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Black Gives Way to Blue

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★★★★½
(242 Reviews)

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ALICE IN CHAINS Jerry Cantrell – guitars/vocals Sean Kinney – drums Mike Inez – bass William DuVall – guitars/vocals The new Alice In Chains album Black Gives Way To Blue is the sound of a new beginning of a legendary band returning to life. Right from the album’s powerful and deeply meaningful opener ”All Secrets Known” through its redemptive closing title track, Black Gives Way To Blue-the first new Alice In Chains album in more than 14 years-is not just another rock reunion, but something far more inspiring. Alice In Chains in the present tense. No replacements. No substitutions. It does no disrespect to the enduring memory of Alice In Chains’ late, great lead singer Layne Staley, to say that for all that he brought to the group’s music in his lifetime, Alice In Chains always was-and always will be-very much a band. So after taking a more than respectful break to mourn the loss of their brother and band mate-to heal and explore music individually-the surviving members of Alice In Chains-Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez-gradually began to make music again. The band came together for the first time in 2005 to take part in a benefit for the victims of the tsunami in Indonesia. The following year, Cantrell, Kinney and Inez decided that the time was right for Alice In Chains to reclaim its legacy again on tour. They did so with the help of a new guitarist and vocalist William DuVall, a gifted singer and player in his own right from Atlanta who previously worked with Neon Christ, Comes with the Fall, and as part of Jerry Cantrell’s touring band. As live audiences discovered, DuVall brings a sound and stage presence all his own. Yet when DuVall and Cantrell blend their voices-as Cantrell and Staley did so often-there could be little doubt that the spirit of Alice In Chains was once again alive and well. Black Gives Way To Blue is the next step for a group that over the course of their career earned multiple Grammy nominations and sold more than 19 million albums worldwide and achieved 11 Top Ten singles. At the same time, the album offers the full, bracing impact of Alice In Chains-a band that kept heavy rock exciting at the dawn of the Nineties and helped set the stage for an even grungier Seattle sound-still clearly firing on all cylinders. Recording on Black Gives Way To Blue began in October of 2008 at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 in Northridge and finished at Henson Studios in Hollywood. The band produced the album with Nick Raskulinecz, whose past credits include Foo Fighters and Rush. Black Gives Way To Blue combines some classic Alice In Chain textures with a renewed sense of energy and possibility,from the epic and fantastically electric rocker ”A Looking In View” to the exquisite and romantic ballad ”Your Decision” to the album’s stunning first single ”Check My Brain,” a throbbing rocker in which a band associated with the Pacific Northwest makes a wry and witty observation on working and living in California. Through Black Gives Way To Blue, there is a deep sense of the unique life that this band haslived, of ”Lesson Learned,” to borrow the title of another standout track. In the end, the album offers a kind of shared group autobiography by a band that has survived so much. Together, they are in a way ”Last Of My Kind,” to use the title of another album highlight penned by Jerry Cantrell-long a dominant songwriter within Alice In Chains-with lyrics from DuVall. ”Imitations are pale,” DuVall and Cantrell sing together on ”Black Gives Way To Blue,” a brand new Alice In Chain classic that really has it all-the brooding hurt, the brute force and the beautiful introspection. Listen closely to Black Gives Way To Blue, and you’ll know right away this is Alice In Chains.

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  • I resisted. I did not want to buy Black Gives Way to Blue by 3 of the former guys from Alice in Chains plus some “replacement”. And once I finally did buy it I had a preconceived notion to not like it.

    I mean, how could Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez and Sean Kinney possibly find someone that could fill the shoes of Layne Staley? And if they did find someone, how could I possibly get my brain around the idea?

    Well, all it took was one listen-through of the disk. Black Gives Way to Blue is one of the best Hard Rock recordings I’ve listened to in 20 years. Alice in Chains Dirt stands atop of my Amazon Listmania List of The Best Hard Rock CDs (With Clear Lyrics, Post 1990). And to make it onto my List a band has had to do something really special. I’ve got to give Black Gives Way to Blue a few more listens, but I sure am leaning towards putting this disk on my List.

    Calling William DuVall a replacement was an insult. After watching him perform a few songs today (courtesy of YouTube) I can see that he is truly a new member of a great band. I can see why Cantrell and the other guys didn’t rename the band as a new project with a different singer. DuVall brings a different energy than Staley did, but he really keeps the integrity of the band solidly intact. That’s a hard thing to accomplish…just look at Drowning Pool and countless other bands whose singers have either passed or left…it usually just does not work.

