Black Gives Way To Blue review by Alice in Chains

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  • Released: Sep 29, 2009
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (174 votes)
Alice in Chains: Black Gives Way To Blue
3

Sound — 10
To hear this new Alice in Chains record at a time when local alt./rock stations are flooded with integrity-lacking corporate rock acts like Nickleback and Three Days Grace, is very refreshing. You shouldn't expect Jerry, Mike, and Sean to have gone back to 1996 in their heads and written an album of themselves pretending to be young and in the nineties again, trying to recycle every shred of the old AIC formula to make a marketable easy-money product. They certainly didn't. If the Tripod album marked the direction of AIC's sound in 1995, and the tracks "Get Born Again" and "Died" represented where their songwriting heads where in 1998, I think it's fairly safe to say that Black Gives Way to Blue sounds like where Alice in Chains would have progressed to by 2009 had they never disbanded in the first place. Have no fear though, still sounds like an Alice in Chains record every minute of the way. It starts off on a much slower tempo than Facelift, Tripod, or Dirt, all of which began with the thunderous sound of We Die Young, Grind, or Them Bones. 01. Instead BGWTB starts off on All Secrets Known, with a slow almost prog-rock sounding riff that builds up and starts the first Jerry Cantrell led vocal line singing ""Hope, a new beginning. Time, time to start living life just before we die". It is a very epic and different sounding start for an AIC album...but sounds strangely every bit like an AIC song. 02. The next track is the single Check My Brain which really stands as proof that AIC can still write a good catchy radio friendly song without musical or integrity compromise. It also demonstrates just how well new vocalist William Duvall has control over a very high vocal range and blend harmonies just right with Jerry Cantrell. 03. The album gets a little dirtier and angry with "Last of my Kind". This song has some serious Dirt-esque aesthetic with the trippy distorted atmosphere and harsh standalone vocals from Will...possibly one of my favorite vocal performances from Will on the entire album. 04. The next song is "Your Decision" which is a sweet modern take of some good ole' AIC acoustic sound. This song is a little less ominous and sounds more hopeful than AIC albums past have sounded. 05. Next on the list is A Looking in View, a long song that really brings the heavy and sets a dark sludgy atmosphere only to lead us into another acoustic track. 06. When the Sun Rose Again has Jerry Cantrell and Will harmonizing an incredibly brooding classic Alice in Chains acoustic number with a powerful solo in the middle that almost reminds me of something that could have been on a take for "Whale and Wasp". 7.) Next up is the sludgiest track on the entire album "Acid Bubble". The song harkens all the way back to AIC's Facelift style and shows that William Duvall certainly has the ability to to tap into the incredibly emotional and technically proficient segments of Layne's 1991-93era vocal range. Lines like "I am the child that lies and cries in the corner" can really be felt soulfully through the depressing harmonies of Jerry and Will. This is another spot on the CD that Will really shines, 08. Lesson Learned is a very typical Cantrell sounding rock song. It's not one of the strongest songs on the CD, but a good song and fun listen regardless. 09. Take Her Out sounds has a different sound or Alice in Chains. It's almost more reminiscent of an upbeat track off of a Jerry Cantrell solo album, but done with all the class and standards of an AIC track. 10. Private Hell is up next and is one of my favorite Alice in Chains tracks ever. It sounds dense, slow, saddening, dark, and brooding and the vocal harmonies/guitar solos sound straight off of Jar of Flies. 11. The final song on the album, Black Gives Way to Blue, is "a beautiful song for a beautiful man" as Jerry Cantrell himself puts it. Written about none other than Layne Staley, it is a masterful heart-stirring tribute to a man who deserves nothing less. The way the final line "I remember you" fades out to end the CD is sure to send a slideshow of Layne Staley pictures/videos running through your brain in true tearjerking fashion...a high class AIC track with some awesome piano played by Sir Elton John.

Lyrics — 9
AIC lyrics have a tendency to look like nothing special on paper, but when heard in the context of the song take on a strong a powerful message unlike any other. This CD is no exception. The topics of the lyrics have definitely taken on a different tone. The lyrics don't sound as hopeless and sad as they once did, but they certainly sound every bit as meaningful and honest to the person who wrote them. The purity in what AIC is doing is every bit in tact, and sure to leave a large impression on the listener.

