Album Review
Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue Album Cover

Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue

Reviewed by
Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Record Label: Virgin Records/EMI
In February of 1980, AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott passed away after doing his rock star thing and literally partying until he died. On the verge of becoming international icons, the band had finally made their breakthrough with Highway to Hell, a hard rock classic still to this day. While it was undoubtedly saddening, the band bounced back less than six months later with their best-selling album (and one of the best-selling albums, period), Back in Black. A tribute to Scott's status within the band, longtime fans begrudgingly watched AC/DC rise to multi-platinum success in the wake of the charismatic Scott's death, witnessing Brian Johnson clench his jaw and write hard-rockin' innuendo-riddled concert staples all the way to top.

These kinds of instances are not regularly told, but it has been known to happen every so often in the world of rock n' roll. Most times, bands shift their sound and change their name (Sublime) or try to carry on by performing the "classics" with a new singer entirely (Queen, Journey, etc.). Whether that singer is their own voice or a carbon copy is up to the band -- or perhaps it's more in the hands of the fans themselves. We all know how well that Jane's Addiction reunion worked out and how awesome Fuel has done since Brett Scallions took off.

After Layne Staley's untimely death in 2002, Alice in Chains had already been classified as "dinosaur grunge rock." Despite the bands they influenced (gasp! Godsmack!), Alice in Chains was unfairly lumped in with the Seattle scene due to the timeframe of their popularity -- which, to be fair, was heightened once Pearl Jam and Nirvana broke new ground. Thoroughly dark, moody and belligerent, they were an usual blend of sludge metal riffs and pleasant harmonies (care of Staley and guitarist/main songwriter Jerry Cantrell). Now, Almost 14 years after their last full-length of new material, the band has returned in hopes of clearing the "dinosaur" insults and making the rock charts listener-friendly again.

Formerly a touring vocalist, now a full-timer, William DuVall doesn't shy away from looking like Phil Lynott and Lenny Kravitz's love-child while sounding like Staley, but he doesn't steal every vocal quiver from the former frontman. In fact, if it weren't for Cantrell's backing vocals, DuVall might sound like your ordinary hard rock vocalist, but it's Cantrell's contributions that give Alice in Chains their soul. "Check My Brain" has such a lazy-day west-coast vibe to it, you might even forget Staley doesn't perform on this record. Cantrell writes likes Tool/A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan, with a slight distaste for California while brimming with narcissism. Fourteen years have never felt so short, because here is a band picking up right where they left off, unconcerned with whatever trends are popular in modern rock, playing what they love and doing it well. Opening cut "All Secrets Known" should instantly quell any doubts and while the inclusion of Elton John on the title track seems tacked on, it's meaning as a dedication to a fallen friend makes it awfully hard to dislike. The final three cuts do pack on some energy, passion and emotion -- all well-deserved -- but by the time Black Gives Way to Blue turns to reach the final checkpoint, it starts to grow a tad stale and become unimaginative (specifically, the unimpressive "Private Hell").

As much attention and credit DuVall is likely to earn from even the most hard-headed fans, you have to tip your hat to the other members, particularly Cantrell, who have turned the idea of what modern rock has to sound like entirely on its head. There aren't any songs that reflect the current crop of radio-rockers, and with swamp-themed numbers like "Acid Bubble," it is chilling to see Cantrell can indeed still write songs like he did on 1992's Dirt. But alas, credit is also due to Sean Kinney and Mike Inez, the rhythmic balance and backbone to Alice in Chains' musicianship. The harmonies give the vocals their personality, but Inez & Kinney's friendly duality expose the genius behind the band's sound.

Call it old and tired, but when a 90's relic can storm a valid comeback and actually pull it off without missing a beat, it can be rewarding to more than those that dismiss Alice in Chains are merely "grunge metal." Black Gives Way to Blue is a pleasant record that presents a new perspective to cliche modern rock and proves that even the dinosaurs can still bring it every now and then.

