised.
Overall Impression — 9
As a whole, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is truly the best release the band has put out since the early days. It has many tracks that will take several listens to truly appreciate, as well as tracks that will stick out right away. Every time I pop this CD in I find a new song that I liked more than I thought I did, and to me that's a sign of a well made album: It's good initially, but gets even better through aging. Alice fans who were disappointed with "Black Gives Way to Blue" may want to give this one a chance. As a whole with the album, I only have three gripes: 1. The mix is incredibly loud. 2. Jerry Cantrell is too loud, Will DuVall is too quiet. 3. The album cover is something I probably could have come up with in MS Paint. Like Black Gives Way to Blue, I found the cover to be way too boring for a band with such interesting and classic album covers as "Dirt," "Facelift," and "Jar of Flies." And honestly, I think the name of the album is a poor choice at best. I understand the meaning behind it, but I think most of the other songs would've been a better choice to title the album after. In my opinion, the strongest tracks are "Low Ceiling," "Choke," the title track, and "Stone" (and it was REALLY difficult to pick out just those); with the weakest being "Voices," "Breath on a Window," and "Hung on a Hook." If you want a decent idea of what the album is, listen to a couple of those before you go out and pick up the CD. I can't recommend it enough.