Misses the mark

For their sixth album, Seattle survivors Alice in Chains have looked to their local geography and into their own past for inspiration while veering little from their signature course through lachrymose, introspective metal.

Forever mired in gloom like the rainclouds that habitually haunt their city, Alice in Chains have long possessed the ability to make the melancholy beautiful with an intuitive grasp on melody and dynamics. While those facets are on display here as usual, on Rainier Fog the band sink even further into the arms of misery – perhaps even too far. It’s an album heavier in mood than music, although it opens in grand fashion with a choppy metal riff that breaks out into the strong first single “The One You Know”, full of classic double vocal harmonies and Jerry Cantrell’s emotive guitar playing.

From this point, however, Alice in Chains trudge their way through signature moves that lack the magic of their previous output, at times getting a little too self-referential for comfort, like during the mournful “Red Giant”. “Fly” adds some much-needed colour, lightening the mood a little ahead of the well-named “Drone” that just seems to drag despite Cantrell’s monolithic riffing and he and DuVall chiming in together; the same can be said for “Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes”, a filler track from a band not known for such things. “So Far Under” is a late album stand out, echoing the doomy rifferama of Dirt and “Never Fade” too is something of a highlight, but overall this album feels lacking.

All the facets of AIC’s classic sound are there, but Rainier Fog rarely ascends to the peaks of earlier work. Instead, it merely drones along for the most part between the crunching opener to the crawling, majestic “All I Am”. The rest of the album, despite a couple of notable tracks, isn’t really here or there. For such a fine band with such a strong catalogue and undeniable reputation as craftsmen, Rainier Fog really misses the mark.

  1. The One You Know
  2. Rainier Fog
  3. Red Giant
  4. Fly
  5. Drone
  6. Deaf Ears Blind Eyes
  7. Maybe
  8. So Far Under
  9. Never Fade
  10. All I Am