With all the fuss about Alice in Chains carrying on with new guy William DuVall (stepping in for the late, great Layne Staley), Black Gives Way to Blue, the group's first album in thirteen years, really ends up being The Jerry Cantrell Show. Back in the band's heyday, the group's lead guitarist would sing the occasional lead vocal, but it was his dual-vocal harmonizing with Staley that helped give the group their signature sound. Here, Cantrell is the lead vocalist on most of the songs, with DuVall usually in the backing vocal department.
While at least some of this album is naturally reminiscent of Cantrell's two solo albums, for the most part it sounds like 1992 all over again. Though Staley is sorely missed, this still manages to sound like an Alice in Chains affair, from the dual-vocal harmonies (which Cantrell and DuVall pull of quite well together) to Cantrell's unmistakable lead guitar work and the group's grungy hard-rock sound.
Things get off to a shaky start with the relatively unmemorable "All Secrets Known", but quickly get rolling with the excellent "Check My Brain" and "Last of My Kind". Two otherwise strong numbers, "Acid Bubble" and first single "A Looking in View", begin to overstay their welcome at seven minutes a piece, while the beautiful, Staley-inspired title track that closes the album (and features Elton John on piano - who saw that coming?) is a bit too short, ending things rather abruptly.
While Black Gives Way to Blue won't let you forget Layne Staley anytime soon, it's certainly a much better album than anyone had a right to expect.