Coheed and Cambria Drop Epic Album, Keeping the Fire Alive on Ninth Release

The Unheavenly Creatures is a blast to listen to, and a must hear for fans of Coheed and Cambria or fans of good rock music in general.

     Coheed and Cambria is a progressive/emo rock group from Nyack, New York. They’ve been working fairly steadily since 2002, though they’ve achieved little commercial success save two gold records in 2003 and 2005. Regardless, they’ve begun to amass a substantial fanbase over the long run, many of whom are willing to follow the group down the conceptual rabbit hole that is the Coheed and Cambria discography.

   On top of the intricate, longwinded concepts that are riddled throughout their work, the band has built quite a unique sound. They blend elements of progressive and arena rock with a heavy dose of 1970’s rock influence. The guitars are screaching, the drums groove, and most importantly, Claudio Sanchez’ lead vocals and frontman presence is powerful and commanding. Today, the sound comes off as a bit indulgent, especially for listeners like myself who grew up enjoying the massive wave of loud, metal influenced, emo-rock of the mid 2000’s. Thankfully, The Unheavenly Creatures is more of the same.

   The key to this record is tightness. Coheed and Cambria move across this 70-minute runtime as one perfectly cohesive unit, swelling and falling together, in a way that’s rarely seen in rock today. Even on the less listenable tracks like “Love Protocol,” or “Old Flames,” listeners have little trouble following them because the instrumentals are so well crafted and each member plays off of each other so well.

   Tugging the band apart for a bit, Travis Stever’s guitar is the closest to a lead instrumental voice. His leads on “True Ugly,” or “All on Fire,” color the tracks well and make them some of the best cuts on the album, but his best contribution is in the rhythm department. His hooks on “The Dark Sentencer,” or “Pavilion,” for example, are thick and driving, mixing a great tone with excellent play.

   Zach Cooper and Josh Eppard helm the bass and drums respectively and their parts are hard to separate because of an interesting technique they use. Cooper’s bass is, among other things, used primarily to color the kick drums and tom grooves throughout the album. This is perhaps most apparent on a tracks like “Black Sunday,” and “Queen of the Dark,” where a prominent bass part follows the lower pitched drums, giving another layer to Eppard’s work.

   None of this, however, is as meaningful to this album as Claudio Sanchez’ vocals. He sings with an epic power but an expert touch, never overpowering a track but finding perfect ear worm hooks and blasting them to the forefront. This applies to nearly every second of the record but to name a few, the title track, “Toys,” “It Walks Among Us,” and especially “Night-Time Walkers,” benefit from this in a massive way. There is just no way around saying that Sanchez is the best part of The Unheavenly. Creatures by a mile.

   The best track on this album is so good, I thought it would deserve its own paragraph. “The Gutter,” is one of the funnest, most indulgent rock songs I’ve heard since the days of My Chemical Romance. It’s a sugar rush of power chords, grooving drums, and an undeniable performance from Claudio Sanchez. The production is excellent here as well, maybe the only time it’s really noticeable, as the the vocal harmonies are well placed in the mix and pushing the stereo image is especially rich near the end.

   My complaints with this record are far from substantial, but they are nagging. Several of the intros feature odd pianos or synth instrumentation which rarely works at all and often only serves to kill any momentum gained by the soaring moments of the previous tracks. In addition, the two worst tracks on the album, and the only ones I genuinely can’t imagine myself ever revisiting, are the opener “Prologue,” and the closer “Lucky Stars.” The former runs far too long with little to offer and is the only track to focus so heavily on the concept, a storyline which has run across nearly every release of the band’s decade and a half career, to be enjoyable for the uninitiated. The latter does feature some solid acoustic guitar work and a fun guitar solo from Stever, but it just doesn’t mesh with the overall sound of the record, and so doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion to such an epic project.

   If I could choose one word to describe The Unheavenly Creatures, It would be indulgent. For fans of the epic, emo-rock of the mid 2000s, this album hits the spot in a major way. There are some issues, but those flaws, for the most part, are small and forgettable, quickly blasted from our ears by the next soaring chorus or powerful guitar riff.

