Awesome album, yet somewhat stumbled by Staley’s absence
“All Secrets Known” is the slow, dragging beginning that carries your conscience to an all new frequency as Jerry Cantrell’s vocals sound over the awesome opening riff. There is no way you could remain indifferent to this song. And I cannot imagine a more suitable start to Alice in Chains’ return than this song. Damn they were missed and we all wanted them back… and it is so far from being the same without Layne…
It is impossible to have a better introduction for Alice in Chains’ new album than its opening track. And this is why I also started the review with it. It is just one of those moments when the hammer hits the nail right on the head and the free kick goes over the wall in to the goalie’s far corner and so on.
The album is awesome. After the strong beginning with “All Secrets Known” follows ‘”Check My Brain” which is a somewhat more straightforward rock song. New singer William DuVall is given more freedom here and the guy does a splendid job. “Your Decision” is another gem here. An awesome acoustic ballad that makes you want to listen to it again and again. The CD’s heaviest track is “A Looking in View” that we all are already familiar with and it does remind you (unlike most of the other songs) why Alice in Chains were part of the same wave as Nirvana and Soundgarden.
And this is one of the album’s weaker sides, if it has any at all – too many mellow songs. It sure ain’t no “Facelift”. Neither is it “Dirt”. More like the two albums, cross-bred with “Jar of Flies” and Jerry Cantrell’s solo work. Sir Elton John’s appearance in the last song is the cherry on top for this thing. And I don’t mean it in the puritanical-offended-metalhead kind of way. It is just quite symptomatic how far the music goes. It is the best thing he has done since the Lion King soundtrack for sure.
And the bloody obvious problem is that the band decided to do this without Layne Staley. It just doesn’t work that way. No matter how good the music is he cannot be replaced and that’s it. It is obvious that it can’t be the same, but the cover says Alice in Chains. No bad feelings towards DuVall. Quite the contrary – the dude does a perfect job and so on. It’s just that maybe they should’ve “named it Marcy in Chains or something” as one of the more diehard fans told me.
But, if you put this pure prejudice aside… the album is killer and it is the rock release of the year for sure.
Verdict: 5.5 / 6