Rainier Fog, the sixth studio album by Seattle grunge legends Alice in Chains, follows five years after The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. If you weren’t all that enamoured with their last offering, be prepared to fall back in love with Alice in Chains.
As has become their modus operandi, the first single was released months before the album. The One You Know is a tantalising appetiser that leaves high expectations for the upcoming album and made me very impatient for it to drop. Striking a beautiful contrast between heavy, percussive verses that flow seamlessly into a melodic chorus that’s easy to sing along to, it’s also the perfect first track into the album.
The title track Rainier Fog moves things along nicely with a good, fast beat and a recognisably ‘Alice in Chains’ sound — including a sweet break down — that relaxes you into the rest of the album.
At first listen Rainier Fog seems more accessible than The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, if not quite as easy to get into as Black Gives Way to Blue. With its distinctive songs, grungy, moody guitars and general feel of a journey from first song to last, it is far more reminiscent of Black Gives Way to Blue than the melodic, progressive vibe of The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.
A special mention has to be made to the mesmerising guitar solo on Fly, however the tracks that demand the most listener attention are Deaf Ears Blind Eyes and So Far Under because they show a clear through-line from Rainier Fog to Black Gives Way to Blue.
Deaf Ears Blind Eyes, with its dark vibe, wailing, marching-cadence guitar and the shifting, legato vocals, immediately feels like a throwback to All Secrets Known. So Far Under feels like the sequel to A Looking In View, in every aspect — from the beat, the rhythm and the drumming to the vocals and even the lyrics. That being said, So Far Under is a glorious track — Alice in Chains back to their sticky, dirty, grungy best — and it stands up by itself, only all the more endearing (to me anyway) because of its similarities.
Often it seems the middle to the end of albums peter away a bit, with tracks becoming a bit boring or even lacklustre, as all the best tracks are propped up at the front to get someone interested in the album. Not so with Rainier Fog. With the previously mentioned So Far Under as a pleasurable climax, we wind down beautifully to the final track All I Am, a nostalgic, sad song that really hits you in the feels, á la Black Gives Way to Blue from the album of the same name.
In all, Rainier Fog was worth waiting for and you are left feeling like you’ve been on an emotional journey. The diversity of sound and tracks stand up and make themselves noticed individually, rather than progressively flowing into one another. The lyrics hint at a meaning you want to spend more time uncovering and analysing. So, classic Alice in Chains. I can’t help but feel grateful once again to the Heavy Music Gods for frontman William DuVall, who has now made three Alice in Chains albums, the same number as late, previous frontman Layne Staley, and who allows us to be able to continue to enjoy Alice in Chains in (almost) all their unique, original glory. Not many bands get a second chance at that.