Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue (2009)

Article originally published on on 19th December 2010.

Black Gives Way to Blue marks pioneering grunge artist Alice in Chains' first studio recording in fourteen years, and subsequently their first album without the late Layne Staley on vocals. Given the circumstances, and downward spiral of Staley's last years and death in 2002, it's understandable the time that has gone on between drinks.

After Alice in Chains' hiatus and two solo albums from guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell, the band began a comeback reunion in 2005. Performing in Seattle for the benefit of victims of the South Asia tsunami disaster, the band featured various singers including Pat Lachman, Maynard James Keenan, and Ann Wilson.

It wasn't until 2006 when William DuVall of Comes with the Fall fronted the band on VH1's Decades of Rock Live concert, which then led to his permanency within the band with whom he toured with the band before recording Black Gives Way to Blue.

Musically, the album is very Alice in Chains. With DuVall now on vocals, the sound is slightly different to when Staley was lead, but nonetheless suits the band quite well.

Sometimes you might be hard pressed to even realise that DuVall is present at all however, as in many of the songs Cantrell takes the role of lead singer.

Alice in Chains certainly hasn't lost their edge, with songs like Check My Brain and Last of My Kind standing out as being just as heavy as some of their earlier work. Amongst the heavier songs, there is no shortage of softer songs with acoustic tones such as Your Decision and Black Gives Way to Blue, a tribute song to Staley.

Packaging and Sound Quality

The format and packaging of the album is quite impressive. The album is spread across two translucent vinyl discs, which looks quite cool. The album folds out with a double sleeve, so the cardboard casing is quite thick to accommodate both discs.

Also present is the CD version of the album which comes in its own paper sleeve. This will come in handy to make a direct comparison between the two versions. Doing so will prove interesting with the album as it is widely known that the CD is a result of modern loudness war mastering.

Here's a waveform comparison of the CD and vinyl versions of Check My Brain, the second track on the album. I've chosen this track in particular because on the CD it is quite "loud".

I found that the surface noise present on certain areas of the vinyl seems to be quite high, which can be a little irritating in in some sections. I suppose being a clear vinyl the surface noise is going to be a little louder as it doesn’t contain the same agents as traditional black vinyl, but even so it should be as prominent with its crackles.
Hopefully this is only a problem with my pressing and not an issue with all others.

Overall however I am satisfied that this is a better master than the CD and is quite listenable. It is absent of the fatigue that is endured after having listened to the CD at any reasonable volume.

Alice in Chains, new singer and all, haven’t lost their touch.

Very nice. Double translucent vinyl with the CD thrown in.

Sound quality:
Dynamics are quite good, but the surface noise on the one I got is a little high.

Final thoughts:
After so many years, Alice in Chains have put together a fine come-back album.