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Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue

2009. It’s their first new release in almost 14 years, and it’s also William Duval’s inaugural effort on vocal duties. They were also on a new label for the first time.

Everything you need to know about why this appeared when it did is, I’d wager, in the opening lines of the first track:

“Hope, a new beginning
Time, time to start living
Just like just before we died
There’s no going back to the place we started from.”

Duval is not Staley and that’s OK, he doesn’t have to be. This still sounds a helluva lot like AiC, largely do to Cantrell’s vocals and the band’s so-familiar sludgy metal grind. I’d say it was exactly the record they needed to make – the songs are strong, very satisfying. They bend and twist like I expected, and they crunch and rock like hell too.  There are some genuinely heavy moments too, I loved that. A lot of it carries a certain feel, one they cling to perhaps to create an overall feel for the record or perhaps also a little bit of apprehension of going too far one way or the other so they stuck it out in the middle where it was known to be good…

But they mix up the acoustic and electric nicely, and having Elton John play piano on the final (title) track is a lovely left field touch.

In Sum:

This is an excellent album. It’s no Dirt, but I don’t even think comparisons to older records are fair. This is a new band, with a new outlook and (after a long time waiting for it) some real hope of keeping the flame alive. Good on ‘em, this one’s really, really satisfying.

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Alice In Chains – Unplugged

I bought this CD in Toronto on this year’s (3rd) Annual Mike And Aaron Go To Toronto excursion! It’s awesome!

Do I really need to tell you anything about this? Surely you own it, and you love it like a Brother. In a Nutshell, if you don’t own this you’re Down In A Hole in an Angry Chair, and you need to come out of there, get down to the Rooster & Frog’s Sludge Factory and buy this. You have No Excuses, so get moving.

Hm? What’s that? You Got Me Wrong? I’m a pushy bastard harshing your mellow? The Killer Is Me? Well sorry, but the puns are Over Now, so just get with it and put Heaven Beside You by buying this fucking amazing CD. Will you promise me you’ll go? You Would?

Alice In Chains – Jar Of Flies

In 1992, following the tour for Facelift, AiC recorded an EP called Sap. Keeping to the pattern, following the tour for Dirt, AiC recorded this EP and it sounds fantastic. It’s more acoustic yet still has lots of great electric guitar on it. And the bass sound! Oh man. This whole thing has a helluva groove. If you want proof of a band at the peak of its powers, this period was just incredible.

Jar Of Flies also sold like hotcakes (it was the first EP in music history to debut at #1 on Billboard 200, and was AiC’s biggest selling release), which is  all very remarkable for an effort not even intended for release. According to Wiki, the band had come home from tour to find themselves evicted, so they went into the studio to play a bit, just to see what would happen. The label heard it, loved it and away it went.

Also remarkable is that 3 of these 7 songs saw release as singles. From an EP! Yes, that’s how good this release is. You’ll surely remember No Excuses, I Stay Away, and Don’t Follow. Well the other tracks here, Rotten Apple, Nutshell, Whale & Wasp, and Swing On This, were all equally deserving.

If you don’t own this, I can’t recommend it enough that you go get it (and Dirt).

Alice In Chains – Dirt

I remember the first time I got this album. We were at the mall, and my Dad had asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year (1992), and I said this CD. His eyes glazed over, and I could see his mind working through the option of going into a record store (an alien land, for him) and trying to search out this album. Instead, he reached into his pocket, pulled out $20 and said “here, go get it yourself!” When I came back with it, he held it at arm’s length like it was going to bite him, handed it back and said “Good thing you did that, I’d still be in there…”

I loved this album, right from first spin. I hadn’t owned Facelift before it, though I’d heard the songs from it at a buddy’s place. So this was the first AiC in my own collection. Of course, years later, I ditched the album for money to cover a cross-country move, but I replaced it when I was able, because I definitely missed it.

What a brilliant record. You probably know all about it already, so I won’t need to belabour each song. And you’ll know that sound, so unlike anything else that was going on… sure, it was bluesy metal like grunge, but there was something in the way they approached their sound, with Staley’s vocals over top, that made them stand out from their peers.

Sadly, several members of the band were wrestling drug addiction at the time of recording, not to mention suffering depression and other things as well. The whole thing added up to a sludgy album that could only have happened in that time, under those circumstances, and by those players.

Interestingly, the 0:44 track, labelled by my iTunes as Intro (Dream Sequence) is, according to Wiki, a riff Cantrell used to play to annoy his band mates, so he threw that, a nod to Sabbath’s Iron Man and then Tom Araya’s vocals to Layne’s and called it Iron Gland. I definitely prefer his title.

Here’s all you need to know:

Them Bones / Dam That River / Rain When I Die / Down In A Hole / Sickman / Rooster / Junkhead / Dirt / Godsmack / Iron Gland / Hate To Feel / Angry Chair / Would?

This is a classic record. So good!

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