The grunge movement of the ‘90s was absolutely huge for the music industry. Seattle-based act Alice in Chains was definitely in the middle of the commercial and critical tidal wave, alongside other elite bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden. But that was then and this is now. Things have changed, not only in the music industry, but also in Alice and Chains themselves.
Following the death of original Alice In Chains vocalist, Layne Staley, in 2002, the band went on hiatus for several years, before returning to tour with new vocalist William Duvall in 2005. “Black Gives Way To Blue” marks the re-formed rockers’ first release with Duvall as their vocalist. I’ve always been a strong believer that a band becomes a completely different band once a vocalist is replaced, but that just isn’t the case here.
Despite Staley’s absence, Alice in Chains’ sound hasn’t changed much. The dark vocals and the sludgy guitars scream early Alice-work, and make it seem as if the band hadn’t missed a step. Indeed, except for one track — the piano-led “Check My Brain,” which pays tribute to Staley and features Elton John(!) — nothing here will be new to listeners who long ago moved on from the grunge/alt-metal genre.
It’s good to see Alice in Chains making music again, but this album is just the same Alice In Chains of the past, with a new singer. There’s nothing memorable here for the contemporary listener, but I’m sure the band has made a lot of old fans extremely happy with the new material.
2.5 stars out of 5