‘Rainier Fog’ is the sixth studio album from Seattle grunge pioneers, Alice In Chains, and the third since their 2009 reincarnation. Surpassing its 2015 predecessor, ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’, it’s a confident showcase of everything that have made this band so influential within their genre.
Opening track ‘Not The One You Know’ is a slice of exactly what Alice In Chains do best, with a dissonant opening riff that segues into a silky smooth chorus. The trademark dual lead vocals are as beautiful, melancholy and haunting as ever.
As one might expect, the mood of the record is downbeat from the start, though the pace is a little slower than some past releases. This doesn’t hurt the overall quality, however, but instead it lends a solemn gravitas to a number of the bleaker tracks befitting a band that, 31 years into their career, have long since earned the status of veterans. The fact that so many of the band’s contemporaries and friends have passed away over the years gives a stark authenticity to the world-weariness and nihilism of the lyrical content.
Alice In Chains have always had a little more heavy metal in their DNA than their fellow peers in grunge, and nowhere on the album is this more evident than on ‘Red Giant’ which, with its mighty Black Sabbath-esque riff, is one of the heaviest songs that the band have produced.
Some classic rock influences are also thrown into the mix, most notably on ‘Fly’ and ‘Maybe’, where just a hint of sunshine is allowed to penetrate the album’s titular fog. It’s here that William DuVall‘s vocals, though excellent throughout, really shine; whilst capable of reliably emulating the late, great Layne Staley‘s eerie cadence, he has a flair for slightly more conventional arena rock style delivery. The latter song’s cascading chorus is comfortably the biggest hook on an album that is chock-full of massive choruses.
Though it’s unlikely to convince anyone who has heard Alice In Chains‘ classic output to become a fan, ‘Rainier Fog’ is a worthy addition to the canon, and has several songs that will be a welcome shake-up in the live set. Whilst not quite as strong as 2009’s comeback ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’, it nevertheless cements the latter-day William DuVall fronted epoch as much more than a mere cabaret celebration of what has come before.
With their iconic riffs, layered vocal harmonies, and evocative lyrics still on fine form as they enter into their fourth decade as a band, it seems as if the once-trailblazing innovators have matured into a fine vintage, with much more great creative output on offer.