It's hard not to feel for Alice in Chains -- all the guys in the band were lifers, all except lead singer Layne Staley, who never managed to exorcise his demons, succumbing to drug addiction in 2002. Alice in Chains stopped being a going concern long before that, all due to Staley's addictions, and it took guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney a long time to decide to regroup, finally hiring William DuVall as Staley's replacement and delivering Black Gives Way to Blue a full 14 years after the band's last album. To everybody's credit, Black Gives Way to Blue sounds like it could have been delivered a year after Alice in Chains: it's unconcerned with fashion; it's true to their dark, churning gloom rock; and if you're not paying attention too closely, it's easy to mistake DuVall for his predecessor. There's a difference between desperately attempting to recapture past glories and reconnecting with their roots, and Alice in Chains fall into the latter category. While they'll never be mistaken for a feel-good band, there is a palpable sense of relief that they get to play together again as a band, and what's remarkable is that they still sound like themselves, capturing that weird murk halfway between '80s metal and '90s northwestern sludge, reminding us that we were missing something in their absence.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine