Staff Rating

4.90/5

User Rating

5/5

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue

Matti Frost   (179 reviews)

Posted: 06/14/2010 | Comments: 12 | Rate:

There will always be people who say that they should have left it alone following the death of Layne Staley. I am not one of them. I've always believed that Jerry Cantrell was the man behind the music of Alice in Chains, and this release proves it.

There is no substantial departure from the signature Alice sound. The production is much beefier, and it seems as if Cantrell and singer/guitarist William Duvall split the lead vocals evenly when they're not harmonizing all over the place. Sean Kinney, who is bearing an uncanny resemblance to Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies, still plays with his slightly behind-the-beat grooves that make the darkest riffs that Cantrell chugs and bends out that much heavier. Bassist Mike Inez brings it all together.

There really isn't a bad song on this album. In fact, I rank it right up there with Dirt, although it's a bit more brooding. The only real criticism comes from those who don't like William Duvall. So, let's look at Duvall for a second. It's true that when he harmonizes with Cantrell (Check My Brain), he's almost indistinguishable from the late, great Staley. When he takes the mic by himself (Last of My Kind) you can tell he has his own voice which is just as good. The difference I've noted from watching a lot of concert videos over the last few months is that Staley had a primal, raw power to his voice that Duvall does not. Staley's edge came from his suffering and despair, and he was able to channel that into his singing in a way that perhaps nobody else will be able to do. George Carlin once said, regarding the blues, that it's not enough to know what notes to sing, you have to know why they need to be sung. In that respect, the darkest and most emotional lyrics are sung by Jerry Cantrell, and you can tell that he is mourning a dear friend, especially on the title track. It's a gut-wrenchingly sad song that had me in tears the first few times I've heard it, and Elton John's understated piano playing in that song helps paint that day-after-the-funeral picture that haunts everyone who has lost a friend or loved one way before their time.

Take nothing away from William Duvall, he's a great singer and his guitar playing adds extra depth to a band that's already quite deep. In an interview, Cantrell said that Layne's shoes will never be filled, but life does go on, and this album proves that there can be life after tragedy, especially if you don't get caught up rushing things or trying to reinvent the wheel. Solid album, no complaints.

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Comments
TIGHTDICKPLAYA
24,550 Posts
41/M/PA
I'm almost afraid of this album.

And yes, for the obvious reasons.
The Winter's Wrath
7,923 Posts
45/M/PA
The water's fine. Come on in, Eddie.
TIGHTDICKPLAYA
24,550 Posts
41/M/PA
Are you hitting on me again?
The Winter's Wrath
7,923 Posts
45/M/PA
No. I gave up that chase years ago.
TIGHTDICKPLAYA
24,550 Posts
41/M/PA
Probably for the better.

I'll give it a chance. I'll try to be unbiased but since I've like this band for almost 20 years, we'll see if that's possible.
I have no legs!
2,618 Posts
34/M/PA
Eddie...give this record a solid chance. You will be surprised and creeped out at the same time by how good it is
who-bah-stank
24,541 Posts
32/M/NY
Huge AIC fan, but could not get into this album. The riffs sound dated, and comes off as a cash grab kind of project. I know that Cantrell is the brains behind AIC, and Layne not being on it has little to do with my not liking it. I don't know, I just didn't get down with it.
SICK GUY
16,062 Posts
31/M/PA
Originally posted by: Eddie.

I'm almost afraid of this album.

And yes, for the obvious reasons.





Originally posted by: DennisQ

Huge AIC fan, but this comes off as a cash grab kind of project.


Also, listening to the Unplugged cd right now. So good.
The Winter's Wrath
7,923 Posts
45/M/PA
I don't know if I see it as a cash grab, I mean, does Jerry Cantrell realy need the money? Did they wait too long to reunite? Hard to say. I don't think it sounds terribly dated but like I said, it isn't that much of a departure from their '90's stuff. It's a catch-22, though- to try and modernize with a new singer might have been insulting to the band's legacy. I think the bands with the most longevity simply do what they do regardless of where music is at the present. I kind of like that it sounds a little dated, because a lot of those bands that AiC influenced still don't do that style justice.

I know of only one band that became more successful after their singer died and they replaced him- AC/DC. And they've been writing the same album for 30 some-odd years since Brian Johnson joined the band. I wouldn't say that BGWTB is Alice's Back in Black- maybe their next one will turn it up a bit, but for now, I like that one of my favorite bands is working again and writing pretty good tunes.
who-bah-stank
24,541 Posts
32/M/NY
Maybe "cash grab" is the wrong term, but I don't know. Why does he have to write tunes under the AIC banner if his solo stuff sounds a lot like AIC work anyway?
WastedPotential
6,659 Posts
37/M/VA
Me likey.
breeze 'em out
21,316 Posts
33/M/NY
heavy. if you don't expect an alice in chains record, you'll most likely dig it.

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