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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.