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Darius Discusses Alice In Chains, 2009 Edition

17 June 2009 17 Comments

By: Darius

Alice In Chains, 2009 Edition

Alice In Chains, 2009 Edition

Alice in Chains are set to release their first studio album in over 10 years this September through Virgin Records. The album is titled Black Gives Way to Blue and will be their first body of work without original frontman Layne Staley, who passed away in 2002 from a drug overdose.

Someone Doesn't Match

Someone Doesn't Match

Alice in Chains has long been one of my favorite bands; they practically provided the soundtrack to my high school years. Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Inez wrote some of sickest grooves ever; the music straddled the border between hard rock and heavy metal and highlighted the group as the darkest band to break during the height of the 90’s Seattle rock explosion.

Layne Staley - Rest In Peace

Layne Staley - Rest In Peace

However, what really made Alice In Chains’ music so powerful were the vocals provided by Layne Staley. Staley was one of a kind and has had a remarkable impact on a multitude of current rock singers. We’re never going to have anyone like him again. Staley is my favorite singer ever, I just can’t think of anyone else that sounded that damn cool. The fact that Jerry Cantrell could also sing well was a bonus because they wrote some pretty terrific harmonies that defined such classic songs as “Brother”, “No Excuses”, and “Got Me Wrong”.

Layne’s legendary drug addiction cost him his life and left a void for all of us fans who never got to see Alice In Chains live. So when it was announced that AIC was regrouping with a new singer, William DuVall from Atlanta-based rock outfit Comes With The Fall, many people were ecstatic. I was not one of them. It just never felt right that Cantrell, Kinney, and Inez could call themselves Alice in Chains without Layne. When the band performed two shows at Nokia Theatre in November of 2006 while I was living in New York, I did not attend. Call me crazy, but I just didn’t feel right about it. William DuVall is not Layne Staley, therefore this group of musicians is not Alice in Chains. I felt like I might as well go see an AIC cover band play in the Village for $5.

That’s how strongly I feel about Alice in Chains and Layne Staley. I’m actually familiar with William DuVall too; I saw Jerry Cantrell perform a solo date at Atlanta’s Roxy Theatre in 2001 with DuVall as his singer. That was quite some time ago but I distinctly remember how eerie it was listening to this man on stage, with the big afro, actually hitting those high notes that Staley perfected for years. The show was incredible and the vast majority of the songs were from the Alice in Chains catalogue, not Jerry’s solo material. It definitely worked for me then, but I looked at it as a Jerry Cantrell show.

I am just hopeful that Black Gives Way to Blue can live up to the legacy of this incredible band. I have no doubt the music will be great; it is the same rhythm section, after all. It’s hearing this music with a different singer that can be potentially awful. It’s a safe bet that the lyrical content won’t be as drug influenced, and that’s ok by me. I just want to hear DuVall write lyrics and sing with reverence towards the band’s past and not try to reshape the sound that is Alice in Chains.

I don’t foresee there being much middle ground with this record; it’s either going to really great or really terrible. It’s not easy transitioning with a new singer, just take Judas Priest, Queen, and Motley Crue as examples of acts that could not connect with their true audiences without their original frontmen. AC/DC was able to do it (Back In Black has sold over 22 million copies!), but can Alice in Chains?

Darius Snubbed Scott Ian and Anthrax

Darius Snubbed Scott Ian and Anthrax

In an interview with the LA Times, William DuVall stated, “I’ve joined a group that has a strong identity and a strong legacy. Nobody’s sitting here who wants to, in any way, disrespect or sully that legacy. You want to add to it.” That’s exactly what I like to hear. My greatest hope is that the album will pay tribute to the band’s storied legacy, yet make me excited for the future. If they can do just that, than I’m on board and can feel comfortable with the new Alice In Chains. And I just might have to buy a ticket to see them live this time…

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  • 5150 said:

    Great read. Thank you for writing this Darius.

    Growing up, I appreciated 2 groups all for the same reasons. I was a FREAK for harmonies and 2 of the groups that did it better than anyone were Def Leppard and AIC. All that stuff DL appears to do on record they pull off live even better. I saw AIC with Layne and his harmonies with Jerry were equally as sick.

    Thank you for pointing that out man.

    The Scott Ian photo cracked me up. Scott is Anthrax. I also think of Frankie and Charlie, but everyone knows Scott so whether it’s Joey, John, or this new guy it doesn’t matter.

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  • ArchedIsisByleveling said:

    1. As 5150 said this is a great article. I also agree with him on Def Leppard and Alice In Chains are far as it came to the harmonies. Killer.

