REVIEW: Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013)

ALICE IN CHAINS – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013 Capitol Records)

You know how in offices they have those phones with the little speaker in them, that plays the local radio station?  That’s how I first heard “Hollow” by Alice in Chains.  Not the greatest way to hear it.  I couldn’t hear the harmonies or the bass guitar.  The song came off as a dull drone and I didn’t like it. However Mandy Grant on 107.5 Dave FM said the album was lined up to be her album of the summer.  Then Tricky Nick gave it 5/5 and praised its genius!

Now it’s my turn to throw my hat in the ring.  I had no problem with Black Gives Way to Blue; yes it’s a sad album and we know why.  If anything I found some of the songs to be not memorable.  On the other hand, I found some of the softer material to be among Chains’ best.  Here, William DuVall does a great job.  I don’t get the sense that he’s trying to sound a certain way, but when he sings with Jerry it’s Alice in Chains.

CHAINS 3Onto The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.  Love the title, love the artwork, love the packaging, but we’ll get to that in a few moments.  It’s an album that reveals more and more as you listen to it.  It’s really well produced for one.  Sonically, this is the best album Alice in Chains have ever made.  But musically, it peels like an onion:  brief guitar interludes, dual guitar harmonies, bass hooks, vocal flare, all of this stuff and more comes through when you spend some time with it.

I think I’d like to invent a new genre here and declare this record to be “Progressive Grunge Rock”.  It has elements of both, which really isn’t too much of a leap as Chains have always comprised some great musicians.  Mike Inez was one of my favourite bass players from his Ozzy days, and Sean Kinney is very creative with his symbol work and weird time signatures.  Only 2 of the 12 songs are under 5 minutes; the album clocks in well over an hour.  Unbelievably, it doesn’t drag.  This is accomplished with a combination of well written memorable hooks, and a variety of song styles.  Some moments recall mellow things like Jar of Flies, others the “Dog” album.  There’s also a lot of riffing and soloing that is pure traditional heavy metal.

Many reviewers have mentioned that this album seems a lot brighter than Black Give Way to Blue and I’m in agreement with that.  Keep in mind this is Alice in Chains and they’re not turning in a sunny-happy-joy-joy album at any time.  There is however a certain jubilant quality to this album that is quite infectious.

I keep waffling between favourite songs.  All of these are contenders:

  • “Stone”
  • “Voices”
  • “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”
  • “Breath On a Window”
  • “Scalpel”
  • “Phantom Limb”
  • “Choke”

There aren’t any weak songs, but for me those 7 are all really exceptional.  I really love “Phanton Limb”.  It’s one of the most “metal” in some respects but it’s also one of the most unique.  Its riff is just mechanically punishing.  “Voices” is like Jar of Flies meets Cheap Trick or something.

The packaging is really cool but fragile.  Mine arrived with a slight crack on it.  It’s a coloured red jewel case, but with a function.  Remember how G1 Transformers used to come with those “Tech Spec Decoders”?  You had to use this red plastic “decoder” to read the stats on the robot’s packaging.  You could still sorta read it without the decoder, but Alice in Chains took it a step further.  You can only read the lyrics by inserting the appropriate page into the jewel case.  There are big red XXXXX‘s over most of the words making them very difficult to read.  When you put the page under the jewel case, it’s easy!

Having lived with the album for a week now, I concur with Mandy:  I think the love will grow, and this will be one of my albums for the summer, too.  The most important thing about The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is that it sounds like Alice in Chains.  There is nobody else out there that sounds like this.

5/5 stars

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41 comments

  1. Ooof. Sorry Dude, initial impression is it’s kinda hard to take a 5/5 on a re-formed band from half a lifetime ago, and with a singer who is (mostly) just impersonating their deceased singer, especially right on the heels of a 2.25/5 for a mainstay like our Sloan. To each their own, I know, I know.

    Still, I haven’t yet heard the record, just a song you sent, and your enthusiasm for it is nice. But Alice In Chains? In 2013? Damn, man, that was 1993 for me! Not going to be running out to get this one, but if I hear it somewhere, I’d listen.

