Review Summary: Alice in Chains live on, and they're better than ever.
Jerry Cantrell was always the mastermind behind Alice in Chains' incomparable sound but Layne Staley was also the core element in this chemistry. His unfortunate passing was a blow to everyone. Inevitably, the band took a few years off after the incident, but decided to return with a slightly different line-up. Bringing in a rather unknown vocalist to replace the demised legend was a ballsy move. The ridiculously unbelievable part is that it paid off.
William DuVall's input is flawless. His work on backing vocals, harmonizing and even songwriting are genuinely superb. Last of My Kind
literally burns the house down and shows that DuVall is here to make a highly convincing point. His deep baritone voice rekindles the flame and passion of AIC's past work, as he howls through the palm-muted insane riffage in the chorus. His harmonic support role in Your Decision
and pretty much every song is admirable.
Relying on a meaty doom sound,Acid Bubble
and A Looking in View
are stylistic progressive grunge. The latter's sound, textures and dynamics are so rich and dark it borrows from the deepest roots of doom metal. Cantrell summons his heaviest riff yet while the drums are crushing and crushing until your skull rips open. It’s a sonically demanding nightmare and one of the best songs AIC have ever written.
While tracks like Check My Brain
and Lesson Learned
feature some galloping time signatures, the overall structure and composition of When the Sun Rose Again
resemble a ‘Jar of Flies’ approach. The stripped sound is immaculate with dark acoustics, a single paradiddle and a harmonic solo giving you plenty of room to breathe after the exhausting heavy moments.
Whether it’s the uptempo, sludgy or stripped sounds, the album has a dark and depressing vibe from beginning to end. Lyrically, it revolves around Staley’s final moments. A Looking in View
and Private Hell
zoom in on the notion of isolation, while Your Decision
criticizes someone running from their problems/fears instead of facing them (Overwhelmed you chose to run / Apathetic to the stunned).
Black Gives Way to Blue
feels like a logical continuation from the Tripod record and also like the beginning of a new era. It’s a fantastic tribute to Layne Staley and a respectable symbol dedicated to his memory. Musically, it stands close to the epic 'Dirt', and at the same time drifting the band into a new direction. With Jerry Cantrell and William DuVall around, the unmistakable signature sound of Alice in Chains lives on and it feels like it’s better than ever.