Posted on September 29th, 2009
By Ben Apatoff
New PEARL JAM sounding too soft? Still too soon to discuss the latest CHRIS CORNELL debacle? Fear not, grungeheads, because ALICE IN CHAINS are back with a record that's hard and bleak enough to earn the AIC moniker, no matter if only two guys who played on Dirt are showing up. It's called Black Gives Way to Blue, which could be describing the skin of moshers at recent Alice in Chains shows or SULLY ERNA's ego upon hearing this.
Alice in Chains aren't wasting your time with any allegories. "A new beginning…Time to start living/Like just before we died," starts opener "All Secrets Known," and it's hard to avoid hearing more survival themes in "Last of My Kind" and "Lesson Learned." But even WARRANT lyrics would be potent set to this music. JERRY CANTRELL must have been stocking up on riffs since the mid-'90s, for he drops hook after hook in "Acid Bubble," "All Secrets Known" and the sludgy "A Looking in View," while sounding more confident than he ever did on his solo albums. New single "Check My Brain" is a devastating hard rock anthem that'll occupy your mind for hours, like the sort of West Coast depravity ode that VELVET REVOLVER wasted two albums' worth of space trying to come up with. Yes, a band that had one foot in the grave on their unforgettable Unplugged performance are releasing some of their best songs 13 years later.
Singer WILLIAM DUVALL never sounds like he's filling shoes. There are more than enough modern rock singers straining to replicate LAYNE STALEY's tortured growl, but thankfully DuVall is more content to give the band his own invigorated stamp, tackling ballads ("Your Decision," "Black Gives Way to Blue") and bruisers (nearly everything else–this is AIC, so even slow songs are lethal) with equal poise. He and Cantrell harmonize as if they grew up together, and the rest of the band are as tight as they were in the '90s. "Reunion album," "replacement singer" and "modern rock" are no longer terms to shudder at.
Published September 30, 2009 04:09 PM
By Jon Zahlaway / LiveDaily Senior Writer
When Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley died of a drug overdose in 2002, the long-dormant band presumably died with him. His unique voice and eerie delivery was such a defining element of the Seattle-based group's sound, it seemed unthinkable that a post-Staley incarnation of the group was possible.
Seven years later, surviving members Jerry Cantrell (guitar/vocals), Sean Kinney (drums) and Mike Inez (bass), along with new lead singer William DuVall, have accomplished something truly impressive: they have released a new Alice in Chains album worthy of the band's legacy.
Is Staley missed? Absolutely. Would the album be better if he was singing on it? Well, it would certainly feel more "right," for lack of a better word. Staley's presence wasn't an option, though, so you have to spot the group a few points when weighing "Black Gives Way to Blue" against Staley-era classics like "Dirt" and "Facelift."
Thankfully, "Black Gives Way to Blue" feels far more familiar than I expected ... much of which can obviously be attributed to the musicianship of the group's core power trio, but a great deal of which can also be chalked up to the fact that Cantrell, who often sang on AIC's Staley-era albums, handles a substantial amount of lead vocals on the new set.
Obvious standouts after a few listens include: "A Looking In View," a punishing, grunge-rock masterpiece that, of the 11 tracks on "Black Gives Way to Blue," sounds most like vintage AIC ("Them Bones" comes to mind), with Cantrell and DuVall's voices working in perfect tandem; and "Last of My Kind," a cut dripping with classic-sounding AIC sludge-ridden guitar riffs, and the one song on the set during which DuVall fully steps to the forefront.
Mood-wise, "Black Gives Way to Blue" has the same dark, plaintive feel of old-school AIC. No surprise, given that the material was largely inspired by Staley's passing. Determining if the set will take root as deeply and cast a shadow as long as that of its predecessors requires many more listens. At first blush, though, it isn't hard to imagine that the late singer would be pleased by the tribute, and would approve of the way the group is moving on without him.
By CHRIS SCHULZ - Stuff.co.nz
Here's the summary: Grunge also-rans record a new album 14 years after their last, and seven years since the death of their lead singer. On paper, Alice In Chains' new album should be awful.
So why is Black Gives Way To Blue - against all the odds, and in a backwards, anti-pioneering, let's-relive-the-past kind of way - so damned enjoyable?
Here's why. For starters, new singer William DuVall sounds like he's channelling the ghost of Layne Staley - the band's original singer and founding member who died after a drug overdose in April, 2002.
He nails Staley's throaty croak and creaky howl, especially on those all-important ballads. The jangly Your Decision and When the Sun Rose Again may not top No Excuses and I Stay Away as the band's best, but they more than hold their own as mid-album interludes.
Then there's the album's regressive metal sound, which comes courtesy of guitarist Jerry Cantrell and producer Nick Raskulinecz. Black Gives Way To Blue ignores all musical trends of the past 15 years and heads back to 1992 for a thrillingly grungy sludgefest.
Fans of the band's best release - 1994 EP Jar of Flies - will love it.
Opener All Secrets Known starts with the statement: "A new beginning, time to start living," being hollered over cascades of guitar riffs, while moody seven-minute grumbler A Looking In View sounds like Stone Temple Pilots jamming with Nirvana. And the stop-start Acid Bubble features mid-song riffs filthier than sewage pond sediment.
Then there's the repetetive power drill riffs running through single Check My Brain. The lyrics might be nonsensical - "Tears that filled my bong," anyone? - but the pummelling guitars are enough to make you grab your flannel shirt, lace up your Doc Martens and grow your hair out.
Grunge is back. Get used to it.
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