Saturday, October 17, 2009

Alice In Chains-Black Gives Way To Blue

Post #73
After a long period of silence, one of the greatest bands from the grunge-era finally return. Alice In Chains have picked up their bones, filled some voids, and recorded some new music that is surprisingly reminiscent of their previous material. For a band to choose to continue their career after the death of a key member has to be a hard decision to make. For Alice In Chains, they took their time.

After several years of mourning the loss of original vocalist, Layne Staley, and much soul searching, the band decided to reunite. At first they just performed a couple of benefit shows, and had a variety of different performers fill the role of lead vocals. At some point, they called on William DuVall (who'd performed with Jerry Cantrell on his solo tour) to take the lead vocals part. What started as a last-go-around tribute to Layne Staley tour grew enough camaraderie among the band members that they decided to keep going.

DuVall has proven to be the defibrillator that jump-started Alice In Chains' black & blue heart. If you've heard any of the band's new music from Black Gives Way To Blue, then you know why. The first time I heard "Check My Brain" the similarity to Staley's unique voice sent chills down my spine. When I first played the album all the way through, almost every song did the same. There are some places where DuVall is singing solo that you can hear how his voice differs from Layne's, but in the next melody he'll slip into another instance of eerie resemblance.

William DuVall's voice is not exactly like Layne's, but it's damn close! Even more important, the 2-part harmonies between DuVall and Jerry Cantrell sound just like classic Alice In Chains. Casually listening to the music you probably couldn't tell it wasn't Layne. DuVall's performance on this album is the perfect compliment to Cantrell's songwriting. The reflective and cathartic nature of the lyrics depict the mournful mindset of this band at this point in time, sometimes with heartbreaking clarity. If you've ever been a fan of this band, you owe it to yourself and to them to give this album a listen.

Every song has a place on this album, and sounds like a perfect fit among the band's previous material. I will try to narrow down my recommendations, but do yourself the favor of listening to the complete recording.
My picks:
-All Secrets Known (First track- themed around a new beginning, without going back to the start. Sort of a mission statement for this album)
-Check My Brain (The first single, you can probably hear it now on your local radio station... great harmonies between William & Jerry, not to mention a classic AIC riff that sounds almost out of tune.)
-Last of My Kind (Maybe the heaviest song on this album. Great song to hear both similarities and uniqueness when comparing/contrasting DuVall and Layne Staley)
-Your Decision (An acoustic/clean guitar, mellow song. It does have a tone of melancholy, as do many songs on this album- hey, it's AIC!)
-When the Sun Rose Again (Another acoustic number. Pretty much like "Your Decision"...)
-Private Hell (All the elements of a classic AIC song, but one of their slow-tempo electric numbers. DuVall sings an echoing "Uh-huh" that weighs on your ears with heavy emotion.)
-Black Gives Way to Blue (A perfect closing track. The lyrics reflect on the sentiment surrounding Layne perhaps the most of any song here. Awesome guest appearance by Elton John on piano. Layne, we'll all remember you.... rest in peace.)

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