With Alice in Chains' experiencing a successful return with 'Black Gives Way to Blue,' the band cleared one very significant hurdle, and with their new album, 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here,' the veteran rockers prove they can sustain their excellence. While all the things you would expect from Alice in Chains -- sludgy guitars, haunting melodies, dark lyrics -- are on the disc, the band shows they can still put a fresh spin on their sound.

Most fans are already familiar with 'Hollow,' the dark and moody album opener with Jerry Cantrell's gritty guitar, and 'Stone,' the squalling rocker with a killer bass line from Mike Inez bass and a thumping drum track from Sean Kinney, but it's saying something that the disc continues to hit its stride as a listening experience well after the two singles have passed.

Beginning with 'Voices,' the album's fourth track, the band begins to vary things up. The song, which features trademark harmonizing between Cantrell and William DuVall along with a more acoustic flare, is one of the album's standout cuts and seems destined for radio play. 'Voices' also leads perfectly into the album's title track, 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs,' which features mesmerizing guitar work that draws in the listener, while lyrically the track takes on the intolerance that can come with differing viewpoints. The epic cut also features a significant shift from the haunting opening into a more rocked out finale that includes a great Cantrell guitar solo and ends with Kinney's drumming really driving the track home.

While Alice in Chains definitely does "dark" well, songs like 'Low Ceiling' and 'Breath on a Window' offer a catchier, faster-paced alternative and deliver the perfect change of pace needed mid-album. The disc also features such late record standouts as the more acoustic-guitar based and melody-filled 'Scalpel,' the metal-infused 'Phantom Limb' and the stellar mid-tempo closer 'Choke.'

All in all, 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here' gives longtime Alice in Chains fans the harmonies, darkness and skilled instrumentation they've come to love on a disc that holds its own among the band's classic albums.

4.5 Stars