New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 10/7

Alice In Chains brings back old sound
Jonathan Newman

“Hope, a new beginning. Time, time to start living, like just before we died.” The opening riff, and line of the first new Alice In Chains album in 14 years does just that. It gives us hope that this 90s grunge band can move on after the death of vocalist Layne Stayley. This album is very nostalgic, bringing me back to the days when grunge ruled the music scene. Yet this is not just a simple grunge album — it is so much more. It shows us that a band can evolve and still keep the sound that made them famous. It shows us that we can fall in love with a band all over again. The first song of Black Gives Way to Blue, is quite possibly one of the most moving songs on the album, explaining essentially that this album is not the band you knew back then, but is a whole new beast. This song shows us we can have trust in them, to know that even though they can’t go back to where they started from, the same feelings that helped make their earlier music is still there. Hearing Jerry Cantrell’s voice and guitar work, mixed along with new vocalist William Duvall, who seems to channel Stayley’s voice, is a very haunting experience. Yet we never really get to hear much of the new vocalist, since he is mixed down a lot in most of the songs on the album. Yet when we do get to hear him sing, like on the song “Last of My Kind,” we see that he is truly a powerful vocalist, whose emotion seeps into every word that he sings.

While most of the songs on the album are heavy and very reminiscent of the old grunge scene, one of the best songs on the album is the acoustic track, “Your Decision.” It is a very mellow and very beautiful piece of song writing. Its lyrics can only be a tribute to Layne, as we hear Jerry mournfully sing lines such as “to feel the pain that spurs you on.” While this song may be one of the best, the track that is getting the most airplay, “Check My Brain,” is one of the weakest songs on the album, as it seems to be made just for radio play. It just seems out of place, having a semi-upbeat song on a dark album like this.

Despite all my praise for this album, it does have some faults. Not all the songs are stellar, and not all the fans of its earlier work will like the new Alice in Chains. I really wanted to hear more of the new vocalist, but he was mixed down in a lot of the songs, so we primarily hear Cantrell’s voice. Overall, I still loved this album and can’t wait for the next one, where I’m sure they will grow even more.

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published in every Thursday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at and