AiC is back with a slower-paced, but still hard-hitting album that features some of Jerry Cantrell's most masterful playing yet.

Alice in Chains
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Virgin/EMI

It could be argued that Alice in Chains' greatest strength has always been the sense of movement within the group’s songwriting. From the 1990 landmark album, Facelift, to their 2009 comeback Black Gives Way to Blue, Jerry Cantrell's sinewy and melodic riffs heave and tug their songs back and forth with a moody heaviness that's been copped by many and matched by few. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is chock-full of the powerful, seasickness-inducing riffs that the band is known for exploring, and this album delivers them with a slower and more lumbering punch than its 2009 predecessor.

The slower approach works in the favor of this collection of songs, giving both William DuVall's and Cantrell's gloomy vocals room to breathe and provide hair-raising contrast against the music—especially on the tracks "Hollow," "Lab Monkey," and "Stone." Cantrell also supplies some of the most masterful guitar work of his career—his carefully crafted leads during "Scalpel" and "Stone" highlighting his criminally underrated, almost Gilmour-like restraint.

The album's major barn burners—"Hollow," "Stone," and "Phantom Limb"—serve as bookends for its decidedly less intense, yet comfortably-paced and enjoyable middle. Overall, the album doesn't match the ferocity of Dirt or Facelift, but it wasn't written that way. Instead, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here heroically experiments with a stylistic culmination of the band's more than two-decades of making music. While it doesn't pack as many earworms as Black Gives Way to Blue, it's still a fantastic album with plenty of breathtaking moments.

Must-hear tracks: "Stone," "Scalpel," "Phantom Limb"

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