Album Review: Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog
Artist: Alice In Chains
Album: Rainier Fog
Genre: Hard Rock
Release Date: 24 August 2018
Review by Tomina Vincent
Alice In Chains need no introduction. One of the most celebrated bands of all time, with 5 critically acclaimed albums including the certified quadruple platinum Dirt, these veterans of the Grunge era are back once again with their 6th studio album, Rainier Fog. With a career spanning over three decades and hits such as Billboard high-climbers Got Me Wrong and Man In The Box becoming a part of 90's music folklore the world over, expectations surrounding this release are high, and we were stoked to get our hands on it ahead of its Friday release.
The first thing that becomes apparent while listening to Rainier Fog, is that the production is somewhat lo-fi and very, very old-school, which is expected with the legendary engineer Joe Barresi (Parkway Drive, Tool, Queen Of The Stone Age to name a few) behind the mixing desk. Barresi has long been known as the king of this particular sound, and his work is certainly an acquired taste. If you put this record next to any 90's release by artists like Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, it would sound quite similar. There are two reactions that listeners have when it comes to production like this: it either makes them fall in love due to nostalgia and the satisfaction of a craving for a more organic sound, or they instantly dislike it because it sounds out of place in a modern music context, and somewhat tired. Luckily, the former rang true for me and I quite enjoyed this throwback as I'm sure fans of the band would too, because if this would make sense for any artist, that would be Alice In Chains.
Very few artists have marched to the beat of their own drum the way they have, and their hardcore fan-base is proof that it works. Production aside, there are some heavy, stomping riffs on this record, especially in opener The One You Know. There is a healthy amount of chugg and just the right dose of melody. The layered vocals are a pleasure to listen to, especially because of the natural way the harmonies are recorded, making every layer matter - there is no digital sync here, just a warm and natural build up of voices - something that's incredibly rare and I assumed was only used by Depeche Mode nowadays, and had otherwise died along with the 80's. Second single So Far Under is perhaps the most emotionally hard-hitting track, describing a feeling of both hope and hopelessness in the context of the 21st century. One finds a lot of references to the everyday struggle on this record, particularly issues coming from a place of emotional maturity and the need for a genuine connection. Other standout tracks include the ferocious Never Fade and the beautifully layered, sprawling Maybe.
In terms of what's different about this offering, well, not much. It feels as though Alice in Cains have stuck to their guns and there's nothing really surprising about the tracks, but this is something I find myself applauding in this instance, because overall, Rainier Fog feels sincere, organic and confident. You could say they have taken the Rammstein approach and just did what they love without compromise, and the strength of their conviction is what really carries this work through in such a dignified and beautiful way. That's not to say that the band hasn't challenged themselves - creating an album like this is no small feat and there is a lot of detail and songwriting magic happening throughout. The artistic signature is strong, and this time around, just a little more curved.
In conclusion, Rainier Fog is well worth your time and attention. With 23 top 40 singles, two number 1 albums, nine Grammy nominations and over 30 million albums sold worldwide, Alice In Chains have nothing to prove. They have earned their artistic freedom and they can do whatever they want. This freedom has inspired them to create a hard-hitting rock album that is sure to impress their old fans and entice new ones. This is a masterfully crafted and delivered record which packs a serious punch and also brings one back in time. Nostalgia meets a new energy and the result is truly impressive.
10 out of 10.
Rainier Fog is out Friday, August 26th via BMG.