Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

You can't keep a good band down - 93%

MercyfulSatyr, August 2nd, 2009

Fourteen years and Layne Staley’s death have failed to put a dent in the strength of Alice in Chains. They’ve always been an amazing band, whether choosing to express themselves in haunting acoustic compositions or soul-crushing heavy metal. While any major output from the band was incredible (in varying degrees), they’ve always been at their best when utilizing the latter style in bleak and drug-addled works such as “Down in a Hole” and “Grind.” And heavy metal doesn’t even begin to describe the doom and gloom put forth in the latest song by Alice in Chains, “A Looking in View.”

The cover art for this single marks a welcome return to the long-absent style of dissonant, crippling grunge that has become the band’s trademark. It visually embodies the atmosphere and the mood of the song within, from the deformed pair of eyes peering into the window to the pitch-black darkness inside. The lyrics are no departure from the depressing tendencies of old, spiteful and hopeless. Coordinating with the disturbed lyrics are the vocals of new recruit William DuVall, a more than suitable replacement for the late Staley. His moaning brings a sense of nostalgia, approaching the moody power of the former vocalist – and since Staley was the number one reason Alice in Chains was so good, DuVall is a welcome addition, somebody that can evoke memories of times past while bringing forth something new in the process. He can also remind of Chris Cornell circa Superunknown, when that vocalist was at his peak.

Jerry Cantrell, meanwhile, still delivers the goods with his guitar playing. He unleashes slow, numbing riffs coupled with monstrous bends and semi-tremolo picking notable for its sluggish pace. The guitar work is somewhat reminiscent of Nirvana’s Bleach, an album that was good as regards said instrument but lacking the power needed to properly evoke the wanted psychological response from the listener. “A Looking in View” remedies that, with quite a lot of power to spare. In fact, there’s more energy present than even the band’s older work.

Overall, Alice in Chains have proven that they haven’t lost their touch along with Layne Staley. The band, in the end, seems only to have benefited from the struggles of a death in the group, emerging better musicians and better songwriters. Many were skeptical about whether Alice in Chains could continue without Staley, or even continue at all, but “A Looking in View” leaves no doubt that they still have a long way to go before they fall off the map.

Alice In Chains at their Doomy best - 95%

kellyosbournesdick, July 7th, 2009

‘90’s was the greatest period for Metal music – hands down. Anyone who thinks that ‘80’s was the best time is out of his mind. The experimentation the metal music has gone through in the extreme-underground paved the way to what we are listening today as semi-mainstream Metal; from Mastodon and Opeth to Cradle Of Filth and so on.

And there wouldn’t be anything better than what grunge did to mainstream metal music, which was drowning in pretentiousness, posturing and by-the-numbers pop tendencies by the end of ‘80’s. Instead, by the beginning of ‘90’s, we had bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, who gloriously gave back the throne of metal back to its originator: Black Sabbath. Just take a listen to the first couple of albums from either of these bands and you’ll face the fact that both of these bands based their music on the heavier-than-earth riffing and grooves of Sabbath. Now take Poison and Motley Crue on one hand and Sabbath on the other one and say which one’s more “metal”…

Starting out as a hair metal band, Alice In Chains quickly combined their music with Sabbath grooves (thanks to guitar-hero Jerry Cantrell) and beautiful vocal lines and harmonies (thanks to frontman Layne Staley) in debut “Facelift”, which gave us both heavy and catchy songs like ‘Man In The Box’, ‘We Die Young’, ‘Sea Of Sorrow’ and numerous others. This was the album that inspired Metallica to record ‘Black Album’, so it’s one of the most important cornerstones in Metal music. And hell, it’s only a debut!

One would expect the band to play safe and continue releasing more of the same, but instead came “Dirt”, probably the darkest album to go platinum. Gone were the hair metal influences completely, successfully replaced by even more Sabbath grooves and doom-laden atmospheres. And also, the slight glimpse of hope present on the debut was also gone thanks to Layne Staley’s increasing heroin addiction and the downward spiral into depression. The success came through melodic anthems like ‘Would?’ or ‘Them Bones’, but the core of the album laid in the slow, tortured songs like ‘Dirt’, ‘Junkhead’ or ‘Rain When I Die’.

The album catapulted the band into stardom, but the vocalist Staley’s habits got worse and worse, paling his presence in the band more and more. The last studio album recorded by him, “Alice In Chains”, debuted on no. 1 on billboards thanks to the success of the previous album, but was a rather unfocused effort, albeit being the darkest album on the band’s discography.

Then came the inconsistent period for the band, which saw Jerry Cantrell taking over control, releasing a solo album with AIC members (minus Staley), and Staley spiralling further down depression and drug usage. By the time Cantrell was recording his second solo album, double-CD masterwork “Degredation Trip” (originally intented to be recorded as an AIC album), he was not in good terms with Staley at all, bashing him out in various songs of the mentioned album. Yet Staley passed away from a drug overdose which made Cantrell to dedicate the album to his former bandmate – in an honest way or not.

2006 saw the remaining members of AIC reunite for benefit gigs, then for a tour, with new vocalist William Duvall, who worked with Jerry Cantrell on his solo tours. Then we had the band announcing that they were going to record under Alice In Chains name.

