By Ellen Eldridge
Upon hearing the first grungy bend of “Hollow” on The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, the fifth studio release by Alice In Chains, fans will quickly need to reconcile their feelings on whether or not the band is stretching its musical wings enough, but the future looks bright for this group of survivors that has beaten the loss of founding member and front man Layne Staley, pushed through Jerry Cantrell’s bone spur surgery and maintained its classic grunge tone. The band makes its way through dark and murky water, creating the content that fans not only love but also need as we too attempt to find our way through the often clichéd trials of wanting to break our chains without really letting go.
“Hollow,” “Stone,” “Voices” and “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” are the cornerstone tracks, said Cantrell in an interview published by Grammy.com. These four songs wall in the masterful tone and spirit of Alice In Chains, while the song lyrics expose a band still trying to find its way—as are many of its fans.
Lines like “Jesus don’t like a queer” in the title track will certainly light a few fires, but the song is a rambling criticism of Creationism at best, stumbling its way through many of the same themes common on the album. Rolling thoughts, set to a fairly upbeat yet grimy feel propagated by bends and a flurry of sustained notes, keep the title track well within the album’s thematic vein. The key phrase is a buried background vocal that says, “Look at me, I’m smiling.”
One of the lines most exemplary of the central theme exists in “Lab Monkey,” where the lyric “Came far to find me down the rabbit hole; watch me smiling back as I’m chewing on the skull,” touches on themes from the hit “Down in a Hole” as the chorus line “Had enough, I don’t need you to blind my eyes” recalls “Man in the Box.” “Lab Monkey” qualifies the optimistic outlook of The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here in pure Alice In Chains style, with the narrator “chewing on the skull” (again while “smiling”).
Surface songs like “Low Ceiling” dance around the central themes of finding a place in a much more playful manner, with the chorus depicting a man either too big or inside a room too small. Again, the ideas of finding a place appear transparently, but fans will feel comforted by the skillful solos and hopeful energy coursing through the release.
“Voices” starts with the line “Who am I?” and continues through proclamations like “I’ve gone cold” and “all this climbing to fall down again,” before the resonant chorus reverberates, “voices in my head…everybody listen.” The song clearly displays a man and more so a band wading through the runoff of a series of tragedies generally referred to as life. As all artists go through a cleansing of the spirit, Alice In Chains proves its infancy with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, which is great news to the many fans eager for more music.