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3.91 | 62 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2009


1. All Secrets Known (4:42)
2. Check My Brain (3:57)
3. Last Of My Kind (5:52)
4. Your Decision (4:43)
5. A Looking In View (7:05)
6. When The Sun Rose Again (4:00)
7. Acid Bubble (6:55)
8. Lesson Learned (4:16)
9. Take Her Out (3:59)
10. Private Hell (5:38)
11. Black Gives Way To Blue (3:03)

Total Time 54:10


- Jerry Cantrell / vocals, lead guitar
- William DuVall / vocals, rhythm guitar
- Mike Inez / bass
- Sean Kinney / drums

- Elton John / piano (track 11)

About this release

September 29, 2009
Virgin, EMI

Thanks to Pekka, Lynx33, adg211288 for the updates


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Of course this Alice In Chains sounds older and wiser than the unit that had first emerged during the peak grunge period - just look at what they'd been through since their previous studio album. First there were the seven years whilst the band was in limbo as a result of Layne Staley's struggles with bereavement, drug addiction, and a retreat into a reclusive lifestyle suggesting that there were perhaps additional mental health issues exacerbating these; then there was the shock of Staley's death, prompting the band to temporarily dissolve itself until in 2005 they drew together again and decided to continue their legacy.

New lad William DuVall takes up Staley's spot on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, though Jerry Cantrell shares the lead vocals here. This is a smart decision because it allows DuVall to ease into the role and gives more of a sense of continuity. As far as the music itself goes, we're headed into dark alternative metal territory here which, bar for the closing title track (featuring a piano cameo from Elton John), ranks among the heaviest releases of their career, and the weight of experience clearly hasn't robbed the band of the passion of their early material. Not wholly my thing, but not bad.
I was one of the skeptics when I heard that Alice In Chains were regrouping in the years following Layne Staley’s death. I got mixed signals after hearing them do some Layne era songs with William Duvall, but it took their efforts in the studio to win me over.

There aren’t too many surprises if you are familiar with their studio albums of the 90s or with Jerry Cantrell’s solo albums. This album spawned a few singles. “Check My Brain” has a straightforward rock vibe, similar to something that would be on Facelift, but more modernized. I prefer “Lesson Learned” to “Check My Brain”, but both songs were rather fitting as singles since they show two different aspects of the band’s sound.

Two of my favorites off the album are “All Secrets Known” and “Your Decision”, both of which both tread down the familiar, dark-ish path of AIC of old, and they have the uplifting magic that make their work so endearing to me.

Samples of where I see the band taking on a fresh identity with Duvall is with the hard-hitting “Last of My Kind” and “A Looking In View”. While Layne wouldn’t at all sound out of place over top of these tracks, they help to push the new guy to the forefront and show that his voice has its own character and identity. The part mellow, part aggro “Acid Bubble” is also an effective showcase for the Cantrell-Duvall vocal pairing.

Is this the best Alice In Chains has to offer? No. Could it stand proudly next to the bulk of their discography? Definitely! Black Gives Way To Blue is easily a worthwhile pickup for fans of modern hard rock or alternative metal.
"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.
Alice in Chains fell off the music radar after the sad death of frontman Layne Staley, but in 2009 they came back with their first album since 1995's self titled effort and the first with William DuVall as a member of the band. Personally I think they did the right thing to leave it that long before releasing an album, it has given both the band and the fans the time to get over the loss of Layne.

So is Black Gives Way to Blue worthy of the Alice in Chains name? You bet it is! In fact, with no disrespect to Layne, who's absence is felt in the album, I actually believe that this is the best thing the band have put their name to. Yeah that's right, I think its even better than Dirt, the album that is widely considered their best.

The album feels much heavier than anything AiC have ever done before. They were always more of a heavy metal band than a grunge band, but if there was ever any doubt before there can be done now, Black Gives Way to Blue is definitely a metal album, I'd go as far as to say it really lacks what grunge influences were in the band's music at the height of grunge. It's the sound of a band moving with the times and it works, while still overall sounding like an AiC album, even without the distinctive voice of Layne present. William is a worthy replacement and hey, a lot of vocals on this album seem to be performed by Jerry Cantrell as well, something I personally didn't realise until I saw the band on TV once.

A very balanced album as well, while it is mostly made of heavy tracks the band thrown in a couple of ballads for good measure, these namely being Your Decision, When the Sun Rose Again and the title track, which features a guest appearance by Elton John.

My personal highlights from the album though would be Last of My Kind, Acid Bubble, Lesson Learned, A Looking In View, Take Her Out and even perhaps surprisingly to some, the single Check My Brain, which is probably the most commercial of the album's songs, and I actually appreciate how it could grate on one's nerves after many listens, but I love it.

I always try to do those highlights sections in my reviews these days to try and give potential listeners a starting point(s), but really this is one of those albums where you can pick a track at random and its going to be awesome, hence the score I'm giving it. There is honestly not a duff track on here, the album is absolutely flawless. One of 2009's biggest surprises without a doubt.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)
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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