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 ·
"Black Gives Way to Blue" is the 4th full-length studio album by US hard rock/metal act Alice in Chains. The album was released through Virgin/ EMI in September 2009. "Black Gives Way to Blue" is the first studio album since the band´s self-titled 3rd album from 1995. The reason for the long recording (and touring) break was mainly due to lead vocalist Layne Staley´s serious drug addiction/problem and later tragic death of a drug overdose in 2002. However the three remaining members of the band met up in 2005 and decided to pick up the pieces and move on. They added new vocalist/rhythm guitarist William DuVall (Comes with the Fall) to the lineup to replace Layne Staley.

While Layne Staley´s nasal and quite unique vocal delivery was a huge part of Alice in Chains signature sound, the music on "Black Gives Way to Blue" is still unmistakably the sound of Alice in Chains. The memorable and beautiful (and at times bleak and disturbing) harmony vocal lines, the heavy distorted riffs, the acoustic guitar parts and the warmth, that especially characterized the sound on the last couple of releases by the band in the nineties, are are all present and accounted for. The lead vocal duties are shared on the album by Jerry Cantrell and William DuVall. They have very similar sounding voices. Actually to a point where it´s sometimes difficult to hear who is singing what. But that also means that the harmony vocals are spot on and very well executed.

The 11 track, 54:10 minutes long album features high quality material with only a couple of tracks that aren´t completely up to par with the best tracks on the album. Tracks like "All Secrets Known", "Check My Brain", "Last of My Kind" and "Private Hell" are strong, hook laden and very well written hard rock/metal tracks and represent the strongest material on the album, but even the less memorable material are still well written and very well performed.

"Black Gives Way to Blue" is produced by Nick Raskulinecz, who is known for his work with artists such as Trivium, Death Angel, Foo Fighters, Marilyn Manson and many more. The album is well produced, featuring an organic sound with great depth and attention to detail. A very successful production to these ears.

I remember being quite surprised to hear that the remaining members of Alice in Chains had opted to tour and record under the Alice in Chains monicker after Layne Staley´s death, and I guess my conservative nature wished they hadn´t. While Jerry Cantrell was always the main songwriter in Alice in Chains, I really doubted if it would be possible to create that special desperate, bleak and angst filled sound without Layne Staley. As it turns out they can´t. But what they can do is create something a bit different and still wonderfully dark and warm hard rock/metal. The grit and the despair that was always a part of Layne Staley´s vocal delivery can´t be matched, but Jerry Cantrell and William DuVall both have wonderful smooth voices and Alice in Chains signature harmony vocals are delivered with conviction. So "Black Gives Way to Blue" might not possess the same nerve and bleak despair of it´s predecessors, but it´s a well executed, memorable and ultimately very strong hard rock/metal album that should appeal to a lot of people. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.
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