Alice In Chains, "Black Gives Way to Blue"

68 Billboard Rating

Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley is gone but hardly forgotten-at least not as an integral component of the band's murky, melodic brand of hard rock. The quartet returns 14 years after its last new studio album (and seven years after Staley's death), with an 11-track set that sounds like it could well have been recorded in the same session as the 1995 "Alice in Chains." New singer William DuVall's voice boasts the same kind of cadence and weight as Staley's, and more importantly his vocal blend with guitarist Jerry Cantrell ensures that that integral harmonic trademark remains intact. So does Alice in Chains' dark countenance, from the twisting opening of the song "All Secrets Known" to the sinewy groove of the first single, "Check My Brain." The droning "Private Hell" takes the listener into a trance-like state, while the album-closing title track is a salute to Staley that features Elton John on piano.-Gary Graff

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