The newly minted Alice in Chains long play Rainier Fog is easily described; instant classic. Taking its name from Mount Rainier in Seattle, the band demonstrates why they are one of the quintessential acts of the grunge movement in the early 90’s, analogously referred to as the “Fog” in the title.
The album seems to jump straight out of those times sonically with rich and intelligent sound design, composition, performance and overall production. This is partly due to the extensive experience the band has been able to develop in the past thirty one years as well as the pairing with veteran producer Nick Raskulinecz (Ghost, Deftones, Mastodon, Korn) who has worked on every album since 2007’s Black Gives Way to Blue. It’s also worth noting that the album was recorded in the very same studio that was used to track 1995’s ‘Alice in Chains’, Studio X which is in Seattle. This was their final album as part their original lineup.
The band draw upon their past to compose a collection of honestly written and vulnerable tales, this is a massive sticking point in the album. It’s like the band is describing their vantage point of the scene they belong to through the lens of wisdom which, while at times can be mournful, is doing so without negatively dwelling on the past and choosing to remain introspective allowing the listener into their world. There are tales of pride and joy to be part of a scene that was as wonderful as it was destructive (and at times horrific). The joy and energy from those times can be felt in the title track Rainier Fog and the reflective Never Fade. They simply rock, hard! You could say they are two halves of a whole concept, that the metaphorical mountain with it’s fog will always be remembered. In between these tracks are the darker chapters. The tales of struggle, dependence, loss and the pain of recovery told in a multitude of musical styles.
Red Giant, Drone, So Far Under and Deaf Ears Blind Eyes are slow groovers that cover fame, addiction and self destruction. They are mirrored by the alternative rock “Fly” and Maybe which describe the process of recovery and the mental preparation required. The opener The One You Know is seemingly told from the perspective of introspection, an attempt to determine one’s place in life which again is mirrored by All I am, a beautiful yet haunting way to end the experience.
There is so much that has been done right on this album, The harmonies between Jerry Cantrell and William DuVall truly honor and uphold the chemistry that was present before the death of original lead vocalist Layne Stanley. The album is absolutely saturated with both vocalists and at times it can be difficult to determine who is singing what, either way the importance of which is made moot by their masterful and faithful execution of the Alice in Chains signature vocal production. The fact that they can still sound genuine, to me, is amazing and a real testament to the bands legacy. The rich and dynamic guitarwork never leaves the listener bored and at times it can be almost too much! Solos, Dissonance, Acoustics and Hooks so big and plentiful they could cause a shortage of jobs in the industrial fishing trade; all huge and incredible. The rhythm section holds its own and displays flairs of brilliance. As most great albums tend to require, it takes a bit of familiarisation to truly appreciate the totality of everything that’s going on.
It is an album that WILL be held in high regard by fans of Alice in Chains and the Seattle Grunge scene in general. Quite frankly, I think it could be the finest album they’ve written and they’ve done so at a time where they truly have earned the right to create any kind of album they would have liked and still receive critical acclaim.
‘Rainier Fog’ available now HERE