Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog
Alternative Metal, Grunge
10 songs (54:03)
Release year: 2018
Alice In Chains, BMG
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

It's remarkable to think that not only have Alice in Chains been with us for over thirty years, they have nearly existed for as long without Layne Staley as they did with him. Rainier Fog is the band's third album since reforming with William DuVall, matching the band's three albums with Staley, and as such it feels like it should be something of a step forward for Alice in Chains. Not at all, as that moody cover and album title show, this is still very much a band in the grips of depression, lacking even the more upbeat moments that made Black Gives Way to Blue and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here as good as they were. Instead, Rainier Fog is a reflective, thoughtful, and still very gloomy album, Jerry Cantrell seeming to settle deeper into his position as a grunge survivor alongside the likes of mainstream icon Dave Grohl and the alt-rock institution that is Pearl Jam. Alice in Chains are more self-aware than ever, kicking off the album with The One You Know and asking in the lyrics "tell me, does it matter/if I'm still here or I'm gone?" and talking about "an imposter, soldiering on". It's one of the album's more immediate and accessible songs, opening with catchy riffing and almost whimsical vocals, every other line harmonised, reminiscent of earlier Queens of The Stone Age at points. The chorus has that uplifting feel that Alice in Chains do so well and of course, the guitar soloing and playing in general is superb.

Yet the most immediate problem with Rainier Fog is the songwriting. Nothing here is exactly bad, but it's a hard album to stay focused on, most songs stretching over the five minute mark and becoming noticeably short on hooks around the middle. Some songs feel downright lifeless, and even the best material on here doesn't feel inspired; the title track, for instance, is solid, but built around uninteresting riffing and only works thanks to the vocal performance. Alice in Chains by numbers, if you're being kind. There's a touch of Tool to the riffs on Red Giant, a big, doomy monster of a song, and a bluesy swing to Drone (which features a guest appearance from Chris DiGarno (ex-Queensryche) who was live guitarist to Cantrell on his solo tour) but neither are exactly compelling songs, even after several listens. This is very much an album to sit and watch the rain to rather than dance at the rock bar, and it's worth remembering that Alice in Chains are all now in their fifties and disinclined to change their sound to appeal to younger listeners. Which is undoubtedly a good thing, but it makes Rainier Fog a hard album to recommend unless you're in the mood for something dark and reflective.

Fans of the past couple of albums will still enjoy this, however. Moments like the balladic Maybe with the greater focus on acoustic guitars work very well, and the grinding, almost droning So Far Under could have come from the first era of the band. The final few songs on the album are like coming out of the fog of the title, Never Fade feeling more like a single with its upbeat drumming and hook-filled verses (if still very much in keeping with the style of the past couple of albums) and album closer All I Am having a mournful feel with the return of acoustic guitars. Definitely the weakest of the three modern albums, then, and lacking the standout songs that Black... and The Devil... had so many of. Yet it's hard to criticise too much given that the band are sticking to the sound we've come to know them for, and the album does grow on you after multiple listens. To answer the question the band posed us, yes, it definitely matters that Alice in Chains are still here, and although some may still call Duvall an imposter, there's less and less evidence for that with each new album. He could stand to take the lead vocals more often, allowing Cantrell to focus on guitar and backing vocals; some sort of injection of energy is needed for next time, but this is a solid enough slice of Alice in Chains in the meantime.

Killing Songs :
The One You Know, Maybe, So Far Under, Never Fade
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Alice In Chains that we have reviewed:
Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here reviewed by Khelek and quoted 87 / 100
Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue reviewed by Adam and quoted 90 / 100
Alice In Chains - Alice in Chains reviewed by Adam and quoted 89 / 100
Alice In Chains - Facelift reviewed by Goat and quoted 73 / 100
Alice In Chains - Jar Of Flies EP reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
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