Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue (2009)
Mudhoney this band never was (although “duh”). Black Gives Way To Blue is almost like older Alice in Chains, at least by the standards of a Dirt or a self-titled album. To my understanding, Jerry Cantrell has been the main songwriter for this band to the point that his own solo albums are honorary additions to their canon. Furthermore, the replacement vocalist the band sought out after the death of Layne Staley (William DuVall, formerly of Comes With The Fall) even seems to take after Cantrell in his own vocal stylings. There’s a million conspiracy theories waiting to be unleashed in that turn of events, but each one is more outlandish than the last.
The music on this album, on the other hand, is fairly down to earth. Alice in Chains has always been a fairly basic heavy rock/metal band, but 14 years between albums haven’t gone completely unnoticed by the bandmembers. Black Gives Way To Blue feels more streamlined and modern than the band’s earlier work, although in a way subtle enough that it took me quite a while to notice it. It doesn’t prevent them from writing a couple of extended songs, but nothing compares to the depressive nature of something like “Frogs” off the self-titled. My guess is that the songwriting here is less directly connected to the band’s influences in some fashion, although without the 1970s and maybe the odd Celtic Frost album, you wouldn’t have Alice in Chains in the first place. Now, given the wide variety of substyles represented by the Seattle grunge scene, that may not be an entirely useful statement, especially since many of the prominent musicians collaborated and shared ideas. It’s still historically interesting that
To be honest, this album isn’t too well suited to the review format here at Invisible Blog. Maybe someone who listens to more modern rock and grunge flavored stuff might be able to get more discussion out of it. I do know Black Gives Way To Blue received quite a bit of praise at release, and for what it’s worth, it is a successful continuation of at least some of the band’s previous formulas. In fact, it succeeds for boring reasons – improved instrumental proficiency, better studio resources, and so forth. It also doesn’t seem to have any blatantly pointless or just plain bad songs like some of the band’s earlier discography, so there’s that in its favor. Sometimes, consistency is a good thing.
Highlights: “Check My Brain”, “Last of My Kind”, “Lesson Learned”