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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.