Monday, October 5, 2009
Review: Black Gives Way to Blue
Certain members of this site were excited almost beyond words when Alice in Chains started releasing tracks from their new album, Black Gives Way to Blue; so much so that they pre-ranked it ahead their AIC's fellow grunge survivors, P Jam. And we all know that I thought very highly of Backspacer, so there are definitely some big shoes to fill.
On my first run through the album, I was greeted with some awesome news: Alice in Chains still sounds like Alice in Chains. Yeah, Layne is dead and everyone's sad, but Jerry Cantrell has been mapping out these brooding harmonies for 2 decades. William Duvall ably hits the big notes like Layne, but unlike Layne, he doesnt plague us with stinky writing (see: Angry Chair). Instead, everyone lets Jerry run the show, musically and lyrically. Hearing all these slow, methodical, pounding riffs are a welcome visit from an old friend.
On my 10th run through the album, I was hit with a lousy realization: Alice in Chains sounds like Alice in Chains, only more stale. These new songs almost all sound the same, and sound like generic versions of all the great songs in the past. I'm still a huge fan of Your Decision and When the Sun Rose Again, a moderate fan of Check My Brain, A Looking in View, and the title track. For everything else, I'm kinda indifferent. They aren't bad, aren't good, and aren't memorable.
The final verdict is that I'm thrilled to see them writing new music, but I'm waiting to see what their sound will evolve to. It's like visiting an old friend from high school. You sit around telling old stories from the glory days, stories that are fun to revisit, but not nearly as fun as experiencing them. But you still don't know about what's gone on with your friend since then, and that's kinda important. Alice in Chains is now over the rehashing part. They've publicly grieved for their friend, Layne, but now it's time to move on.