ALICE IN CHAINS — Black Gives Way To Blue (review)

ALICE IN CHAINS — Black Gives Way To Blue album cover Album · 2009 · Alternative Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Replacing a legendary icon of a front man and soldiering on under the familiar name is always a risky decision, but sometimes worth making. After Alice In Chains ceased to be an actively working unit after the release of the self-titled album and the couple of shows that followed the next year Jerry Cantrell poured his writing onto two solo albums, the second of which was completed just moments before the tragic loss of the former bandmate Layne Staley. They were at times very much reminiscent of AIC and why wouldn't they be as he was always the primary composer and the second voice.

Staley passed away and so it happened that after some years of mourning the band plus newcomer William DuVall started gigging under the AIC name and finally released an album, their first new work since 1995. Many eyebrows were raised in disbelief but what's important to remember is that Jerry Cantrell's vocals had become more prominent with each album from Facelift to Unplugged and while DuVall handles Staley's parts live, he isn't necessarily intended to be the new Layne. The change in band dynamics continues and on this album Jerry Cantrell is the band's front man singing about 80% of the lead vocals. Alice of course wouldn't be Alice without the vocal harmonies and despite the different 50% they still sound surprisingly similar to the Layne days minus the most haunting qualities of the late vocalist's voice.

While Cantrell's solo albums were very uneven affairs Black Gives Way to Blue finds his pen at its sharpest. The lead single A Looking in View is probably the most massive AIC track ever with its heavy as lead riffing and the DuVall fronted Last of My Kind is none less convincing. Listening to this song one hopes he'd get to show his dark and powerful voice more, but fortunately Cantrell is on top of his game vocally as well. Check My Brain is a brilliant heavy rock hit, probably the catchiest Alice has ever been, and they show their more acoustic side as well with Your Decision, When the Sun Rose Again and the title track which features none other than Layne Staley's hero Elton John providing some beautiful piano to crown this album ending ballad.

The songwriting is right up there with Dirt, but with Staley's unique voice and edge gone. What's left is brilliantly written and performed heavy metal music with two strong vocalists. Can't think of a better comeback album.
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