Rating 8.5 out of 10
This is Alice In Chains sixth full length, and third with the lineup of Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Mike Inez and William DuVall. That equals the amount of full length albums they released with Layne Staley, who obviously also recorded some great acoustic EPs as well. It is never easy for bands to change members, and I’ve written and discussed the whole band vs. brand thing, and how AIC is actually the perfect example why bands resurrect or latch on to the name of a band. Just look at someone like Jerry Cantrell trying to move on, releases some great solo material, but until you slap the AIC logo on the project, the vast majority of fans don’t even pay attention. Not his fault most people won’t give it a chance, it is more like a product of the environment, so instead of saying “the should retire the name”, support the members’ new endeavors so they don’t have to revert to old faithful.
Like every album by the band, it always has more than just some solid material. Before the album came out, we were able to hear a few tracks like “The One You Know”, “Never Fade”, “So Far Under” and “Red Giant”. It is almost comical to me to see or hear reviews from big name entities stating “oh well this sounds too much like Alice In Chains”, yet getting down on all fours for Judas Priest’s Firepower, to me that’s huge double standard. You can argue you prefer one over the other, but if originality is on the line, neither one of them have broken any new ground on either of their releases. And in the end, like I mention with a lot of what I review, I at least am entertained with most of the album. You have other bands that release a single that they’ve worked on for years, and the rest of the album is a hot steaming pile of shit, that just rehashes either that song, or the band’s past glory. Does this sound like Alice In Chains? Of course, it does. Will it eclipse Facelift or Dirt for 99.9% of the people out there, no. Me personally I’m not looking for that to happen either. I’m looking for the band to release something that I enjoy, can listen to on a semi-frequent basis, and I think they have done that. At the same time I appreciate that we have new material by the band, and I appreciate the band within their current context, I know they’ll never be the same without Layne, but that doesn’t mean their utter shite as a result, which is stance a lot of people take. I honestly feel sorry for people so close-minded, because they’re missing out on what remains to be a great band.
I may be part of the minority here, but I like the three releases without Layne, more than their last release with him. For a while there, there was talk that the band wasn’t going to release anything new, then they started touring, and the first single was dropped almost unexpectedly. All of the tracks mentioned above are strong, The title track instantly stuck out to me, as well as “Fly” and “Maybe” which could have easily appeared on either Sap or Jar Of Flies. “Deaf Ears Blind Eyes” is further proof that although Layne may have overshadowed Cantrell while in the band, he still had a huge part in harmonizing/mesmerizing sound that has always captivated most. I also can’t help but think that if “All I Am” was released at the peak of the band’s popularity, that it would have been a huge radio hit.
The album is solid start to finish, the singles plus the title track are probably the strongest of the bunch, but that doesn’t the other tracks aren’t good. This album will more than likely rank in my top 5 albums to come out in 2018.