Jerry Cantrell – Brighten
Released: October 29, 2021
Jerry Cantrell | Guitar, bass, vocals, keys
Greg Puciato | Background vocals
Duff McKagan | Bass
Gil Sharone | Drums
Abe Laboriel Jr. | Drums
Tyler Bates | Strings, percussion, guitar
Vincent Jones | Piano, keys, & strings
Jordan Lewis | Piano
Michael Rozon | Pedal steel
Lola Bates | Background vocals
Matias Ambrogi-Torres | Strings
Jerry Cantrell, best known as guitarist and co-founder of iconic grunge band Alice In Chains, is set to release his first new solo album in 19 years, BRIGHTEN and it is sublime.
Whilst most new releases this year have been developed as a result of Covid and the ensuing lockdown, the inception of Brighten preceded the pandemic. Cantrell had toyed with the idea of a new solo project towards the tail end of Alice In Chain’s Rainier Fog tour, which ended in September 2019, several months before the initial outbreak. Working alongside engineer Paul Figueroa and film composer Tyler Bates (Marilyn Manson, John Wick, 300), Cantrell demo’d the tracks and played a couple of live shows in LA with the musicians that would eventually play on the album. When the March lockdown hit in the states, Jerry had most of the basic tracks already recorded, with the remainder of the LP being produced under restricted conditions.
As a result, the production took much longer than previously intended but the additional time allowed for more of his musician mates to collaborate on some of the tracks. Every solo outing thus far has seen Cantrell collaborate with some of the greatest musicians that modern music has borne witness to. From Rob Trujillo (Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies), Mike Bordin (Faith No More), Les Claypool (Primus), Rex Brown (Pantera) and AIC bandmates Sean Kinney and Mike Inez, amongst others.
This album is no exception. The list of collaborators on this opus is genuinely impressive.
Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan, Killer Be Killed), Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses), Gil Sharone (Dillinger Escape Plan, Stolen Babies), and Abe Loriel Jnr. (Paul McCartney, BB King, Lady Gaga, LES PAUL!!! – the actual man, the guy that the guitar is named after for fucks sake — Eric Clapton, Sting, Avril bloody Lavigne are amongst the 11 artists listed as contributors on this release.
We kickstart proceedings with first single ‘Atone’ and as soon as I heard this tune back in July I immediately jumped online and pre-ordered the Australian exclusive, ‘beer coloured’ vinyl. Sounding like the intro to an old western, Atone is a beautiful start to this album and every bit as brilliant as any of his turn of the century solo material.
Second single ‘Brighten’ hits a fraction heavier yet still every bit as serene as anything Jerry Cantrell has ever released. Greg Puciato opens up a bit more on this track vocally and delivers a stunning backing performance. Greg is notorious for his high energy, searing, violent and ferocious vocal delivery. Yet on this album he is extremely measured and incredibly respectful of his role on this album. His very presence carries weight. No stranger to working alongside icons (see Max Cavalera in Killer Be Killed), it’s like Greg is fully aware of the importance of his role in the band and the impact the man he’s working alongside has had on the modern musical landscape. Greg is out to deliver a performance worthy of this body of music and he absolutely delivers.
‘Prism of Doubt’ bounces in and it sounds like the sort of track that comes on before the credits roll on an Adam Sandler movie, after the good guys have won, after the ugly guy gets the top 10 model and they’re all at the beach, tipping their glasses to each other from across the bonfire they’re all sitting around, all while laughing at Rob Schneider try and pry an arrow out of his left nut. I love it.
‘Black Hearts and Evil Done’ and ‘Siren Song’ are pure class. Both tunes offer a subtle shift in pace, slowing things up a fraction yet losing none of the momentum of the album. Atmospheric, powerful and an absolutely stunning segue to the second half of this album.
The Electric guitar is back just in time for ‘Had to Know’ and this is the song where everyone just gets to rock the fuck out a little. There’s a few mini solos are thrown in for good measure that, in a small way, showcase the enormous level of talent that has come together on this record.
‘Nobody Breaks You’ like you in your heart”. This is an uplifting self aware beauty that is telling you not to be too hard on yourself. It is every bit an inspiring and driven piece that any Hatebreed song is, without feeling like you’re having your head kicked in in the process.
‘Dismembered’ is a song title you’d expect to hear on a Cannibal Corpse LP but on a Jerry Cantrell album it’s a catchy, easy listening number that is uplifting despite its name. Jerry & Co. sound incredible and this tune has the feel of a group of friends that has played music together forever. Can guarantee that this track will put a bit of a smile on your face.
Closing out the album is ‘Goodbye’, an Elton John cover off of his “Madman Across the Water” album. It’s a short, poignant, beautiful track off of one of Jerry’s favourite records. Cantrell treats this song with the respect it deserves and Elton himself gave his personal permission to Jerry to use as the album closer. It is absolutely the perfect way to wrap up this incredible collection of songs.
Is this the usual hard-hitting angst filled affair that usually graces Wall of Sound? Far from it, but let me tell you, that’s not a bad thing. In fact this is one of this years best musical ventures you can embark upon. Brighten is an exceptionally crafted album, done so by one of the finest songwriters and musicians to grace any genre over the last 30+ years. A true icon, he’s enlisted the finest talent to accompany him and the outcome is sublime. So go outside, have a billy, grab a beer, put on Brighten and stare at the stars.
Jerry Cantrell – Brighten tracklisting:
3. Prism of Doubt
4. Black Hearts and Evil Done
5. Siren Song
6. Had To Know
7. Nobody Breaks You
Check out our interview with Jerry Cantrell here