   The Unheavenly Creatures is a blast to listen to, and a must hear for fans of Coheed and Cambria or fans of good rock music in general.

8/10

HEAR THE UNHEAVENLY CREATUREShttps://open.spotify.com/album/42S0lDJT9wHKCVaMGgqKdm

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Mudhoney’s Tenth Studio Release is a Brash Punk Jam, Hectic but Brave

While Digital Garbage isn’t perfect, it is yet another strong showing for the most important band you’ve never heard of.

     Mudhoney is an American grunge/punk band based in Seattle, WA. Often called “the most important band you’ve never heard of,” the group’s early work following their formation in 1988 was released on Sub-Pop Records and was massively influential in the early grunge scene which eventually gave birth to the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and fellow Sub-Pop group, Nirvana. Unlike their label mates, however, Mudhoney has remained with Sub-Pop for the duration of their career with ten albums over three decades, each critically well received, but none finding commercial success.

   The group is lauded for their heavy guitars, blues and punk influence, and brutally honest lyricism. Their sound is far less accessible than the bulk of grunge music thanks to their jarring sound and frontman Mark Arm’s unique singing voice. Nevertheless, Mudhoney has built quite a loyal following over the years, including a long list of very famous and influential fans, while continuing to work day jobs in their hometown. Now, 30 years after the band’s groundbreaking debut, Mudhoney is back with Digital Garbage, and it seems that they still have quite a bit to say.

   The punk influences are worn directly on the sleeve in this album. Tracks like “Paranoid Core,” or “21st Century Pharisees” are pure punk rock jams complete with distorted guitars and metronomic high-hats. “Night and Fog,” even pulls a few post-punk inspirations, easily the most modern style featured on the record.

   Steve Turner turns in the best performance of the group on guitars. “Hey Neanderf**k” leans entirely on his bluesy riffs and fuzzy distortion while his active play on the closer, “Oh Yeah,” makes the short, 90 second song more than worthy of wrapping up the project. He’s constantly moving, often toying with dissonance and rarely settling for simple chords and rhythm, giving Digital Garbage a constant forward motion throughout it’s 35-minute runtime.

   The rest of the band works well with each other, showing off the kind of tightness that comes from three decades with only one substantial lineup change. The drums are fantastic on “Next Mass Extinction,” complementing the open blues tone set by the harmonica melodies, while the bass intro on the opener “Nerve Attack,” is the highlight of the admittedly tame track.

   Lyrically, Digital Garbage is nothing short of pure, distilled punk of the political variety. Mark Arm’s criticism of modern culture is especially sharp when his gaze is fixed on the current state of organized religion on “Prosperity Gospel,” or my favorite cut, “Messiah’s Lament.” Here, he turns the scalpel of whit to the conjoined nature of American Christianity to the Republican Party and right wing ideology. This is nearly as sharp in “Kill Yourself Live,” as Arm lambasts today’s youth for their obsessions with social media and glorification of self-harm in addition to providing the albums title on an anthemic bridge.

   My first and strongest criticism, however, comes on this same topic, namely in the lyrics to “Please Mr. Gunman,” which, I believe to be in quite bad taste. Of course, there are no topics off limits to artists, especially in punk rock, but the song sets out to tackle issues like mass shootings, religious hypocrisy, and national apathy, doing so with the grace of thirteen year old arguing with their teacher. I won’t use the term “offensive,” because, as I said, no topic is off the table to good writing, but issues like these need tact and nuance, which they are not afforded on this, the worst track on the album.

   Arm’s voice, though unique, can be a bit much at a few moments. At times, he is a dynamic leader, and at times, he sounds like Weird Al Yankovic trying his hand at punk rock. In addition, the album has a tendency to be a bit one-note, with many songs sounding very similar, though the short runtime and energetic spirit helps smooth this over.