    William DuVall does indeed work. He doesn’t have the cool charismatic darkness surrounding him like Staley did; he brings more of a positive light to AiC. But rest assured, when he sings the AiC classics (again, thanks YouTube), he makes you “believe”. As for the sound-alike aspect…yeah, he does sound like Staley. Is he an imitation? No. Jerry Cantrell sounds like Staley…is he an imitation? Uh..no. Layne would be proud of this group and as he looks down must be honored by the songs that tributize him.

    To anyone who likes Hard Rock and especially to anyone who likes Alice in Chains, Black Gives Way to Blue is no Dirt, but it is an outstanding Hard Rock recording. Add it to your cart.

    Posted on January 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • So I had the opportunity to see Alice in Chains open for Tool this summer in Pomona.Two reasons why i didnt, first I hated the line up with Hollywood Undead & some others that didnt interested me,second I wasnt that thrilled that AIC had a new lead singer.I was a huge fan of AIC all through out the 90’s & got to see them in 93.The show was immaculate,flawless in my eyes, still to this day I believe WOULD has the best bass intro of that genre.Yet still somewhat skeptical, I decided to pick up this new release,guess what? Its frickin awesome!,it completely sounds like AIC.Still has the heavy riffs the lyrics of isolation & resuscitation.I still think it isnt necesarily better then the original line up,But its a continuation of a band that is truly prolific.The songs are heavy but not cocky,they dont seem to care what you think,a band enjoying what they do best.they work together as a whole ,a unit -theres no mega front man superstar!So sit back ,relax ,enjoy a cold one, and listen without prejudice.

    Posted on January 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Not much I can say that hasn’t been said, but the moment I heard “All Secrets Known” and the sludgy guitar kicked in, I was hooked. Great lyrics, great way to slowly bring in the new singer, and the chemistry between everyone is still there. It only took one full listen and I can already say that “Private Hell” is one of my favorite AIC songs. And the more I listen to it, the more I’m beginning to think “Your Decision” is going rank right up there, too.

    Posted on January 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Very excited about this album. AIC has been my favorite band since I became aware of them circa 1994. I really didn’t know what to expect with the 13 year hiatus and new lead vocalist, but this album has truly exceeded my expectations.

    1. All Secrets Known 8/10 – Great opener. Slow, heavy track. Seemed kinda bland on first listen, but it’s grown on me. There’s more here than I first thought.

    2. A Looking In View 9/10 – The first track to be released from the album back in July. Awesome song all around.

    3. Check My Brain 7/10 – This is the radio-friendly rock song of the album. Catchy tune but not all that impressive for AIC. Sort of an advertisement that they have a new album out.

    4. Last of My Kind 9/10 – Great heavy rock song. Very cool, Cantrell-ish opening riff. DuVall really shows off his vocals on this one.

    5. Your Decision 10/10 – Amazing track. Definite radio single. Likely the “hit” of the album”. Great harmonized vocals by Cantrell and Duvall, and very cool lead guitar parts by Cantrell throughout the song.

    6. When the Sun Rose Again 9/10 – Very nice acoustic track with harmonized vocals by Cantrell and DuVall. Reminiscent of something off of Sap.

    7. Acid Bubble 10/10 – Cantrell at his best. This is the masterpiece of this album. The most impressive arrangement Cantrell has done to date in my opinion.

    8. Lesson Learned 8/10 – Catchy medium-pace rock song. Possible radio single.

    9. Take Her Out 7/10 – Another medium-pace rock song. I get the feeling DuVall had a hand in this one.

    10. Private Hell 9/10 – I really like this track. Another potential radio single. I’ve heard people say it reminds them of Down in a Hole, but DuVall’s layered vocals sound more like Staley’s vocals did on “I Stay Away”, though the song “flows” much more like “DIAH”.

    11. Black Gives Way to Blue 10/10 – Again, Cantrell at his best. Song is about LS. Also, Elton John plays a little bit of piano on this one.

    Overall, I give the album 5 stars.

