For a band that’s one of the cornerstones of the Seattle grunge sound, it’s pretty amazing to think that Alice In Chains released only three full-length albums in a little over five years. And it’s even more sad when realizing that although the band’s last album was released in 1995, that frontman Layne Staley didn’t overdose until seven years later, in 2002. All of this weighed on our minds while going to a New York listening session for the band’s forthcoming album, Black Gives Way To Blue. Due out on September 29, this is the band’s first album with new vocalist William DuVall, and their first on Virgin Records.
“I’ve been trying to sign a band that sounded like Alice In Chains for 14 years,” Virgin president Rob Stevenson told the crowd when introducing the album. Following his introduction, Jerry Cantrell and Mike Inez took the stage and spoke a bit about the album. Since phones/blackberries were checked at the door, we didn’t get a chance to write anything down, and no track listing was furnished, so we’re going to give you some random thoughts about the evening.
- Virgin knows how to throw an event!
- A label spending money on a listening party, no Blackberries or iPhones, and a new Alice In Chains album? Maybe this is the ’90s all over again.
- From first riff, it’s apparent that the band’s made a great record.
- The production, by NickRaskulinecz, sounds phenomenal.
- Wow, William DuVall sounds a lot like Layne Staley.
- Wow, William DuVall really sounds a lot like Layne Staley.
- The second song (and lead single, coming in August) “Check My Brain,” has one of the most awesome riffs the band’s ever written.
- It becomes apparent how heavy a role Jerry Cantrell plays in the band after dissecting the vocals. The signature harmonies – all Jerry.
- The album’s split between heavy, riffy, chugging songs (about 70%) and more acoustic “No Excuses”-like songs (about 30%).
- The album’s last track is the title track, an all-acoustic song about Layne Staley. A label rep called it “the heaviest song on the album,” and lyrically, he was dead on.
In short, the new record is a look back and a look forward at the same time. It’s not a cheap cash-in on Staley’s death. If it was, it would have come out years ago. Fans of the band from their ’90s output will view this as a worthy addition to the band’s canon. It might also bring some new fans on board.