Overall Impression — 10
I agree whole-heartedly in Alice in Chains decision to carry on and release this album. Will not only has the vocal range to fill in all the right spots of the vocal spectrum for AIC, but he also has his own unique voice and personality that allows him to not sound like a cheap Layne Staley rip off. The songwriting hasn't skipped a beat in the AIC camp...nothing but quality through and through on this CD. Private Hell, Acid Bubble, and Black Gives Way to Blue alone certify that this album is totally worthwhile for me. It might not be the greatest AIC album ever to be recorded, but it is certainly up there with any of their previous work, and it certainly feels really good to have these guys back.

61 comments sorted by best / new / date

    grind
    Apejack Cuba wrote: areese82 wrote: Sorry, its not AIC...sounds like Cantrell's Degradation Trip And who wrote most of AiC's songs, again?
    True, but I liked the really dark ****ed up stuff that Layne brought to the table. There was definitely a distinct difference between their two styles.
    JD Blue Venom
    i liked this album, sounds more like the dirt sound than facelift which is good i guess either way would have been cool, the riffs still melted my brain like the old stuff does so im satisfied i dont really go with the ''not the same without(insert original member)'' band wagon
    Apejack Cuba
    areese82 wrote: Sorry, its not AIC...sounds like Cantrell's Degradation Trip
    And who wrote most of AiC's songs, again?
    uberphreak
    jj48thechamp wrote: fellas (and lady fellas).. i don't no.. no staley.. at first i was considering shunning this record all together.. pretendin it didn't exist.. like it wasn't true.. just a bd dream.. but with the way you all are talkin i guess i'll have to buy it and see shat its up to.. but more importantly.. KISS!!! NEW ALBUM!!! OCT. 6 KISS ARMY!!! YEA BOI!!!
    KISS? More importantly? Surely you can't be serious. gtfo But yeah, new AiC is pretty goddamned awesome.
    PANTERAFAN^666^
    I got black gives way to blue, today and i got to say it was alot better than I thought, thank you AIC for coming back, and i hope to hear more from you guys. GRUNGE STILL STRONG!
    adipokerface
    mdclay wrote: Album cover fail = http://i15.ebayimg.com/02/c/06/d4/36/ab_... The whole heart thing was done by a band called "Kutless" years ago. Their CD is called "Hearts of the Innocent".
    its nothing like it! sure its a drawing of a heart but Kutless dont have the rights to accurate drawings of the heart!
    mdclay
    ts pretty clear that the album cover isn't a copy of 'Kutless'.
    No doubt. I'm sure the AiC guys have never even heard of Kutless. It's just kind of lame that I have two CDs that look very similar.
    cal1
    I think Jerry Cantrell did a great job here with easing in DuVall's vocals (which are great by the way). I'm pretty impressed with this album and new lineup.
    Masamune
    i will definitely be giving this a listen. AIC is one of my favorite bands, I hope I enjoy it.
    Deviant92
    Jugulator_cro wrote: Damn I still have to wait til they get it in my godforsaken country.
    +1
    kyngofhearts
    mdclay wrote: Album cover fail = http://i15.ebayimg.com/02/c/06/d4/36/ab_... The whole heart thing was done by a band called "Kutless" years ago. Their CD is called "Hearts of the Innocent".
    it's a human heart. being as we're all humans here (supposedly), i would think that such a key image could be used over and over. and if not, i have no doubt in my mind that another band did it before Kutless. IT'S A DAMN HUMAN HEART
    DavidsonTFP
    great album, has ****in' awesome tracks. if Layne sung on these tracks, I'm sure it could have become one of Alice's best record. either way, it's great.
    RUSTDOGG666
    It's amazing how well the vocalist came close to Layne but nothing will ever replace him. RIP Layne.
    Riffrocker83
    AIC is easily in my top 3 or 4 favorite bands of all time; and I gotta say, I'm pretty disappointed. To me, it sounds like a Jerry Cantrell solo album. I understand that Jerry has always been the chief songwriting force in AIC, but still, does he have to dominate 95% of the vocal mix on the record? Why even bother bringing William Duvall in as a singer if he's barely featured on the record? Most of the songs were bland. After 14 years, I expected a much bigger bang. However, I do LOVE Acid Bubble, A Looking In View, and Last Of My Kind. Your Decision is okay too. The rest of the album I could do without. All that said... still looking forward to seeing them live again and glad to see they're back together.