   Digital Garbage is a fun listen and in many respects, it’s one of the bravest punk records of the last decade. The political statements on this album are the kind of brash, boldfaced lyrics that are rarely heard outside of the underground. A hugely influential rock band with a catalog full of classics, it’s good to hear Mudhoney still working and putting out such high quality work.

   While Digital Garbage isn’t perfect, it is yet another strong showing for the most important band you’ve never heard of.

6/10

HEAR DIGITAL GARBAGE: https://open.spotify.com/album/3VlqKyu14rAorKhWFStRMY

Revocation Drops Thrashing but Technical 7th LP

While the record is flawed, it’s a passionate attempt to balance loud, thrashing instruments with virtuosity and precision which, when it works, works gloriously.

     Revocation is a thrash/death metal trio based in Boston, MA. They founded nearly two decades ago and quickly gained notoriety from a very strong, self-released EP and a follow up LP in 2006 and 2008 respectively. After signing with Relapse Records in 2009, the group went on to release three very successful projects, the last of which, 2013’s self-titled album, actually charted in the billboard 200. Recently, they’ve signed to Metal Blade Records for 2014’s Deathless and 2016’s Great Is Our Sin, each of which charted and received heavy critical acclaim in the US and parts of Europe.

   The groups is known, first and foremost, for their technical abilities on each instrument and attention to detail in every riff and fill. This serves them well in a genre which caters to fans with a strong knowledge of musicianship and provides a window in for listeners from outside the genre who don’t necessarily know what to listen for in heavy metal. They’ve gone through a few lineup changes over the years, with frontman David Davidson remaining as the only member of the original cast, but they haven’t lost any of their edge or skill. With that, let’s take a look at The Outer Ones.

   The backbone and workhorse of this group is Ash Pearson on drums. Having just joined in 2015 to replace longtime and founding member, Phil Dubois-Coyne, Pearson stepped into big shoes, which he filled instantly. His ability to switch from complex groves to ridiculously fast, driving passages is extremely impressive. This shines a lot on tracks like “That Which Consumes All Things,” or “Fathomless Catacombs,” but it is the spine of the record as a whole and allows Revocation to put clear separations between their thrash and death metal influences.

   While the drums may be the bedrock, you could be forgiven for missing much of Pearson’s work thanks the distraction of David Davidson’s soaring lead guitars. The solo on the opener and my favorite cut, “Of Unworldly Origins,” just cuts the very dense mix in half with power and direction and the way he toys with atonation and dissonance on the opening of the title track gives an eery feel which is far too rare on this record. This, of course, not to mention the lead only passage on the closer, “A Starless Darkness,” which is simply fantastic.

   The rhythm guitar is excellent is as well. Davidson’s tone and chunky play works well over the drums to enforce the rhythm well on tracks like “Vanitas.” Throughout the entire album, this guitar is an essential part of pulling listeners along for the constantly changing rhythms and tempos that The Outer Ones throws at them.

   Vocals are a much weaker area as Davidson is a much better guitarist than vocalist. While he has high points like “Luciferous,” where his more thrashing voice comes through to imbue the track with a certain epical feel, most of his performances aren’t memorable, and tend leave listeners waiting for the next virtuosic instrumental passage.

   The bass guitar is very nearly non-existent on this project. Brett Bamburger’s work peaks its head out in tracks like “Luciferous,” or “Vanitas” but weather its buried in the mix or just forgettable and unnoticeable, the bass can hardly be heard outside of these few spotlighting moments. Because of this, every single track is wanting of a depth which just doesn’t come from the rest of the rather narrow instrumental pallet.

   Easily the album’s worst quality, though, is the production. Accomplished metal producer, Zeuss takes the reigns on The Outer Ones and paints this record with more than a few cliched choices. The swirling fade in on “Blood Atonement,” is extremely overused and dated and the fade out on “A Starless Darkness,” is simply unforgivable and all but ruins one of Revocation’s strongest pieces in the tracklist. Beyond this, the entire project has a very thin sound, the bass guitars are buried through much of it, and what stereo imaging there is comes off as gimmicky and unnatural. This seems to be simply a case of trying to fix what isn’t broke.