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      1. I went back through our emails, and you sent one song and a link to another. I’m sure I’ll have occasion to hear it all the way through, at some point. I’ll decide for sure then. If he changes it up from what I head in those tracks, good on him.

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        1. Last night we played the “Dog” album, and there’s no question to me that Layne and William’s voices don’t really sound alike. And also if you play the live video of William singing Nutshell, it’s very different from Layne.

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        2. that is a good point Mike. Honestly for years i didnt realize that alot of the vocal style was coming from Cantrell. Even when Staley is singing you cant miss that Cantrell drawl. Arguably his vocals are more a part of their overall sound than Staley himself was.

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        3. Agreed, and sometimes in the past I had a hard time telling Jerry from Layne! With William, his voice has a different flavour from Layne’s but it still creates the Alice in Chains sound.

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    1. Gotta say. lol I am proud of Mike for actually giving a Sloan record a 2.5/5. Means the man is evolving. Not long ago he would have given anything Sloan did a high rating regardless. Now I may be biased, because while i appreciate what Sloan does? They are not my cup of tea. Or atleast a very watered down cup of tea. But like you said… To each his/her own.

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      1. Also Mike ,.. i think you should do more of these new releases as soon as you can review them. Certainly would mean more hits as people tend to search reviews online before getting a new disc.. just sayin’ ;)

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        1. Maybe not new Nas … or whatever … but anything rock relevant .. get it out there! Fast track in your schedule of posts or whatever.

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        2. I wish I could. But a) I don’t buy a lot of new releases, b) I like to sit on a review and let it “ferment” in my mind, and c) sometimes I buy a new album and just have no interest in reviewing it!

          But I do definitely try to get the new releases out there.

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    1. Again! Remember the dog album had the yellow case? And a really limited purple case too? Nothing Safe came in an orange one, I think all the discs in the box set did too…

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        1. The really rare one is the purple case of the Dog album. I’ve never seen one in good enough shape to buy it for myself. There were always problems: excessive scuffs, cracks, or the inner tray wouldn’t hold the CD anymore.

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  2. Funny story about Alice in Chains for me. On June 21, 1991 I went to see The Clash of the Titans tour. Triple-bill of Anthrax Megadeth Slayer. I remember standing outside of Exhibition Stadium in Toronto and umm .. partaking in naturally-grown amusements (hashish for those who want to get technical) and hearing what was a completely unknown band called Alice in Chains open up the show. I distinctly remember my buddy James saying to me … “Sounds whiney”. i have appreciated Alice in Chains over the years .. but he had no idea how right he was! Ha

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  3. Meat ,I seen AIC open for Van Halen at the Winnipeg Arena Nov 7 1991. AIC had a lukewarm response to which Layne said its ok to stand….I know them from the Man In the Box vid at the time and I bought Dirt when it came out after that I got out of them until the Black Gives Way To Blue album…that was pretty good….upon Mikes review I may have to check this one out..

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  4. AIC was my absolute favorite band in the world during their prime. Layne’s voice (big surprise) was the reason why. I very saddened and disgusted by Layne’s decline, which was obvious on 1995’s “Alice In Chains” album. I think the three-legged dog on the cover represented the band — they were missing an important piece. Layne’s voice was a shell of its former self. I can’t even listen to the unplugged CD because Layne was awful. He was already gone. Watching my favorite band die before my eyes (and ears) sucked. I still rarely listen to old AIC because it just pisses me off how great they were and how shitty it ended for Layne. Needless to say, I am one of those stubborn bastards who hasn’t given the reformed AIC a chance. Just not willing to move on.

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    1. Well Jeff that’s fine. With a band like this and a singer like Layne, I get it. I’ve always felt that Layne wrote some of the most fucked-up songs (musically) on those old albums and I mean that in a good way. I think tunes like “Nothing Song” were his. Just weird stuff.

      In the same order that I placed for this album, I also bought the Mad Season deluxe. How do you feel about that one?

