Out of all the possible ways for a band to reunite after being apart for several years, one could say that hiring a new lead singer isn’t exactly the right way to captivate the audiences, at least not when the old lead singer is a dearly departed legend.
When Layne Staley died from a drug overdose in 2002, it seemed most unlikely that Alice In Chains would ever play again. However, a few years ago, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, and Sean Kinney decided it was time to get back on the road, and to fill in Layne’s shoes, guitarist and chief songwriter Cantrell asked his friend William Duvall, lead singer of Comes With The Fall (who opened for Jerry Cantrell on his solo tour) to join the rest of the gang. Of course, the hardcore AIC fanbase immediately recoiled: as if it wasn’t enough that the band was playing without Layne, they were playing with this guy:
Getting someone who looks more like Lenny Kravitz than Layne Staley is just the right way to piss off your fans. However, once common sense settled in and people actually heard the band perform, doubts were lifted as to William’s capability to sing. Not only could he do a mean impression of Layne, his voice was arguably cleaner – especially if you compare him to Staley’s last performances with the band, when his drug habits were clearly harming his singing abilities.
Taking into consideration that Jerry Cantrell was always the main driving force behind Alice In Chains, having writing credits for almost every song since Dirt and handling his share of lead vocal roles, it was a bit hard to hate this “revival,” if you can even call it that.
So what’s missing to fully legitimize this incarnation of Alice In Chains? Why, new songs, of course. Rumors of a new album have been circulating for a couple years, with the band members alternately refuting each other’s claims – at one point, it was unknown whether a new album would be acoustic or electric, or if it was even being made to fit the Alice name.
Finally, we have some clarification: on September 29, 2009, Black Gives Way To Blue, Alice In Chains’ fourth album will finally be released. Earlier this week, the first song to be unveiled from the album, A Looking In View, was made available freely at their official website, and you can hear it here as well:
If this is any indication of what’s to come, one thing is certain: it fucking sounds like Alice In Chains. At 7 minutes long, this epic track is one of the band’s longest songs to date. Despite the track’s length, however, there are no huge solos or elaborate tempo changes to speak of: A Looking In View is heavy and menacing, making good use of Jerry’s immediately identifiable riffs and Kinney/Inez’s powerfully dynamic rythm section.
Interestingly, what stands out the most are the vocals, in which Duvall and Cantrell share the lead with surprisingly fluid chemistry. Those expecting Jerry to take over most of the vocals, safely burying the new singer under the mix, will be surprised. In fact, it’s pretty hard to tell which of the singers is louder in the mix. But that doesn’t matter: their voices blend perfectly, it sounds fucking great, and it sounds like Alice In Chains. Now, hopefully, people will stop worrying about whether this new lineup is honorable or not, and just pay attention to the music. It sounds like it’ll pay off in the end.