Alice In Chains

Black Gives Way To Blue

Written by: TL on 27/11/2009 19:11:36

While we often try feverishly to convince you readers that our writing is based in the outmost expertise, I bet you've often noticed places where it shines through that we are in fact a rather young publication, and that our knowledge is far from omnipotent. For me personally, this is usually clear when I touch on styles from the past decade, and in truth, I'd like to ask the other writers for a show of hands (or comments) - how many of you guys were in tune with the grunge wave during the 90's? I certainly wasn't, having not had my rock'n'roll virginity taken yet, but yet, it has fallen upon me to review Alice In Chains' comeback album "Black Gives Way To Blue", and while it is probably criminal to allow me so when I honestly haven't heard a single song by the band prior to the album, I think it's better than neglecting a review of it all together. Who knows, maybe fresh ears can hear something trained ones can't?

In any case, let me say right away, that if "Black Gives Way To Blue" is anything to judge the band on, then I have no problem understanding why they're such a big deal, because simply put, it is quite excellent. Not to get ahead of myself though, let me introduce the band to other potential newbies: Alice In Chains was (and is) one of the big four of the Seattle grunge rock scene, counting also Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, that rose to prominence in the nineties, hence there's no problem in comparing them especially to said bands, but there's also no problem in hearing that they are distinctly different. Rather than being anywhere nearly as raw and fucked up as Nirvana, Alice In Chains connect with classic heavy metal sounds to produce a soundscape that is darker, denser and dirtier than both them and Pearl Jam. The stoned, attitude-filled and borderline apathetic character of new singer William DuVall's vocals is as grunge as you can imagine, but the corrosive, grinding grooves are, simply put, just heavier and much less friendly than any of the popular songs by the other three grunge legends.

That's why it shows you exactly how much skill and experience AIC wield, because in spite of their patient, droning, heavy-weight expression, their songs are still as easy to get into as the watered down post-grunge the American radio peddles these days - only being so without sacrificing even a spoonful of integrity. Thus you can quickly learn to sing along to no-nonsense rockers like "Check My Brain", "Your Decision" and opener "All Secrets Known", cranking your air-guitar to the solos and mini-leads spread in between main riffs, while still enjoying credible feelings of grunge both past and present flowing over you, accompanied by hints of classic rock and metal, all played with convincing and mature emotion. And even if you're not in the mood for nostalgia, there could be something for you here anyway, as "Last Of My Kind" (what? they think grunge is dying too?) brings to mind Taproot, while "A Looking In View" opens and leads with a mean ass riff that I wouldn't have put it past Deftones, or maybe even Helmet, to write.

In fact, the only thing I'd even dream to complain of is that by the time you close in on the eleventh track, after all have clocked in between four and seven minutes, I personally do start to get a bit weary, due to bearing the constant weight of the soundscape - But hey, boys and girls, that's only value for money, and I would be a right bastard if I actually did complain about it. In truth, those last songs on the disc are every bit as good and textured as the early ones, they would just probably tease your appetite better if you didn't already feel more than saturated by the heavy first courses. Anyway, all in all, this album is endlessly confident, and in no hurry to convince anyone that Alice In Chains are back, rather sounding like an authoritative claim that this fact cannot even be questioned. It is as solid and potent a record as you'd expect from a name as big as this, and a promise it's nice to hear fulfilled, and if I was deceased frontman Layne Staley, listening to it in the afterlife, I'd be mighty satisfied that my brothers in arms are carrying on, staying true and staying good in a music scene that most people would suggest had long since left them in the dust.

8

Download: Check My Brain, Your Decision, All Secrets Known
For The Fans Of: Nirvana, Taproot, Pearl Jam
Listen: myspace.com/aliceinchains

Release Date 28.09.2009
Virgin/EMI

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