06 October 2009

Alice in Chains: "Black Gives Way to Blue"

I was just as surprised as most of you were when I heard that Alice in Chains was releasing a new album. I was curious, anxious, skeptical, elated, but most importantly glad that one of the last remaining pioneer bands of grunge were still making music. I find it most interesting because earlier in the year I wrote up a retrospective on “Dirt” (link) without knowledge of the impending release. No better time than now to do a quick comparison in the name of fun.

As it has happened in the past, it happens now and will continue to happen in the future: bands will always have new music compared to their previous releases. Does it have the same musicality as this record, is it as well produced as that record, how does this single compare to a classic, etc. Typical of any music fan, I make the same comparisons. How does “Black Gives Way to Blue” measure up: It sounds like this album was released in 1997. It’s perfectly seamless and a natural evolution in terms of the band’s sound. It’s a strange concept, but often times one would ask if a band “sounds like themselves.” In a nutshell, does it sound like an Alice in Chains record? Completely. However one cannot overlook the obvious absence of Layne Staley.

Taking up the mantle as lead vocalist is William DuVall of Comes With the Fall. No stranger to the Alice camp (CWTF was the band handpicked to back up Jerry Cantrell on his solo tour), DuVall seems to fit right in the pocket carved out by Cantrell. As principal songwriter and backup vocalist of Alice in Chains releases, it’s no surprise that Cantrell picks lead vox that blend neatly with his own over the classic thunder he provides with Mike Inez (bass), Sean Kinney (drums), and with DuVall himself (rhythm guitar).

As a purist, I feel betrayed in that the band moved on and found a replacement singer. But there’s a perfect counterpoint to that argument within that statement itself: they’ve moved on. Not to say that Layne was replaced in that classic “you’re fired” sense, but the world lost him tragically, and instead of remaining a trio with guest singers filling in, they carried on when the time was right and started to write new music. A band cannot play their classics and only their classics and expect to stay relevant (unless the band in question happens to be The Cure) in this tumultuous state of the music industry.

Great choice of singles as well. “Check My Brain”, about Cantrell’s adjusting to moving to California, is a great example of the classic Alice in Chains sound. Great video, too. Also “A Looking in View”, intense video for an equally heavy song. Check them out below.

Track Listing:
1. All Secrets Known
2. Check My Brain
3. Last of My Kind
4. Your Decision
5. A Looking in View
6. When the Sun Rose Again
7. Acid Bubble
8. Lesson Learned
9. Take Her Out
10. Private Hell
11. Black Gives Way to Blue
12. Down in a Hole, live – Japanese bonus track
12. Black Gives Way to Blue, piano mix – iTunes bonus track
13. Your Decision, live – iTunes bonus track

Keep up with Alice in Chains at their homepage and MySpace.

Here are their videos from their MySpace videos page.

Check My Brain

Alice in Chains - A Looking In View

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