The rise and fall of Alice In Chains and its charismatic frontman Layne Staley is very much in line of what happened to many grunge bands who had their big break in the early nineties. They struck gold with their Facelift, Dirt and Jar Of Flies albums only to fade away in drug related affairs. It ultimately led to the tragic death of vocalist Layne Staley. The other band members went their separate ways. Guitarist/main composer Jerry Cantrell released a couple of solo records over the years. Three years ago the band reformed again – this time with William DuVall on lead vocals. The guys also released a brand new album, entitled Black Gives Way To Blue.
One of the first striking features of Black Gives Way To Blue is its overall freshness and cohesiveness. The material is instantly recognizable as vintage Alice In Chains, but also stays very much in the here and now. The band sounds relieved. The innate darkness still lurks in the background, but it isn’t as dense as on the self-titled album for instance.
Another trademark feature of Alice Of Chains has always been the harmonised vocals by Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell. This element has luckily been preserved. William DuVall proves himself to be more than a capable replacement in the vocal department. His lead vocals are particularly impressive, especially on Last Of My Kind. Jerry Cantrell also stepped up in the lead vocal department.
The rhythm section, consisting of Mike Inez on bass and Sean Kinney on drums, prove themselves to be as reliable as ever. They provide the solid foundation on which Black Gives To Blue firmly rests.
I somewhat miss instantly classic songs in the vein of Rooster, Would and Nutshell on this album, but this is compensated by the aforementioned cohesiveness and overall quality of tracks like All Secrets Known, Check My Brain, A Looking In View, Acid Bubble and Private Hell.
Black Gives Way To Blue is first and foremost a very solid and sincere comeback album. It may not have the classic feeling of Dirt or Facelift, but it is a very impressive effort in its own right. I’m sure Layne Staley would smile up there in the Great Gig In The Sky.
written by Raymond Westland