   All together, The Outer Ones is a fun, heavy release from one of the most talented groups in rock music. The less than 50 minute runtime doesn’t overstay its welcome, tracks are well paced and consistently entertaining, and the musicianship is nothing short of fantastic.

   While the record is flawed, it’s a passionate attempt to balance loud, thrashing instruments with virtuosity and precision which, when it works, works gloriously.

6/10

HEAR THE OUTER ONES: https://open.spotify.com/album/1Ela7sSi5MIp9HmEuLbCdY

Thou Drop’s Fourth Release of 2018

Thou is one of the hardest working groups in metal today, and Magus is yet another fantastic entry into their catalog.

     Thou is a sludge/doom metal band from Baton Rouge. The group is known for their brutal sound, apocalyptic imagery, and prolific work ethic, Magus being their fourth release this year, though it’s their first proper, full length album since 2014. Thou pulls from a lot of grunge influences as well, making their heavy, slogging sound far more accessible for fans, like myself, who lack an in depth knowledge of metal and all of it’s facets.

   Magus follows directly after the fantastic Rhea Sylvia EP, which came out in July of this year, and which I and many other critics praised for the unique mix of styles and genres it presented without losing the band’s unique tone. It toed perfectly the line which separates the melodic and listenable from the heavy and atmospheric and thanks to Bryan Funck’s horrifying vocals and epic lyrics, the EP was something quite special. This left me excited, and ultimately impressed a second time by this much larger effort.

   The first and most noticeable change from the aforementioned EP is the ambitious 75 minute run time. The band isn’t quite that accessible, and so Magus does end up feeling like a bit of a slog, but it’s well worth the effort, and the pacing isn’t too bad. Short, interluding tracks like “My Brother Caliban,” and excellent “Divine Will,” break up the monotony quite well, and none of the songs ever feel like they’re meandering.

   Andy Gibbs and Mathew Thudium’s guitars, for example, never fails to entertain, and it’s probably this album’s best quality. On tracks like “Sovereign Self,” and “The Changeling Prince,” the latter of which is my personal favorite on the album, he drives the song along, not only with crunching, distorted rhythms, but with screaming dissonance that breaks through the thick instrumental fog and leads that have excellent velocity.

   The grunge influences are certainly less apparent on this project, though it does rear it’s head quite loudly on tracks like the opener, “Inward” or “Transcending Dualities,” especially in the Tyler Coburn’s drums, which forgo the fill-heavy style generally associated with metal in favor of slower, more intentional snare shots and cymbal crashes.

   This, in general, may be the band’s best selling point: there is no waste on these albums. Even on long pieces like the epic “In the Kingdom of Meaning,” every strum, snare shot, or scream is there for a reason and there’s no noise for the sake of noise and everything matters.

   Mitch Wells’ bass-lines are relatively uneventful, aside from a shining moment on the intro to “Greater Invocation of Disgust.” Aside from this and a few other instances, much of the bass work seems to blend in to the rhythm guitar and it rarely ventures out on it’s own.

   Last but not least, Bryan Funck gives yet another powerful performance on lead vocals. His opening screams on “Elimination Rhetoric,” are haunting, and he carries the eleven minute closer, “Supremacy,” with ease. His voice is shrill and demonic, yet it commands attention, even over the clamoring instrumentals behind him. He plays the role of energizing the long, etherial dirges that populate much of the tracklist, while also granting a sharp edge to a few of the shorter, more accessible moments.

   I enjoyed Magus quite a bit, though I’m not left without my complaints. The production is fairly weak. The guitars are very flat, the drums lack depth, and a few of the tracks are simply overwhelmed by the noise, thanks in part to the non-existent bass guitar. In addition, only one of the three interlude tracks is any good. “My Brother Caliban,” features annoying, trap style drums and a synth line that sounds like the background to a Halloween “spooky tunes,” mix cd, and “The Law Which Compels,” is nothing but a droning bass not for nearly three minutes. The latter of these is more forgivable, as one could imagine this being a good lead into the epic conclusion, but it’s just entirely too long, and does nothing to justify it’s runtime.