    Posted on January 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • When Alice in Chains released their self-titled album in 1995, it showed the band moving in a different direction from the one they’d explored previously. Jerry Cantrell was singing lead on more tracks than ever before, Layne Staley’s vocals were heavily layered (double-tracked), and the grunge sound they’d had turned into a more sludge-metal type sound. Staley died 7 years after the release of that album and it appeared for a while that Alice in Chains had died with him. I worship Layne Staley, but I realize he was not solely responsible for creating the Alice in Chains sound; but, he did leave a large void when he passed away. Since Alice in Chains announced they were recording a new album with new vocalist/guitarist William DuVall, the question running through people’s minds has been “Can they do it without Layne?” Well, after steadily listening to this album since it leaked, I can tell you, in all honesty, that they can.

    “Black Gives Way to Blue” picks up pretty much where that last album left off. This is not “Dirt Pt. II,” but Alice in Chains for 2009 and even with Staley gone, the album still retains the recognizable Alice in Chains sound. There are moments where you can not only feel Staley’s presence, you can almost hear his voice. While William DuVall is technically Layne Staley’s replacement, Jerry Cantrell handles a large majority of lead vocal duties…But make no mistake, this is not a Jerry Cantrell solo album. This is very much an Alice in Chains album. When DuVall and Cantrell harmonize together in the way Staley and Cantrell did so many years ago, it’s pretty clear that Alice in Chains is back.

    Here is a track-by-track review;

    1. All Secrets Known-Begins with a terrific guitar riff and instead of launching into a brutal, blistering metal song becomes simply a subtle track about moving on. “There’s no going back to the place we started from,” sort of perfectly sums up their desire to record this album despite the cries of “It won’t be the same” from many fans. (4/5)

    2. Check My Brain-Another great riff; also the 2nd single from the album. DuVall lurks in the background, only really handling harmony duties with Cantrell, but this song rocks and is just as good as old Alice in Chains. (5/5)

    3. Last of My Kind-On the third track, DuVall handles the lead vocals and his voice, by itself, works very well in AIC. DuVall also penned this track…This is a catchy, hard-rocking song; one of my favorites on the album. (5/5)

    4. Your Decision-Instantly reminiscent of “Nutshell.” It’s a great/beautiful track with a fantastic guitar solo by Cantrell (who also handles a good
    majority of the lead vocals). (5/5)

    5. A Looking in View-The first single Alice in Chains released from this album. A little over 7 minutes, this track instantly got me excited for the new album. This doesn’t just sound like classic Alice in Chains, it IS classic Alice in Chains. Great vocal harmonies, great music, and a terrific chorus. There’s parts of this song that literally sound like Layne Staley has been brought back to life (5/5)

    6. When the Sun Rose Again-A beautiful song that I intitally wasn’t too fond of. Sounds like an extension of the “Jar of Flies” sound. (5/5)

    7. Acid Bubble-Almost 7 minutes long; One of the best on the album, but also took a bit to grow on me…The song is character by slow verses sung simultaneously by Cantrell and DuVall, with DuVall singing the chilling bridge of the song before launching into a brilliantly harmonized chorus, and finally there’s the heavy interlude. This song is a masterpiece. (5/5)

    8. Lesson Learned-Has been one of my favorite tracks on the album since I first heard it. It’s a great song and when Cantrell & DuVall sing “In your darkest hour, you strike gold,” I get goosebumps. It’s really a fantastic song. (5/5)

    9. Take Her Out-This is the weakest song on the album, in my opinion. It’s not a bad song by any means, it’s just weaker than the other tracks…However, it does have a good chorus. (4/5)

    10. Private Hell-I really didn’t like this song at first, but now I find it one of the most powerful. The vocals here are very Layne Staley-esque and it’s a very powerful, personal song. This, more than almost all the others, reminded me of classic AIC. In the vein of “Down in a Hole,” give this song some time if you don’t like it immediately. It’s a great track (5/5)

    11. Black Gives Way to Blue-The final track has some haunting guitar courtesy of Cantrell and piano by Elton John; dedicated to the memory of Staley, it’s a beautiful, haunting, and touching song. A great track and a great way to close the album.

    Jerry Cantrell has been outspoken about his goal not to destroy the Alice in Chains legacy with this album and I’m beyond proud to report that he did no such thing. This is a more-than-worthy entry in a great band’s career, but more importantly…It’s a great album, by itself. This is not a retread of Alice in Chains or an attempt to capture the same magic as before…This is just a fantastic album by a hard-working, musically gifted band that would be a great album no matter what moniker the band carried with them. Listen with an open-mind and be happy that AIC is moving on from the memory of Layne Staley to still give us fans great music. I guarantee that Layne Staley is smiling right now and would be pleased with the great work these four guys have done.

    GRADE: A

    Posted on January 24, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now