Alice In Chains“Black Gives Way To Blue”
A band’s legacy is a delicate thing and sometimes best left untouched. If the intentions aren’t pure, reviving a defunct band can often taint that legacy.
Since lead singer Layne Staley died in 2002, it seemed that Alice In Chains was content to let its two albums and one EP serve as the sum total of its work. But after a nearly 15-year layoff, the surviving members of the band, along with new singer William DuVall, played on several well-received tours (including blowing Velvet Revolver off the stage in Scranton in 2007). The chemistry was so strong that the band decided to head into the studio to record “Black Gives Way To Blue,” a dark, brooding and remarkable album that not only pays tribute to Staley but also drives home the fact that this band has more to say and guitarist/singer Jerry Cantrell has always been the most prominent force in the band.
DuVall eases in, singing lone lead on only a few songs; Cantrell or a combination of DuVall and Cantrell sing most of the others. The first three songs find Alice In Chains seeping more than charging out of the gate, using its timeworn Black Sabbath sludge to great effect on “All Secrets Known,” “Check My Brain” and “Last Of My Kind.” “All Secrets Known” is slow and ominous, “Check My Brain” is crunchy and catchy and “Last Of My Kind” is the rebellious manifesto of an aging rock star, with DuVall singing of smashing temples and breaking “the lies that they feed, the f----n’ liars.”
In addition to slow-boiling heaviness, Alice In Chains’ other major strength is the haunting ballad. Here, “Your Decision, “When The Sun Rose Again” and the record-closing title track fill that role. Cantrell’s lyrics to “Your Decision” might be directed at Staley, who died of a heroin overdose. “No ones plans to take the path that brings you lower,” he sings.
Rating: W W W 1/2