   The complaints, however, certainly don’t ruin this album for me as Magus is easily one of my favorite heavy projects of the year, though it doesn’t quite match Rhea Sylvia’s consistency and energy. What it lacks in those departments, however, it returns in scope and atmosphere.

   Thou is one of the hardest working groups in metal today, and Magus is yet another fantastic entry into their catalog.

6/10

HEAR MAGUS: https://open.spotify.com/album/2KQjqzq9VUEjIXaSZq2Xoi

IDLES Releases Perfect Sophomore Album

Joy as an Act of Resistance is an instant classic, Joy as an Act of Resistance is aggressively vulnerable, and Joy as an Act of Resistance is the first album, in my four years of reviewing, that I’ve ever seen fit to call perfect.

     IDLES is a hardcore/post-punk band from Bristol, England. They burst onto the scene in 2015 with their second EP, Meat, followed soon after by Brutalism, the band’s first attempt at a full length LP. The album received universal acclaim from fans and critics alike, with many outlets, including yours truly, naming it as one of the best projects of the year.

   IDLES is notable for their mixture of classic and post-punk elements. Instrumentally, they tend to write simple, driving tracks which often clash, ring, and generally dance around dissonant territory. Over this, the frontman, Joe Talbot crafts angry vocal performances. Using heavily politicized lyricism along with a raspy voice which he swings like a baseball bat, Talbot’s work is more in line with the birth of punk, than the post-punk tradition. This sound is, in any case, completely unique and exciting, which is precisely why the announcement of a forthcoming sophomore effort was so exciting, but I never could’ve guessed what a success Joy as an Act of Resistance would be.

   It’s hard to know where to start on this one, but I suppose the drum work is as good a place as any. Jon Beavis is nothing short of fantastic behind the kit on this album. Take a listen to tracks like “Samaritans,” or “Great,” where his rhythms are quick, relentless, and powerful. The snares are very well mixed and his floor tom hits like a ton of bricks.

   In addition, the guitar is hectic and violent. Mark Bowen spends the bulk of his time on the upper end of the neck and seems only vaguely aware of the tune being carried by the rest of the group. He complements this work by thrashing against it with constant dissonance which drives the record from one thought to another. Listen to the drone on the opener, “Colossus,” to get an idea of this.

   Beyond this, the bass is consistently excellent as well! Adam Devonshire, a founding member of the group along with Talbot, lets of deep, rattling bass lines that add to the sense of tension in each instrumental. He does this extremely well on “Never Fight a Man With a Perm,” and “Television,” but this preference shows throughout the project, and is used to great effect each time.

   All of this is banded together well by very unique and impressive production, which is no easy job on with a group like IDLES. Because of their penchant for clashing melodies and general tendency toward chaotic instrumentals, producing Joy as an Act of Resistance is a very difficult task, but just listen to tracks like “I’m Scum,” and you realize how this was undertaken. Rather than the traditional balance of rather flat instrumentals drown out by compressed vocals, IDLES chose to push the band to almost equal footing with Talbot’s voice, and with some excellent reverb and distortion on the guitar, the chaos is channeled perfectly through our speakers.

   Without a doubt, however, it’s Joe Talbot’s performance as front-man which highlights this record in a very big way. Listen to his raw power on “Danny Nedelko,” or “Great,” hear his brutal crooning on “June.” This is all without mentioning his heart stopping scream of “I kissed a boy and I liked it,” on Samaritans as he rails against toxic masculinity. This point, of course, brings us to the other facet of Talbot’s incredible showing: his lyricism.