    2. Gretchen Wilson is a redneck country singer. This was a sick cover. Thank you for posting the link.

    3. The Alice In Chains cover band you were talking about in NYC is called Facelift. They’re darn good.

    4. Halford was Priest but Ripper made a good album with them. Burn In Hell and Cathedral Spires were good numbers.

    5. Anthrax with Bush was BETTER than with Joey ANY DAY OF THE WEEK so I’d put them in the category with AC/DC.

    What about Van Halen with Sammy? I read your Chickenfoot article. Did you not like their work with him?

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  • polaroidgrl said:

    My first experience with AIC was Beavis and Butthead. My brother was watching and they played Rooster. I was hooked ever since. I thought this piece was a pretty damn good article for anyone who grew up on this band. I love it. Thank you for writing. I feel the same way as you.

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  • gr8wideopen said:

    It was a good cover. Agree with poster # 2.

    I’m in agreement with everything written in this article. Let’s see if Duval can keep his word.

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  • froggerx19 said:

    Jerry’s solo work was solid. I didn’t get to see him live. I find it funny that the first poster commented on Def Leppard. He must have watched the video from Download where Phil Collen was talking about their harmonies and referenced Alice In Chains.

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  • Dennis said:

    The Scott Ian photo is hilarious.

    I am in agreement with Darius on the whole article. I do think the new release will disappoint. I just get that feeling.

    Jerry Cantrell’s solo material will rival anything AIC does going forward.

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  • gorenforbidden said:

    Kudos! Beautiful editorial!

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  • xBITTERPILLx said:

    It won’t disappoint. Jerry wouldn’t let that happen.

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  • 1942 said:

    They should change the name. They are set to destroy the legacy that was Alice In Chains. Their legacy cannot continue with the new singer.

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  • srk49 said:

    The name should be changed. I concur with 1942. I don’t think changing the name would harm them. They can only play small clubs at this stage any way.

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  • KARNOV said:

    They should change the name. Their legacy was established with Layne.

    AC/DC’s legacy was established with Brian Johnson.

    Anthrax replaced Joey with John Bush, who is more talented.

    Van Halen replaced DLR with Sammy, who is equally as talented. I’m a ROTH guy, BTW.

    This CD is going to suck like nothing has ever sucked. I’ve heard some of the tracks and they are dreadful. I’m writing this as someone who wants to see the band succeed. It’s not gonna happen tho.

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  • Oscar said:

    Have all the detractors heard Duvall sing? The man sounds like Layne Staley. The new singer of Journey sounds just like Steve Perry. The originals can never be replaced but close duplications can work. I am looking forward to the disc.

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  • smasherdevourer said:


    “Call me crazy, but I just didn’t feel right about it. William DuVall is not Layne Staley, therefore this group of musicians is not Alice in Chains. I felt like I might as well go see an AIC cover band play in the Village for $5.””


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  • finddon said:

    I never thought I’d see a Def Leppard and Alice In Chains reference in the same post. Poster 1 you are a jackass for that.

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  • Carmel said:

    First and Foremost, Though Layne is an amazing singer, he was not the entire band (this is not meant to disrespect Layne, but to credit the rest of the guys who made the band awesome). Every single player in Alice in Chains contributed to its awesomeness, and they deserve to keep on being awesome.
    They are not set out to destroy Layne’s legacy, and though the new vocals do take a little bit of getting used to, the singles A Looking in View and Check My Brain are both impressive. Give them a chance before screaming at them with hatred. I have just purchased Black Gives way to blue, and I like it. Some fans might not, but I think a lot of fans will. Alice in Chains is a great band and still is.
    May Layne rest in peace, and may Alice in Chains keep on rocking.

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  • SimonPhoenix said:

    I was a huge Layne Staley fan, he did excellent work with Alice in Chains and Mad Season, but his profound addiction to drugs equalled his great vocal ability and he made the ultimate mistake.Was I saddened at his passing ABSOLUTELY was a surprised at the manner of his passing ABSOLUTELY NOT. Listening to “Junkhead” and “Angry Chair” and seeing him appearing so frail on MTV Unplugged more than a decade ago was a clear message to me that his health had been compromised by drug use. Now to me the sound of the band has changed a little, but bands that have the same lead singers’ sounds change somewhat over the years, like Pearl Jam’s Backspacer really does not sound like Ten, or Yield. The subject matter is different from album to album with any band that has new experiences. without Staley I think that AIC should probably not cover songs about Staley’s addiction, but if Cantrell, Kinney, Inez and Duvall want to then they will because it is ultimately their decision. Finally, to make a short story long to me, Will Duvall is a great singer and it is a matter of opinion whether you prefer Duvall or Staley, but Duvall is in the group now if you don’t like that then you can always listen to Dirt and Facelift and the other albums when Staley was alive.

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