“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” has been a more comfortable experience for Alice in Chains than 2009’s “Black Gives Way to Blue.”
The latter album was the Seattle group’s first in 14 years, the first since the death of original frontman Layne Staley and the first with new member William DuVall. There was skepticism and something to prove–and Alice in Chains did, with a top five debut, a pair of No. 1 rock radio singles and two Grammy Award nominations.
So, co-founder/guitarist Jerry Cantrell acknowledges, the group went into its new album–which debuts this week at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with 61,000 units sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan–with “a certain amount of confidence. I’m not going to say this record is better than the last. The last one’s kick-ass, too. But you hear growth, for sure.”
After a couple of years out of sight since the previous album’s tour, the paramount concern was making sure fans moved with the band on its next venture.
“The stakes are obviously higher this time around,” says Mark Wakefield of Velvet Hammer Music and Management. “We’ve got to go out and engage the fans again, even more than we did the first time. We didn’t want to take anything for granted.”
Though radio remained a strong partner as Alice in Chains rolled out its first single, Active Rock chart-topper “Hollow,” in December and its successor, “Stone,” in March, the group made extensive use of social media to make the album an interactive affair. One campaign allowed fans to submit images to create a lyric video for “Hollow,” which was followed by an official music clip by Robert “Roboshobo” Schober in January. “Online activity went from pretty quiet to raging right away,” Wakefield says.
Alice in Chains also partnered with Funny or Die on a “mocumentary” that featured the members wearing Kiss face paint. Meanwhile, the band got back on the road early, two months before the album’s release to play headline gigs, radio shows and such festivals as Rock on the Range and Rocklahoma. The band will play festivals in Denmark and the United Kingdom in June, with a Canadian tour starting July 1. It’ll also perform at Rock in Rio on Sept. 19, and Wakefield says a package is being assembled for a fall tour of Europe.
“We’re already looking at next year,” DuVall says. “We’ll be out there for a while, but that’s OK. That’s what we do, and we know that’s how people want to hear the music. We love playing, so there’s no problem.”