Recommended if You LikeNirvana; Stone Temple Pilots; Chevelle; Metallica's Load
Choice Cuts"Acid Bubble," "Check My Brain" and "All Secrets Known"

Tracklisting1. All Secrets Known
2. Check My Brain
3. Last of My Kind
4. Your Decision
5. A Looking in View
6. When the Sun Rose Again
7. Acid Bubble
8. Lesson Learned
9. Take Her Out
10. Private Hell
11. Black Gives Way to Blue
Band MembersJerry Cantrell: lead guitar/vocals
William DuVall: vocals/rhythm guitar
Mike Inez: bass
Sean Kinney: drums

Online VitalsOfficial Site | Official Myspace
PurchaseAmazon MP3
This review is a user submitted review from smoke4thecaper. You can see all of smoke4thecaper's submitted reviews here.
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 18
08:42 PM on 10/05/09
Steeeve Perry
Pushin' th' little daisies
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Steeeve Perry's Avatar
I had absolutely no interest in this disk until the review, now I might have to take a listen. Mad props for the Acca Dacca story, and while we're on the topic, what about another Aussie band -- INXS? Tried to replace Hutchence and failed until they ended up on an "Idol" type show... Even if this Alice in Chains album sucks, we can all take solace in the fact they didn't do that.
08:50 PM on 10/05/09
I was born a wise man
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smoke4thecaper's Avatar
I had absolutely no interest in this disk until the review, now I might have to take a listen. Mad props for the Acca Dacca story, and while we're on the topic, what about another Aussie band -- INXS? Tried to replace Hutchence and failed until they ended up on an "Idol" type show... Even if this Alice in Chains album sucks, we can all take solace in the fact they didn't do that.
There are so many examples I could have used, but that's another good one. INXS tried for years to find someone, finally did aaaaand... nothing.
09:24 PM on 10/05/09
die young and save yourself
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MBIIdollaBill's Avatar
good review...just dnt get wats w/ the godsmack sarcasm. then again, ur apparently not a big nu metal fan...already ranted bout tht in ur bowling for soup review
03:16 AM on 10/06/09
Blink One Eighty Who??
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the1's Avatar
One of my favourite bands ever....so diverse (Unplugged/Sap/JOF anyone?) and after how dark the self titled was, I'm interested to see what Cantrell has in store.
So unfair that shit acts like Nickleback credit these guys as an influence :(
04:48 AM on 10/06/09
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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05:19 AM on 10/06/09
Dude, this is so Inception.
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Broclee's Avatar
I'm by no means an Alice in Chains fan, but I rode with a friend to Best Buy the other day to pick up the new Avett Bros, and he got this disc, and we listened to it on the way back to school. I was pleasantly surprised. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it was really good for what it was.
06:44 AM on 10/06/09
Registered Member
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highfidelity203's Avatar
Wow, this review surprised me. Good work.
07:27 PM on 10/06/09
blink and you missed it
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TakeThs2UrGrave's Avatar
badass band....sux stanley died, but these guys kept it comin just like he would have wanted
06:53 AM on 10/07/09
bones jones
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bones jones's Avatar
that journey comparison holds no water at all, journey went double platinum with their newest album with pineda on vocals
02:50 PM on 10/07/09
Soft sound
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11:11's Avatar
I will be checking this out because your review has convinced me to.
06:13 PM on 10/07/09
Registered User
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No Avatar Selected
There is alot of old AIC in this new cd so most fans will have no problem picking it up and nodding right along with it. By far not there best work but not forgettable in the least more than worth a listen. The Crunchy churning guitar riffs are there just like they should be. The vocals in places are eerily similar to Layne but never in a outright copying way. Highlights for me were "All Secrets Known" and "Acid Bubble". with any luck they will putting music of this quality for years to come.
08:33 AM on 10/09/09
Registered User
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I like
03:39 PM on 10/09/09
Registered User
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Heppolo's Avatar
The album is actually...not bad. All of the moments are here on the record but the one thing worth mentioning is the promo videos...I consider them being done awfully.
10:31 PM on 10/16/09
dsd is too high
Regular Member
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dsd is too high's Avatar
i love it, it's definitely AIC

listening to the same nasty riff the whooole song just does me in

too dirty not to like

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