Kindred spirits: Nirvana, Soundgarden
Show: With Jane’s Addiction and others at the Uproar Festival on Friday at Jiffy Lube Live. Festival starts at 2 p.m. 800-653-8000. www.jiffylubelive.com. $25-$75.
Grunge heavyweights Alice in Chains have long struggled to fill the void left by their dynamic yet deeply troubled former frontman, Layne Staley. On hiatus for most of the past decade, the band regrouped for its 2009 album, “Black Gives Way to Blue,” with new singer William DuVall sharing lead-vocal duties with guitarist Jerry Cantrell. This collaboration gave birth to a new levity while keeping Cantrell’s eerily driving riffs at its core.
The band repeats this formula on recent release “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.” Its dozen tracks are classic Alice in Chains: heavy, plodding chord progressions layered on bluesy, bent notes sung with dreary conviction. There’s also a measure of whimsy that’s evident on the title song, a playful indictment of religious dogma that breeds fear.
“Scalpel” is the closest to a ballad, approximating what Tom Petty would sound like if he made a metal album, and one of the album’s few songs that Cantrell wrote with bassist Michael Inez and drummer Sean Kinney. They structure it around a simple but satisfying major chord progression with traces of Americana roots. The next track, “Phantom Limb,” channels Staley as DuVall and Cantrell sing, “I’ll just haunt you like a phantom limb” with a deep melodic growl.
Staley’s shadow will probably always loom over Alice in Chains. But “Devil” shows the band embracing his legacy while not being weighed down by it. Grunge nostalgics will always look back fondly on albums such as “Dirt,” but now Cantrell has also given us a reason to look forward.