Now… It is open to debate whether this version of Alice In Chains is a true and honest continuation of the band, or it’s a mere continuation of Jerry Cantrell’s solo career under Alice In Chains title in order to sell more albums. Staley is extremely hard to replace, even irreplaceable, because of the way he was: a one of a kind tortured artist pictured in his downward spiral to death. Cantrell was the musical brain of AIC, yet Staley was the soul. In any case, we will never hear something like “Dirt” again. Something musically the same can be released maybe, yes, but without that soul. Which is perfectly normal, so I was not holding my expectations there, but was rather expecting to hear a good Jerry Cantrell-led dark, Groove metal record from this new carnation of AIC.

‘A Looking In View’, which was partly premiered on the band’s webisodes a few months ago, is the first single off “Black Gives Way To Blue”, the new Alice In Chains record. The track starts off with heavy, crushing riffs, which a tremolo-effected weird guitar drone flies over, and gives way to some awesome doom metal riffing. The vocal harmonies are superb, but here new singer Duvall doubles Cantrell instead of the other way around, which makes us understand that in this incarnation of AIC, there’s not a single frontman any longer like the Staley days. Duvall’s solo vocal spots resemble Staley from ‘Junkhead’. The chorus of the track is amazing and Cantrell at its best, combining melodic and groovy riffing at the same time with beautiful vocal harmonies over the top of it. The 7-minute song, after repeating the same canvas, turns its direction to groovy riffing reminding of ‘Rain When I Die’, with Duvall’s Chris Cornell-like wails shining on top.

Overall, this is a great, great song presenting AIC at their doomy best, superbly arranged and performed, complete with deep, intelligent lyrics by Cantrell. It is a direct continuation of “Degredation Trip” album, or in other words, the last 2 AIC songs recorded with Staley, ‘Get Born Again’ and ‘Died’: heavier and more compact, palm muted riffing with melodic, emotional vocal lines. This is obviously the route AIC would take if they had continued with Staley, so musically this is very much AIC, as was “Degredation Trip”, but without Staley’s one of a kind presence, which already was, more or less, absent from their last studio album.

mmm, new song by AIC... - 71%

Chainedown, July 2nd, 2009

Alice in Chains' new single, called A Looking in View, sounds quite like a mix of heavier Alice in Chains and guitarist Jerry Cantrell's first solo album, Boggy Depot. The song starts off with a crushing, heavy, and somewhat sludgy primitive riff. For a seven minute tune, this song doesn't waste much time before vocals kick in which is at about 30 seconds into the song. In fact, once you start listening to it, it doesn't even feel like seven minutes long. Beautiful and tormented harmonization of vocals between Jerry and William DuVall gets the song down to business quick (which is kinda ironic for a slow song like this). The vocal layers in this song is not as dense as it was for AIC's later songs like "No Excuses," "Frogs," or "Died," nor is it as sing-along as AIC's biggest hits. But the layering of vocal melodies and harmonies is still there, and while I wasn't as pleased with it as I hoped, it's still way more well-crafted than 99.9% of bands that attempts to layer their vocals. This song still proves that Alice in Chains is still the best band at vocal harmonization post-Queen.

There is not much else to say about this song. In fact, those who are Jerry fans and wanted to hear some impressive guitars, will be disappointed. There are no solos, nor memorable riffs like you heard in "Again" or "Heaven Besides You." Although disappointing for me, I see that this is not necessarily a bad thing - for the lack of memorable guitar hook or solos, Jerry and Mike Inez (the bassist) made up for those sacrifices by creating an appropriate, signature Alice in Chains atmosphere. The song is haunting and lonesome like it should be. Think "Jesus Hands" from Jerry's first solo album, Boggy Depot, with a healthy dose of "Get Born Again." In fact, about 5 minutes of singing, the band finishes the song with a fade-out, with some extra guitar wailing at the end of the song like Jerry did in "Breaks My Back," also from Boggy Depot.

Without Layne, Alice in Chains will never be the same, but I didn't have to say that for you to know that. I am one of the supporters of William DuVall, the replacement for the original singer Layne Staley. He's great harmonizer live, and I am happy to see Alice in Chains (Jerry, drummer Sean Kinney, and Mike) doing what they want to do with it, with respect to Layne as well. However, this song made it blatantly obvious one fact - DuVall can cover Layne in vocal range, but cannot fill in for Layne's vocal skill for expression of human torment - both in physical sense and in lyrical sense. The lyrics are interesting, and requires you a multiple readings to interpret it, but also simple enough to give the listener the reflective, lonely, and painful mood and make you pique your interest on what the band is talking about. Until the band decides to explain the song in an interview, this is all up to the listener to decide.

In conclusion, "A Looking in View" sounds like it's the logical product of evolution from "Get Born Again" and "Died," rather than an extension of their self-titled album or a re-hash of Jerry's Degradation Trip albums. To me, it's a bit questionable choice as a single, but not a bad one. Don't let the disappointments make you turn away from the new Alice in Chains. If you are a fan, there's plenty to embrace here in this song. Despite the shortcomings, "A Looking in View" is nothing of the sort that would stain the AIC's name and legacy. If you call yourself a fan, let's give them the support and be glad that they are continuing on.