   This may be one of the most impressive lyrical efforts in all of the punk music cannon. IDLES set their sites on masculinity and its many effects for the bulk of this album. They speak on emotional suppression, violence, xenophobia, alcoholism, loneliness, love, and the relationship between fear and hate among many other powerful topics in the relatively short runtime. This is not the kind of directionless rebellion we’ve come to expect from punk in recent years, but a focused attempt to frame every issue in the world through the lens of manhood and masculinity. It is, at times, self deprecating, and often relentless in its attacks against the very idea of manhood, but Talbot’s goal isn’t to destroy all men. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. His goal is to strip away all the absurdity and negativity which has been tied to manliness and, in doing so, to find the true bedrock of what it means to be a man, and he largely succeeds.

   This is usually the time when I’d speak to the few mistakes on this album but, genuinely, I couldn’t name one. It is catchy when it needs to be with tracks like my favorite, “Great,” gluing themselves into your head for days, but IDLES are deeply serious on this project, despite what their rebellious demeanor may suggest. Tracks like “Gram Rock,” and the closer, “Rotweiler,” aren’t singalongs, their musical attacks against very old and, they believe, very bad ideas of what manhood means. This album utilizes one of music’s most masculine genre’s to exam an extremely prescient issue to every man in the world. Its cohesive in a way that very few punk records are, its modern and important in a way that very few rock records are today, and it is moving and memorable in a way that very few records have ever been.

   Joy as an Act of Resistance is an instant classic, Joy as an Act of Resistance is aggressively vulnerable, and Joy as an Act of Resistance is the first album, in my four years of reviewing, that I’ve ever seen fit to call perfect.

10/10

HEAR JOY AS AN ACT OF RESISTANCE:  https://open.spotify.com/artist/75mafsNqNE1WSEVxIKuY5C

Protomartyr Drops Impressive but Short EP, Consolation

This EP is far from a perfect release, but it’s a much appreciated update for fans of this very promising group.

     Protomartyr is post-punk outfit from Detroit, Michigan. They’ve been slowly gaining popularity on the national stage, beginning in 2014 with their debut, Under Color of Official Right. This was followed by the even more acclaimed sophomore release, The Agent Intellect in 2015, and finally by Relatives in Decent which was widely considered by critics to be one of the best albums of 2017, and one of the best post-punk albums of the last few decades.

   The group is notably for their doom instrumentals, droning style, and above all, for Joe Casey’s poetic, Sinatra-esque vocal performances. The many, seemingly incompatible influences which build this group culminate in a sound which is wholly unique, and often takes a few tries to enjoy. Despite their inaccessibility, however, Protomartyr enjoyed a fairly extensive US tour last year and are now lauded as one of the most exciting acts in modern rock music. This year has been devoid of a traditional studio release, as one would expect after such a busy schedule in 2017, but that hasn’t stoped the rockers from dropping their first true EP, Consolation.

   The EP is perfectly in line with what we’ve come to expect from Protomartyr, to the point that it almost comes off as a collection of unused tracks from Relatives in Decent. Alex Leonard’s drum work is particularly impressive on the opener, “Wait,” where his fast hands and heavy cymbal shots drive an atmospheric track along a steady pace. Scott Davidson’s bass line is the clear highlight of an otherwise uneventful closer, “You Always Win,” and “Same Face in a Different Mirror” is a unique entry to the Protomartyr catalog, focussing on far more personal topics, as apposed to the group’s usual penchant for outwardly political lyricism.

   The best track on the project, however, and one of the best tracks that Protomartyr has ever released has got to be “Wheel of Fortune.” Clanging guitars, screeching overdrive, and a driving bass and drum combination lay an apocalyptic base coat which is soon polished off by one of Joe Casey’s best performances to date, both lyrically and vocally, and a fantastic feature from Kelley Deal on harmonies. Focussing on the brutality of modern capitalism and it’s effects on the third world, Casey writes with his signature poetic touch and a rhythmic stream that lulls a listener into a sense of comfort, slipping lyrics by in a way that plants them deeper within the psyche than they’d generally be allowed. It’s just a master class in songwriting from one of the bands in the modern rock scene.

   This EP is far from a perfect release, but it’s a much appreciated update for fans of this very promising group.

