It Holds Up: Alice in Chains – ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here’

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In some ways, Alice in Chain’s fifth album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here was their second run at writing a sophomore album as a band. When they officially returned with Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009, William Duvall of Neon Christ and Comes With the Fall had joined as a new singer and rhythm guitarist and the album proved to be a triumphant return that expressed years worth of grief surrounding the loss of their original singer Layne Staley in 2002. The follow-up album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, while not nearly as outwardly anguished or thunderous as 1992’s Dirt, still stands as a much more refined version of the band. It possesses the same sort of darkly poetic and reflective songwriting singer/lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell is well-versed in and delivers plenty of eerie, disjointed melodies, sludgy riffs, seasick droning, and heavy but slow to mid tempo rhythms. Much of which I think a lot of current alternative rock bands actually try to emulate but often get mistakenly dubbed as shoegaze today. However, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is unmistakably Alice in Chains, in large part due to Cantrell being the main songwriter and the same band members Sean Kinney and Mike Inez, but with the added element of Duvall who has a deep understanding and feeling for the band’s core atmosphere.

While I personally didn’t come across The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here until a few years after its actual release, I was listening to plenty of bands who were influenced by Alice in Chains in 2013. By the time I arrived at this album, I found that it came into my life at the exact time that I found it to be a necessity. I would argue that it’s one of their most contemptuous albums in terms of anger, weariness, dejected acceptance, and a sort of incredulousness at the world around them. It served as a mirror for what was taking place ten years ago, bringing up questions of skepticism when it came to religious hypocrisy/ignorance as referenced in the title track and unpacked various personal torments as standard in their discography. The album also offered a well-rounded collection of songs that reflected both their inclination for doom metal leanings and stripped down bluesy acoustics that are reminiscent of their EPs Jar of Flies and SAP.  

The opening track and first single off the album “Hollow” reinforces why they were essentially dubbed the Black Sabbath of the 90’s. It’s stomach churning and vitriolic with a deep rumbling bass line and cavernous drumming that never moves too quickly and leaves just enough space for the gravity of the song to take full effect. Cantrell, who never quite had the same bite as Staley vocally, always proved to be just as effective through his lyrics and more balanced nature which made them unrivaled when they were together. The third track and second single off the album “Stone” is of a similar variety and features their signature note bending riffs, but Duvall’s vocals, which are more prominent on this album, complement Cantrell’s in a way that’s brighter and perhaps less of a contrast. While it’s not exactly the same harmonizing Staley and Cantrell had, it still creates a haunting atmosphere that characterizes the band. “Phantom Limb” in particular is where Duvall really shines and has long been one of my personal favorite tracks that mainly features him singing. It’s Alice in Chains to the core with its repetition of simple but heavy chord progressions, explosive but meticulous drumming, climactic and powerfully vivid guitar solos, and lyrically highlights what they should be more recognized for which is surviving out of pure spite.

The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here proves that Alice in Chains could successfully progress as a band and continue to make modern rock music that reflected the heavy and soft range they possess in a way that I think their contemporaries from the 90’s failed to pull off quite as well twenty years down the line. In 2013 they put out a solid rock album during a time when rock oriented music had largely fallen out of favor with mainstream radio and ten years later, I’d say it does hold up as they continue to be one of the most influential bands of all time.


Loan Pham | @senseofexile