    StilletoBoy
    Best comeback album I have heard in years, it's a ****ing kick ass album, many good bands are getting back, we got Alice in Chains, Megadeth, Motley Crue did a kick ass disc on ma opinion but, FUCKING DAMN Alice in Chains is my favorite band, Layne's lives deep in my soul, I feel his pain in his songs, this man was great, he most be thinking , why did it took ya so long you ****ers, I loved this album, waiting for more..CHEERS Enrique
    Ciaphas
    Amazing album, Jerry Cantrell is a fantastic song writer/guitarist and this album definitely did not disappoint. However, even though DuVall did a great job, to me its just not Alice In Chains without Layne.
    AlisonHell56
    The AIC album kicks some serious ass, and gives a big **** you to all the haters that said new vocalist William DuVall could not pull off what Layne Staley did back in Alice in Chains' heyday. The CD is a powerhouse filled with great techniques and the signature sludge of Jerry Cantrell, along with acoustic epics, in particular "Black Gives Way to Blue", the title track featuring Elton John on piano, which is also Cantrell's tribute to the late Layne Staley. Tracks like "All Secrets Known","When the Sun Rose Again", and "Check My Brain" go back to the traditional AIC sound. The new disc has some "diamonds in the rough" as far as songs go however. The track "Last of My Kind" is a full throttle assault featuring DuVall's shining moment as he sings alone...its safe to say that Layne would be proud of his vocals on this song. Another standout is the epic "Acid Bubble" containing the signature AIC vocal melodies and melodic verses, but then it is taken into another direction as Cantrell's guitar just rips through and the refrain is sung. It is no doubt that Alice in Chains is back with a vengeance. Cantrell and the original members have not lost their flavor, and as for DuVall, the world is going to have to be ready for the new lead vocalist to take charge as he fills Staley's shoes...overall, a masterpeice and a muste-hear for all devout AIC fans!
    Ducky-Kun
    This album blew me away, really fantastic album. I'm a huge megadeth fan and I loved Endgame, but I have to say that for me BGWTB was the best album to come out recently.
    SuicidalFreak
    "Check My Brain" is the best Alice in Chains song in years. I'm gonna check out this album the next time I go shopping.
    mlukeroberts222
    AIC is one my three favorite bands of all-time and they did not disappoint with BGWTB. Let's face it---there will never be another Layne Staley, but AIC lives on through Jerry and Layne would be very proud of this collection of tunes. To me this is the best cd of the year and a testament to AIC's greatness. By the way, 'Last of My Kind' is mesmerizing and an instant classic!!!
    outlawtorn003
    mdclay wrote: Album cover fail = http://i15.ebayimg.com/02/c/06/d4/36/ab_... The whole heart thing was done by a band called "Kutless" years ago. Their CD is called "Hearts of the Innocent".
    Who cares? I don't by CDs because of the cover art. I buy them for the music. Back on topic, just bought the CD and so far from what I've listened to its pretty solid. Not their best material but a good return.
    Andragon
    UG Team has lost it; he sounds nothing like Layne. Some melodies sound similar, because Jerry comes up with most of em, but his style is distinct. The album grows on me listen after listen.
    SGofawesome
    Andragon wrote: UG Team has lost it; he sounds nothing like Layne. Some melodies sound similar, because Jerry comes up with most of em, but his style is distinct. The album grows on me listen after listen.
    WHAT!?!? Obviously your ears are up your crack.
    Wolf Dog Moon
    I have heard two tracks off the album, and like both. Welcome back AIC, despite the loss of Staley, who was the MAN, but, they sound great with the new singer.
    thedefrockednun
    The most important and suprising thing is that they managed to keep the AIC sound with a vocalist who manages to sing in the smae league as the late Layne Staley. I recommend this album
    SGofawesome
    Stone Agean wrote: Its pretty clear that the album cover isn't a copy of 'Kutless'. There would be countless bands with hearts on the cover. Aic's one actually reflects the album name and theme, also.