3/5

HEAR CONSOLATION:             https://open.spotify.com/album/5XOHZ0WQFA1ivHjHDfFqoN

Alice in Chains Releases Yet Another Incredible Record With Rainier Fog

We already knew that Alice in Chains was once one of the most influential, creative, and talented rock bands in the world. All that Rainier Fog proves is that they still are.

     Alice in Chains is a grunge/metal outfit from Seattle, Washington. They’re considered one of the “big four” of grunge rock as well as one of the most successful rock bands of all time. Their first run in the spotlight is perhaps the more memorable, debuting in 1990 with Facelift, followed by Dirt and the self-titled LP in ’92 and ’95 respectively. In addition, one can’t help but mention the group’s icon pair of EP’s, Sap and Jar of Flies, that latter of which is a dark horse choice for their best release. Despite tremendous success, the group went on hiatus when lead singer, Layne Staley began to spiral downward after the death of his fiancé in 1996, until his eventual passing in 2002.

   Alice in Chains wouldn’t return to the shelves until 2009 with the fantastic and powerful, Black Gives Way to Blue. This was followed in 2013 with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, with which the band received further praise, and now they’ve returned again with Rainier Fog. Despite endless controversy and difficulty over their career, when Alice in Chains goes into the studio, they rarely disappoint, and this most recent effort is no exception.

   The elephant in the room when it comes to the most recent run from the band is, of course, the lead vocal. William DuVall is no slouch when it comes to rock history with a long career in the hardcore punk scene, but it is and always will be true that Layne Staley is irreplaceable. However, DuVall does quite the job fronting the band on this record. He turns in a fantastic performance on opener, and my favorite track, “The One You Know,” as well as “Deaf Ears Blind Eyes,” and “Maybe.” The mix allows him to be at once etherial, and yet commanding and powerful.

   Mike Inez’s bass work is also quite the highlight on this project. What he may lack in speed, he more than returns with an ear for interesting bass melodies. Tracks like “Fly,” and “Never Fade,” simply wouldn’t be the same without his bass lines.

   Lyrically, Alice in Chains keeps it characteristically dark. The closer, “All I Am,” focuses on regret and searching for meaning, while “Drone,” touches on toxic relationships and mental health. “Red Giant,” even delves into fame and politics, topics which DuVall is more than comfortable dealing in, given his work with punk acts like Neon Christ. In each of these songs, as well as across the entire album, the lyricism finds some way to be both expressive and visual, yet direct and pointed.

   The drum work stands out quite a bit as well. The snare shot’s on the title track are sharp and well mixed, and Sean Kinney anchors every single track with rhythms which are ever present, but never smothering, even including a few fantastic tempo changes.

   The real highlight of this project, however, is the guitar work. Jerry Cantrell, a founding member of Alice in Chains, crafts one thickly layered instrumental after another, and is generally the best part of every single track. His rhythm work on tracks like “Never Fade,” and “The One You Know,” set’s a fantastic tone while his leads on “All I Am,”  and “Maybe,” are easily the best pieces of already fantastic songs. Throughout every second of the nearly hour long runtime, Cantrell seams to be giving his all, and it is much appreciated.

   This album isn’t perfect, and it certainly isn’t Alice’s best, but it is supremely impressive. Nearly three decades after their infamous debut, one of the most revolutionary bands in rock and roll is not only still kicking, but dropping excellent work. All too often, when rock bands find their way to the limelight for being ahead of their time, they tend to chase trends in an attempt to stay at the top of the industry. This has been the fate of far too many from Linkin Park to Aerosmith, and it’s a sad fate to see befall a beloved group. But Alice in Chains, in spite of the march of time they’re battling, in spite of the loss of Layne Staley, one of rock’s most incredible voices, and despite constant pressure they’ve endured at the top of their fields for so long, has given us yet another amazing album to enjoy in Rainier Fog.

   We already knew that Alice in Chains was once one of the most influential, creative, and talented rock bands in the world. All that Rainier Fog proves is that they still are.

9/10

HEAR RAINIER FOG:                      https://open.spotify.com/album/4AAPRl8BKlsIVC5aeedlBv