With the new record from Seattle’s finest, new singer William DuVall has released the same amount of records – three – as original singer Layne Staley did with the band. DuVall has also been in the band for 13 years while Staley was there for 15 so isn’t it time to lay down the “new singer” bull? I know that Staley was there and helped the band to build the band’s sound and outlook and of course the guy’s still very popular among their fans – he should be – but there have been too much crap about Alice In Chains not being the real thing without Layne which I think is both unfair and untrue. After two amazing albums in Black Gives Way To Blue (2009) and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013), I think DuVall has proven himself to both band, critics and fans – the guy fits in perfectly and even though Alice In Chains are a new band today, they’re still not. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Even when Grunge came around and got big, when I thought Grunge was as much fun as setting your rectum on fire, I still dug some of Alice In Chains’ stuff. But I was never a fan. Never. The reunion and Black Gives Way To Blue changed all that. From digging a few songs here and there, I now love them. Well, while I love that album and its follow-up – I’m still not that convinced about their 90’s stuff. That’s why I look at DuVall with different eyes than maybe the hardcore fan does, but is there really any Alice In Chains-fan out there who is actually disappointed by their latest efforts? I really can’t see how that’s possible. Well, to me, Alice In Chains has never been better and their two latest efforts are albums I constantly listen to – and never seems to get tired of. That, of course, brings on some almost ridiculously high expectations when the band now release their third album for the second time.
So, with a pounding heart I let the opening track and leading single “The One You Know” take a shot at me. Heavy, dark, fat, bouncy and rhythmic, the tune makes it impossible not to hear who’s playing here. It’s a bit monotone in the verses but since the melody catches on right off the bat, that turns out to be a good thing. The double lead vocals comes with a drawl and the tune builds a tense atmosphere. However, the refrain is very memorable much to the brilliance of the big harmonies. A total winner which bodes very well for the rest of the album. The title track follows with a more upbeat pace and the tune is faster and more in-your-face – very heavy, kicking and punchy. At times, the tune even brings on a positive vibe but a softer and darker middle-break brings on a change of dynamics. There’s also some punky riffing going on here and there but the big melody arrangements brings on a great deal of catchiness here – brilliant!
“Red Giant” slows things down again into a more mid-pace and the melancholy sets in once again. Heavy and dark, the tune brings on a very classic Alice In Chains vibe but even though it’s tough, ballsy and heavy on distortion, the tune is, as always, very melody-laden which brings on lots of contrasts and the tune is a winner much because of that. “Fly” is in a slower pace and walks towards ballad territory. The song holds a great deal of acoustic guitars as a base and the whole thing comes with a late 60’s influence. Still, the dark and almost saddening outlook makes the tune everything but a power ballad. It reminds me some of the older Jar Of Flies stuff but with an ongoing catchiness in ever melody. Super! “Drone” shows off their Black Sabbath influences – slow, heavy and riff-happy. This clearly is a Metal tune, thick and fierce but also very catchy in all its uncatchiness. It also contains a softer middle section but that doesn’t mean it’s light in any way. It’s also worth mentioning that ex- Queensrÿche guitarist Chris DeGarmo guests on acoustic guitar here. Another killer!
“Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes” is again a heavy tune in a slower pace but with a bad-ass groove. The big, somber atmosphere of the tune is brought up to an almost positive vibe with some brilliantly memorable melodies and a refrain that hits so hard it hurts. This is amazingly awesome stuff, folks. “Maybe” starts out with some a’capella vocal harmonies that AIC were always so good at. It is more upbeat and based on acoustic guitars, the track brings on a Pop vibe which almost makes the tune feel uplifting. The tune really takes on a summer feel albeit maybe a rainy one. The song is melodic heaven and the refrain is so amazingly hooky and it sticks after one listen – fantastic! On the opposite side, “So Far Under” is almost depressive with its heavy and slithering rhythm. The tune, written solely by DuVall who also brings on a raunchy guitar solo, is hard, in-your-face and a bit spooky sounding. However, this is my least favorite song on the album. It’s still a good song, though.
“Never Fade” is punchy, groove-laden and goes in a more straight-forward Hard Rock direction. The tune holds a driving rhythm and a catchy main melody that makes me think that this tune would probably go down well on Rock radio. Not that it’s a modern Metal song in that sense but it sure holds a refrain that could cross over to fans that might not be all that into Alice In Chains normally. It still sounds like AIC all the way, though and it’s a splendid track. Closing song “All I Am” is dark and melancholic in a slower pace with a trippy vibe – and the tune really do belong in ballad-land. It’s a heartfelt, vulnerable and saddening piece with a Beatles-esque touch. The track keeps some amazing harmonies and the tune’s seven minutes feels much shorter. An emotional – and brave – way to close the album.
So did the album live up its expectations then? You’re damn right it did. The sound is Alice In Chains all the way, of course, which impossible to miss even after one spin. Style wise, my opinion is that they have looked back more to their 90’s hey-day this time and even though I prefer AIC after the reunion way over their 90’s I have no problem with this one bit. Because just like its predecessors, this is a monster of an album and it sure looks like these guys just can’t go wrong with anything they do nowadays. And just like on its predecessors, Nick Raskulinecz is at hand for production duties together with the band and as always, he does a fantastic job – he sure seems like the go-to-guy if you want your record to sound amazing. So with the third brilliant album in a row I can now say without a doubt one thing I never thought I would say – I fucking love Alice In Chains!
More Alice In Chains reviews:
1. The One You Know
2. Rainier Fog
3. Red Giant
6. Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes
8. So Far Under
9. Never Fade
10. All I Am