July 4, 2020

Album Review: Rainier Fog, Alice In Chains

Fueled equally by the quest for originality and the dark tinges of their grunge roots, Alice In Chains is back again with their sixth full-length album, Rainier Fog.

Released on Aug. 24, this album not only marks the group’s third release with their new lineup, but also their return to Seattle from Los Angeles. Rainier Fog is the first bit of music from Alice In Chains in five years, following 2013’s The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.

The ten-track LP was recorded in Seattle and produced by Nick Raskulinecz, who also produced the band’s previous two albums. In addition to having worked with Alice In Chains before, his production and engineering credits litter the world of 2000s rock, having worked with groups such as Korn, the Foo Fighters, Mastodon, and Rise Against.

Rainier Fog begins with “The One You Know,” a plodding, four-beat hybrid of the grunge sound that got Alice In Chains famous and the new-era, hard rock attitude that keeps them relevant. This track was released in May as the first single preceding the album, and extensive radio play helped it become one of the better-known rock tunes of the summer.

The title track “Rainier Fog” surges forward with minor-key riffs and lyrics that echo both the rainy climate and spirit of Seattle. “Red Giant” bombards the listener with the crunchy layered guitar and hard percussion downbeats that fits right in with the rest of their music from this decade, whether it be The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here or 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue. The following track “Fly” combines crooned vocals and guitar lines that border the psychedelic to match the gloomy motif of the album. Next in line is “Drone,” a bluesy number with shared vocal lines and a swing jazz feel that breaks up the album nicely.

“Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes” and “Maybe” slow the album down ever so slightly and helps it fit in to the current hard rock scene. Again, shared vocals on “Maybe” tinge the album with the unsettling uniqueness that keeps Alice In Chains afloat. “So Far Under” returns with more grunge highlights, complete with the distortion and wailing guitar riffs that helped the group explode on to the rock scene of the 90s.

Despite the heavy and howled delivery “Never Fade” offers deceptively motivational lyrics. In an interview with music publication Kerrang, lead guitarist and lyrical mastermind Jerry Cantrell said that inspiration for this particular set of lyrics came from the memories of friends and family that had passed away, including his grandmother, original Alice in Chains lead singer Layne Staley, and Chris Cornell, late frontman of Soundgarden. The album ends with the fuzzy, solemn “All I Am” which brings Rainier Fog to a peaceful yet uneasy close.

Alice in Chains enjoys continued success due to a distinct blend of the sounds that made them famous and the elements of the current rock scene. Continuing to deliver their off-center harmonies with layered guitar and walls of distortion has helped these grunge icons make their loud and triumphant return to the city that conceived them. It is easy to see that Alice In Chains is back again, but upon further review, it becomes clear that they never left.

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