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In their 25 year existence, Alice in Chains have undergone quite a musical evolution.
From the dark days of playing mediocre glam metal, the rifftastic hard rock of Facelift, to the legendary Sabbath inspired doom rock of their next two full length albums (shielded behind the silly, imaginary media created grunge label), along with their unexpected two acoustic EPs released on the side, one could never really know what to expect from this group, and the fact that they have overhauled their sound to better fit in with the metal crowd whom they abandoned with the release of their 1992 EP Sap confirms this.
With 2009's comeback album "Black Gives Way to Blue" the evolution continued, instead of turning to the horrid "post-grunge" radio rock manure of bands like Foo Fighters, Nickelback and Creed (which was always a very real fear), Alice instead came back harder & darker then ever, with bone crushingly heavy doom/sludge tracks like "A Looking in View" mixed in with a few Facelift esque hard rock songs (Take Her Out, Check my Brain) and some acoustic alternative rock songs (Your Decision, When the Sun Rose Again). Well this song pretty much picks up right where "A Looking in View" left off.
The first thing you'll notice is this song displays Alice in Chains new found love of over the top heavy, downtuned guitars. The vocals of William DuVall, which many stuck in the past Layne Staley fanboys criticized on the last album, continue to carry the legacy of Layne well. Perhaps they may be a little more radio oriented then Layne's unique voice, but they are by no means bad.
This song reminds me quite a bit of the Tool song "Bottom" (a band people seem to like to compare to AIC a lot) in that both start off with a very heavy riff, slowly descend into a cathartic chorus with some quiet spots, which carries the rest of the song, before ending with another heavy riff.
Also of note is a killer guitar solo by Cantrell at around 3:50.
Overall this is a great doomy song, right up there with the stuff from "Dirt", perhaps even a little better. I wouldn't say it's pure doom metal or sludge metal since it still has some alternative elements from the old days, however it's dam close. One can only hope the new album delivers more songs like this.
Grunge fans beware!
Nothing seems to get Alice In Chains down, not even the loss of 2 of their founding members. With all the tenacity and ingenuity that can be expected from a man who toiled throughout the 80s to bring a heavier brand of metal back on the radar, Jerry Cantrell just keeps soldiering on, and with the help of newcomer guitarist and vocalist William DuVall has resurrected the most powerful force of the early 90s Seattle scene. But a single comeback album isn't sufficient for the reputation that proceeds such a band, thus in the closing days of 2012 an offering of equal caliber to the bulk of what was "Black Gives Way To Blue" has come forth under the name "Hollow".
Perhaps what is most enticing about a song of this sort is that it grabs the listener in spite of its predictability, riding off a familiar mixture of dense, eerie vocal harmonies and muddy, atmospheric guitar work. Apart from DuVall's less nasally vocal character in comparison to the departed Layne Staley, there isn't a whole lot separating this song from the dark and forbidding character heard on the band's self-titled 3rd album. This is the sort of song that functions more on atmosphere and density rather than an impact, thus it tends to grow over repeated listens like a fungus as it trudges through a limited set of minimalist ideas stacked one on top of the other.
As of now, there is little word about what Alice In Chains' 5th album is going to be, but if this song is any indication, something a bit closer to the older days than "Black Gives Way To Blue" is what is in store. It exudes that basic quality of darkened cynicism with a touch of ironic beauty that could only come from Jerry Cantrell's head, a head which continually proves to be heavy and bleak enough for metal, but somehow always finds itself lumped in with the media manufactured Grunge scene. Kurt Cobain never wrote anything this nuanced, nor could Pearl Jam be bothered to break out of its classic rock orthodoxy to write something this intense.
With Layne's death (R.I.P.), Alice in Chains still continues to release material and, I must say, it's quite good! Sure, it's different, but different doesn't mean worse.
The song has the dark and depressive atmosphere we're all familiar with, which is typical of Alice in Chains and the chorus is really melodic, making it the song's climax. DuVall's voice is soft and melodic and has a certain tranquility to it, like he's welcoming darkness. The voice effects are very good, spooky, and depressive, just the way I like it.
The riffs are heavy, slow, and sludgy with a touch of "weirdness" (or psychedelia, if you will), like the last album, and take you to a dark place of your imagination you never knew was there. The solo is simple and slow, but it fits perfectly in the "ambiance".
Thanks to this, I'm now hungry for more Alice and I really hope the next album exceeds my expectations. Keep it up!