It’s not always easy to replace your lead singer. Sure, you can replace one guitarist or drummer for another, and it might be hard for anyone but the most hardcore fans to notice.
But things start to get weird when you have to replace the voice of the band.
Such is the position that Alice in Chains found themselves in back in 2002, after the untimely death of lead singer Layne Staley.
Much has been written about his replacement with William DuVall — “Rainier Fog” is the third record from the band under this lineup — but its worth bringing up again because, for the first time, DuVall really feels in lockstep with the rest of the band. The album finally truly calls to mind some of the great work the band did back in the early days of grunge.
Alice in Chains have always been known for their truly distinctive vocal styling. Much of this comes down to Staley, and then, later, DuVall, harmonizing vocals with guitarist Jerry Cantrell. The harmonies always had this haunting, downright spooky effect. However, up until recently, I would say that DuVall never really sounded as completely in place as Staley did.
On “Rainier Fog,” though, the band’s got the sound back again. In many ways, this is due to an increased use of Cantrell’s vocals. DuVall isn’t given as much room to perform on his own, but in the end, that’s fine. That’s because it allows for the haunting, lurching harmonies to come back in full force, in a way they truly haven’t in a very long time on an Alice in Chains record.
“Rainier Fog” sees some of the most solid songwriting from the band in some time. While the band doesn’t hit the same quality of classics that they did on some of their bigger tracks like “I Stay Away” and “Rooster,” there’s still quite a bit here to love.
While only 10 songs long, the album clocks in at just shy of an hour, meaning that each of these songs are gargantuan. The band takes the time to let the songs evolve, with each song becoming sludgier than the last, even taking some inspiration from doom metal.
These songs are engaging, truly compelling to listen to.
However, if there is a complaint to be had, it’s that Alice in Chains has done almost too good of a job of melding back into their old sound.
While on the one hand, “Rainier Fog” is easily the best output from the band’s newest lineup, it often comes dangerously close to sounding like the work of a nostalgia act. It’s far too easy to forget that these songs came out in 2018 and not 1993.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan
Album: ‘Rainier Fog’
Artist: Alice in Chains
Best Song: ‘Rainier Fog’