I Am High and Drunk as Fuck and I Am About to Review This Album! (Or, A Review of of Alice in Chains' “Rainier Fog”)
by Brian Friend
Alright. I am high and drunk as fuck and I am about to review this album. Ready? I sure as fuck ain't. Let's go:
OK, well, right now I am halfway through with "Fly" and it just has this comfortable-ness, like someone carved me out of soap and set me on the table next to the tea set.
Anyway, that's weird, so let's start at the beginning.
"The One You Know" starts with such discomfort it's beautiful - like a large, callused hand is trying its hardest to make you feel safe as it carries you over a lava swamp. Doesn't make sense? Sure it does. Listen to the song. "An imposter soldiers on" and how much control do you even have over this situation, anyway? Accept my analogy, and move onto the next song with me.
"Rainier Fog" has a driving riff that is just cool enough to make you bob your head without you realizing it. You noticed now, didn't you? Did you stop? Of course you fucking didn't. Enjoy the ride. Then that mellow bridge hits and you're like, "whoa, when did I end up on a luxury cruise?" Dude, BE on that luxury cruise. It lasts exactly long enough and then hurls you back onto the highway. Imagine being on a motorcycle that you have owned for 15 years - it's just a feeling of comfort and danger at the same time that - what, you have never been on a motorcycle? Dammit go buy two wheels and live a little! For fucks sake...
Are you KIDDING me with "Red Giant"?!!?!?! (I heard this for the first time with great headphones on and omg go fucking do that). This song has such a great slow bad-ass-ness, something my friend would call "drunken biker metal" a la Black Label Society. The opening riff and ensuing verses are eerie and sour in all the right ways but then the song gives you a chorus where you can finally exhale. Too easily, maybe. But, gah! that dissonant chord blasts you back into the verse and reminds you that the world ain't all fuckin' magical alligator unicorns after all - there are definitely some armadillos thrown in there. You thought you knew the world? Explain an armadillo.
"Fly" is catchy right away. Okay it's been two minutes and I haven't written anything. I don't know what to say. Because harmonies? Because that one part where it goes dark? Shut up. I am into it. Oh! That weird little acoustic riff in the middle! That part is happening right now! It is kinda dark and beautiful (duh, *Alice in Chains*) I really shouldn't review albums when I am not sober But, "It's on you" might as well be talking to me. Thanks, mom. Oh, ya, and the bass before the guitar solo is just fucking perfect. Inez does the simplest thing ever and it couldn’t be more powerful. Bass lines like these are what lay the asphalt down the highway of Rock that we all love to cruise down.
"Drone" might be my favorite on the album. Why? I don't fuckin' know, let me listen to it again as I type. Okay, here it comes. OOOOOh shit yeah that riff is dirty. I can taste the grease as it drips through me. "Steppin' in and out of madness" is a cool enough lyric on its own, but teamed up with the off-balance net that catches you.. I mean, it just feels and sounds and IS badass, to me, anyway. Oh, and you want to talk about that time signature change? It comes out of nowhere and gives the song exactly what it needs: a kick in the small intestine. A soft kick, though. And then you wanna change back? How about we give you the sexiest smoothest transition ever? Hah. Yeah. Back. Now bob that head. Oh, you already are.
"Deaf Ears Blind Eyes" has that slow gritty grossness that makes Alice in Chains so unique. The harmonies in this song are so fucking sick. You've heard them, but you haven't heard them over a twisted guitar riff. Not like this one. It is simple, but which direction does the crow fly, anyway? Idk, ask Jerry Cantrell's "D" string.
"Maybe" gives us some pure gorgeousness. The strength of the beauty comes from, yes the harmonies because obviously, but listen to Sean Kinney's snare drum during that opening verse - so subtle but once you notice it, maybe you would agree with me that it pushes the song forward without you realizing it (I am high, remember?). Really, though. The song moves you along with it - it's a river current and there is no reason to fight it. You are eventually gonna "watch the last tear fall" and follow it down the waterfall anyway, so you might as well "let it die."
"So Far Under" reminds you that bending notes in guitar riffs is too badass for most guitarists but exactly on par with what this band can do . Oh, you wanna try it? I support your efforts. Rock on. But when that pre-chorus hits, don't pretend you didn't forget what you were doing. Let me explain: It's a squiggle. There. That explanation should suffice. No, it doesn't. At all. Maybe it does. You know what? It fucking does. Shut up. "No one gets off of this ride alive" so who cares, anyway? I didn't talk about this song enough. It deserves more. Go look for a better review.
I like "Never Fade" because it tricks you. It starts with a bit of a predictable "rock" sound but then when you expect it to go into the verse, it drops you onto an oddly-shaped ledge to rock out on. It is still comfortable, you just aren't sure how you got there. The chorus brings you back up to a more familiar territory, and the harmonies are just so perfect that it almost sounds like just one voice. Seriously, go listen to that shit. Tell me there aren't one voice there. Or that there isn't 4. Or that are is isn't are harmony voice singing and... never mind. It is just fucking good. This is the most "straight ahead rock" song Alice in Chains has probably ever put out but it still gives us that sound we need!
"All I Am" doesn't start off with an apology. It starts off an indifference. But, for some reason, we Alice in Chains fans like that shit. It is part of what sets this band apart from all the other greats. They do weird shit in a way that works (if you are on that spectrum yourself). You understand. Well, if you like "Junkhead," then you understand, anyway. Whoa, am I just now comparing "All I Am" to "Junkhead?" Actually, yeah I am, but not for the reason you think. It is for the reason you feel. The song breathes for you. You might not be aware of it, but when you listen to this song, it really just does all the work for you. Nothing is actually "unfamiliar." This is territory we all know and feel comfortable in (I am speaking to my fellow AiC fans here). There is a beauty in this song that we all know would never be welcomed in by the "other" beautiful songs that exist in the world. It is just too "Chains" for that. And that is why it works for us. Well, for me, anyway.
Look, this review is biased AF. I am not trying to hide that. That being said, I know many Alice in Chains fans will be critical of it. The vocals of William DuVall will always be compared to the great Layne Staley, and the older works will always be held high as the "true" Alice in Chains. But this band is fucking good. I believe that if this was the first Alice record I had heard, I would enjoy discovering the other songs and comparing them to "Rainier Fog" in a positive way - not everyone is going to necessarily be exposed to "Rooster" or "Man in the Box" for their first AiC experience - "The One You Know" or "Red Giant" could snatch new fans in ways "Grind" or "Rain When I Die" did. And I, for one, am a bit envious of those kids that get to do this.