Alice in Chains
Black Gives Way to Blue

After one spin of the new Alice in Chains album, it’s screamingly apparent that our dearly departed Layne Staley did not quite make this band—guitarist Jerry Cantrell did. However, none of Cantrell’s numerous post-AIC solo tunes seriously gelled with fans, either. But there are two truisms evident in each note of Black Gives Way to Blue: (1) the band are not at all pulling a Van Hagar here by hiring an adept yet non-soundalike frontman; and (2) AIC were always the most metal of the grunge pack from the early ’90s.

From here on out, bands should take note of how this once-platinum-selling band rebounded after the ultimate impediment, the death of their lead singer: don’t find a soundalike. In 2000, Cantrell befriended Comes With the Fall singer William DuVall, who then became Cantrell’s touring guitarist/singer. So DuVall had plenty of practice singing AIC tunes before the recording of this album, and it shows in every solid track: not one clunker on the album.

Opener “All Secrets Known” has a distinct Tool vibe that crests with each chorus. DuVall and Cantrell’s vocal harmonies are perfect—so much that fans might swear, just for a moment, that this is an unreleased lost track with Staley. The radio single “Check My Brain” introduces the ‘new guy’ with its entrancing chorus, though DuVall still affects Staley’s throaty warble surprisingly well. The ballad-like “Your Decision” with its acoustic intro is reminiscent of Jar of Flies’ girth.

One of many standout tracks, “A Looking in View” heaves a metal crunch out of the gates, later revealing unexpected melody in the choruses. “When the Sun Rises Again” is a magnificent number à la the Sap EP—acoustic with hand percussion—to the point that aficionados might expect to hear Chris Cornell’s golden pipes at the choruses. The slow-burning “Acid Bubble,” accentuated by Cantrell’s signature lazy string-bending, sports an energetic tempo shift during the choruses/bridges, creating the most “prog” cut on the album.

“Lesson Learned” is a straightforward number, traditional verse/chorus/verse with guitar solo. “Take Her Out” runs with the same head-down gait as “Angry Chair,” and “Private Hell” is another rock-hard track with Cantrell’s award-winning harmonies. The title track, with chords as limpid as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and piano interspersed throughout, seems as if it were written strictly for slow-dancing. There is no question that Black Gives Way to Blue is one of AIC’s finest hours—yes, it’s right up there with Facelift and Dirt. Especially in today’s music climate, where has-been grunge bands are merely an afterthought (ahem, Pearl Jam), Alice in Chains rise again to enjoy their sweetly deserved success.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Ayers
February 22nd, 2010


  1. Commented by: Juan_Pinto

    Jerry Cantrell has always been the driving force behind Alice In Chains. Not only is he a great guitar player and composer, but alse a great singer. He is even a better singer than Staley, their harmonies were great, but once Staley sings alonem, you can tell that Cantrell has a better voice. For further proof isten to Cantrell’s first solo album.

  2. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    I heard a song off this, and while it was not nearly as awful as I expected, I was not impressed.

  3. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Still haven’t heard that one. I hope to remedy that soon. BTW, Alice in Chains were NEVER a grunge band (well, maybe in the clothes department)…they were metal through and through. They just got lumped in with those whinny pussies because they were from Seattle at that time…

  4. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    This record was a complete surprise to me. It made my top 10 from last year. I wasn’t expecting much, but was fairly impressed. It wasn’t “Facelift” or “Dirt,” but a much better record than I thought it would be.

  5. Commented by: Chris Ayers

    Gents, I’m going to see them live next month, and I haven’t been this excited for a show in quite some time!

  6. Commented by: terp

    Really enjoying this CD. As solid as anything post-Dirt.

  7. Commented by: JH DOOM

    I really wanted to hate this. Even knowing full well that Cantrell was the driving force behind AIC, it still didn’t seem right with Staley’s presence. But much to my surprise, this is a great album, one of my favs from last year.

  8. Commented by: JH DOOM

    *without Staley’s presence.

  9. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Juan_Pinto: What the hell are you smoking, man? Cantrell better than Staley? It was Staley who taught Jerry how to sing in the first place. At first he was really scared of singing, but Layne encouraged him to go for it. That’s how those harmonies started. Both can survive without each other (proven by Jerry’s solo work and Mad Season) but for me, Layne’s top 10 singer ever material while Cantrell’s just above average. To each his own, I guess.

    Pretty good album. I will never get used to DuVall but I can admit as much.

  10. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    I’m loving this CD. AIC are back. God I missed these guys.

  11. Commented by: HearMonicaRoar

    When I first heard this album I was afraid I only thought it was ok because I wanted to like it. Alice in Chains have always been one of my favorite bands. After a few spins it really grew on me, and while it’s not up there with Dirt and Facelift it’s definitely worthy of the band. Nice review!

  12. Commented by: Old Pick Axe

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks the magnificent “Your Decision” sounds like it was recorded during the Jar Of Flies sessions.

  13. Commented by: Mastodude

    Actually my favorite AIC album. I’m really surprised with how much it’s grown on me. Don’t get me wrong, though, because their stuff from the 90s was all pretty damn good. This, however, has a consistency that’s even better than Dirt’s is.

    But their new album… not so much.

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