ALBUM REVIEW: Jerry Cantrell – Brighten

The albums that Grunge legend Jerry Cantrell has released across his solo career and his mothership Alice In Chains always seemed to have an intertwined relationship. 1998’s Boggy Depot and 2002’s Degradation Trip seemingly attempted to fill the void left in the wake of Alice’s hiatus and Layne Staley’s passing while Alice’s comeback albums with William DuVall on board essentially felt like Cantrell albums with extra riffs. This symbiosis turned cyclical with 2018’s Rainier Fog, which shared quite a bit of noticeable commonality with Boggy Depot . So where does Brighten, his first proper solo album in nineteen years, fit into this dichotomy?

For better or worse, this is a rather middle of the road release. All of Cantrell’s signature elements are accounted for though without the urgency or despair that fans have come to expect. The vocals consist of the usual pleasantly layered mid-range harmonies and the guitars tend to focus on clean picking or acoustic strums with only the occasional held out chord or bass rumble for a heavy undercurrent. A short forty-minute runtime, easily the shortest of any full-length that Cantrell has ever released under any banner, reinforces a certain low maintenance demeanor.

This approach certainly raises concern about the passion behind it but a persistent ear for melody ensures plenty of good songs still come out of it. The lingering Country influence that colored past outings is considerably less subtle this time around, immediately made evident by the Western overcast that defines the opening ‘Atone.’ ‘Black Hearts And Evil Done’ and ‘Siren Song’ are also noteworthy additions, arguably coming the closest to hitting that soul searching somberness of past haunts.


If albums like Boggy Depot and Degradation Trip were harrowing excursions of Jerry Cantrell exorcising his personal demons, then Brighten essentially amounts to being a pretty good Neil Young pastiche. In a way similar to Alice In Chains’ most recent outings, this album lacks the catharsis normally associated with his staples but carries the talented musicianship and reliable songwriting skill that’s ultimately enjoyable in a less challenging but still comfortable fashion. It feels like a casual hangout with an old friend. Perhaps that sort of outlook works better with the right riffs backing it up like they do on post- but it’s nice to see that he’s still doing pretty well.

Buy the album here:

7 / 10