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      1. I haven’t purchased the deluxe Mad Season. That’s because it is my understanding that none of the unreleased (studio) tracks feature Layne. (?) My brother has it, and we listened to it a bit. I noticed Mike McCready rehashed his “Yellow Ledbetter” solo for “Black Book Of Fear”.

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    2. Well Jeff that’s fine. With a band like this and a singer like Layne, I get it. I’ve always felt that Layne wrote some of the most fucked-up songs (musically) on those old albums and I mean that in a good way. I think tunes like “Nothing Song” were his. Just weird stuff.

      In the same order that I placed for this album, I also bought the Mad Season deluxe. How do you feel about that one?

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  5. Gonna have to check it out! Alice has always been the most ‘metal’ of the grunge bands to me as we’ll as the mst consistent and my favorite. I saw them open up for Van Halen on the F*U*C*K tour and they were great…..saw them last year and it was a really boring show….older? New singer? Or just an off night? Thought the last album was really good

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      1. definitely the best two grunge bands imo . I never got into Nirvana really…probably cause I had to teach every Cobain look a like 15 year old kid every song they did…lol…dig the Foo Fighters though. Pearl Jams first album is awesome ad then they really changed …Jerry did a lot of singing on all the albums starting with SAP too definitely a huge part of their sound….or youre right they woud miss Layne even more.

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        1. I’m with you on a lot of this, Mike. Nirvana — my wife LOVES Nirvana. But I only own one CD which is the greatest hits. And I’ve played it once.

          I like Foo Fighters a lot better. I think musically, song-wise, and sound wise, they’re a better band. But to each their own. There’s only so much time in a day and we all have to make choices about what is worthwhile to listen to!

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        2. I never really connected with them although my wife sure did. I am really attracted to musicianship, and aside from Grohl I don’t get a lot of that from Nirvana. Foo Fighters on the other hand can really play.

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  6. Most definitely, this disc is proving to be the the quintessential “grower”. Really enjoying it, and still absorbing it. Gotta agree, Mike, loving the packaging. I know you also appreciate giving incentive to the remaining buyers of physical music product.
    Still remember my first Best Buy-ing experience, back in 1994, was the day the “Jar Of Flies” EP released, all orange-y with the see through tray, for the then-unheard-of price of $5.99 USD. Granted, just five (surprisingly good) songs, but still, this was at a time when CD prices were holding steadfastedly in the mid-teens and up! This was my first exposure to the “loss leader” pricing the big box would institute in the hopes of getting consumers in to the store for the cheap CD and leave with that, a CD or DVD player, and eventually a washer and dryer. This seemed to spell doom for the mom-n-pop record stores, before file-sharing and iTunes REALLY brought the pain. Though it is kinda weird today, to see BB so wobbling and reeling, it still is my go-to place each and every New Release Tuesday (sadly, all independent record stores even remotely near me are dust).

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    1. My Best Buy is in a very sorry state. It’s always disorganized but I went there at Christmas to pick up the new Zeppelin. They were advertizing the lowest price, and I wanted the 2CD/2 blu-ray set.

      The whole music section is sparse now. I found the meager Zeppelin display and looked and looked and they didn’t have the blu. I found someone to ask and they had some in the back room. I was just shocked that here’s the new Zeppelin live thing out finally, and they couldn’t have been arsed to maintain a decent display.

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      1. My experience…exactly. Wanted the Blu-Ray/2CD, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Settled for the standard DVD/2CD. Robbed me of some of the excitement of this landmark release…

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        1. CD is my primary format, but for new video releases I insist on blu-ray. I prefer that for all my video purchases going forward.

          For older movies I don’t care so much. I was at my local Wally World and I picked up 8 Mel Brooks movies for $20, and DVD. It’s not like Blazing Saddles is going to be improved in any significant way on blu-ray.

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        2. Especially when it’s 8 Mel Brooks movies for $20. By comparison the blu-ray set had 9 movies (the 9th was Spaceballs which I have on DVD already) and it was $50. Not worth the upgrade.

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