Release Date: Sep 29, 2009
Record label: Virgin
Genre(s): Rock, Metal
It's hard not to feel for Alice in Chains -- all the guys in the band were lifers, all except lead singer Layne Staley, who never managed to exorcise his demons, succumbing to drug addiction in 2002. Alice in Chains stopped being a going concern long before that, all due to Staley's addictions, and it took guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney a long time to decide to regroup, finally hiring William DuVall as Staley's replacement and delivering Black Gives Way to Blue a full 14 years after the band's last album. To everybody's credit, Black Gives Way to Blue sounds like it could have been delivered a year after Alice in Chains: it's unconcerned with fashion; it's true to their dark, churning gloom rock; and if you're not paying attention too closely, it's easy to mistake DuVall for his predecessor.
The Pacific North West musical phenomenon that was grunge offered up a Big Four of commercially unstoppable bands/brands. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains were synonymous with angst, plaid shirts, Seattle and smack in the early half of the Nineties. But Alice in Chains were the odd ones out. They had no links to grunge’s cultural epicenter, Sub Pop, and, despite an aesthetic similar to the others in the Big Four, Alice in Chains were the most, er, metal.
On the cover of the new Alice in Chains album, their first in 14 long years, sits a heart. Not a beating heart, nor a particularly healthy-looking one, surrounded as it is by a deep hue of black; just a heart, looking as if it were coldly dissected from its human counterpart. It’s hard to tell what this clinical anatomical illustration is supposed to represent for Black Gives Way to Blue.
Guitarist Jerry Cantrell waited a respectful amount time to resurrect Alice in Chains, having buried lead singer Layne Staley in 2002 after one of the least surprising drug overdoses in rock history. Staley's creative contribution to Chains died years earlier, which is one reason why this is the band's first record in 14 years. [rssbreak] The elephant-in-the room question plaguing Black Gives Way To Blue is why Cantrell didn't just take over the vocal duties himself.