    Except for the fact that Kutless blows ass.
    SGofawesome
    SuicidalFreak wrote: "Check My Brain" is the best Alice in Chains song in years. I'm gonna check out this album the next time I go shopping.
    Probably because "Check My Brain" is the only song AIC has written in years...
    perilouspete
    Ducky-Kun wrote: This album blew me away, really fantastic album. I'm a huge megadeth fan and I loved Endgame, but I have to say that for me BGWTB was the best album to come out recently.
    Endgame is really good to, but I would also take BGWTB. Very strong efforts by both bands, what a great couple weeks in rock.
    Kelicon
    Dakkstar wrote: I had a hard time getting into this album. Not because of the new guy, but because it didn't sound like the AIC I liked, I own Facelift, Jar of Flies and the best of, and the new stuff is to sludgey and doesn't have the hooky guitar lines. I dunno... might just be me. I'l have to give it a few more listens, but I don't see it as anything special. Very forgettable.
    Thats the issue, pick up their self titled or Dirt. This is DEFINITELY AiC! I'm so happy this album wasn't a fail. AiC was one of my favorites, thrilled to have them back.
    aocrkid
    could have been better. the music was great, the title track is amazing. just horribly produced is all.
    Right-Wing Dick
    For me, this album sounds as if Jerry and Co. made a conscientious effort to keep William subdued as a lead singer, and focused more on the AIC "sound" of harmony vocals to help the transition for those of us who are loyal AIC fans. I personally think that was a mistake. Other people have commented about this as well, but what really comes to light for me from this record is what is missing, and that is the power and talent of Layne Staley. Before hearing BGWTB, I really didn't think that Layne being gone would have been such an issue, especially with the effort Jerry put in on the "Tripod" record from both a songwriting and singing standpoint. After listening to the new record, its painfully obvious that Laynes absence is significant, but again, that may be because William wasn't really given a chance to make a substantial contribution. I hope that on the next record William is allowed to step up and define his role as the new singer for AIC.
    Dakkstar
    I had a hard time getting into this album. Not because of the new guy, but because it didn't sound like the AIC I liked, I own Facelift, Jar of Flies and the best of, and the new stuff is to sludgey and doesn't have the hooky guitar lines. I dunno... might just be me. I'l have to give it a few more listens, but I don't see it as anything special. Very forgettable.
    GoToSleep
    Is it just me or am I the only one not impressed by Duvall's contributions? He's a very capable vocalist, but to me he's not lead on here, Jerry is. And my biggest complaint is how his parts sound so muddled, like he's singing through a megaphone with a lot of effects. I don't know I guess I don't like the production, but it was just okay for me. The production isn't great but everything sounds good except for WD.
    perilouspete
    Dakkstar wrote: I had a hard time getting into this album. Not because of the new guy, but because it didn't sound like the AIC I liked, I own Facelift, Jar of Flies and the best of, and the new stuff is to sludgey and doesn't have the hooky guitar lines. I dunno... might just be me. I'l have to give it a few more listens, but I don't see it as anything special. Very forgettable.
    I felt the same way when I gave it my first listen. Now I think it is absolutely amazing and some of their best work. My favorites are Your Decision, Private Hell, Last of My Kind, and Take Her Out
    morellostheman
    i really like it so far and i was a little worried because layne staley is my favorite singer but the new album is good and it brings aic back into the spotlight and it is also a tribute in my opinion because now people are talking more about layne than they have in years which is always a good thing
    Co&Ca11
    I am surprised by how good this album actually is, most bands who have been gone for over a decade come back with a really crappy album in an attempt to make money. This album is actually very good, Will sounds about as close to Layne as anyone could get.
    Shinsen88
    I've been a bit skeptical of how they would be without Layne, but all the reviews I've read/heard have been positive. I'll need to check this one out...
    TheEchomaker
    Got the album today and it is great. Yeah there is no Layne but since jerry is still singing it doesnt stop them from sounding like AIC.
    kurtshapedbox
    Man, I just reread my review and I must say the amount of amount of grammatical errors I made is embarrassing. Sorry guys. I was hoping this one would make up for my 3 other pitiful contributions to this site done when I was a little younger and a lot more stupid....however I think I failed at this task though improvement is evident. Great CD though!