You My Friend, I Will Defend

For all you Layne Staley die-hards, I feel your pain on having to mull over whether to embrace or shun the new Alice in Chains CD.

May I throw a couple of names at you …

Brian Johnson.

Sammy Hagar.

Now, you can add William DuVall to that elite list.

They are not just back … they are poised to shake up the current music scene with an infusion of masterful musicianship that ONLY Alice in Chains can craft. Take notes, young ones … school is about to open, and you very well may need the lessons.

Jerry, Sean and Mike have a new friend. Will he ever replace Layne entirely? Of course not. Layne’s visceral, tear-you-apart-from-the-inside-out, gutteral growling style of vocals was his own. William DuVall has his own unique sound that will lend a new, diverse sound to AIC’s discography, if for no other reason than, moreso than any other AIC CD, Jerry and William trade of frontman duties with frequent regularity … and it totally and utterly works.

Second pass listen, and I have yet to hear a song that even hints at borrowing from their previous musical catalog. Granted, their previous catalog was 3 LPs, 2 EPs, and a couple of tracks scattered over some soundtracks, and some “Greatest Hits” CDs, so sure, there isn’t a LOT of material to compare and contrast (see Rush for a good reference of diversity in sound over a 35+ year career).

I stumbled across their first single, “Check My Brain,” about a month ago. I instantly skyped my buddy and asked him if he had heard it. He hadn’t, so he checked out AIC’s website. His immediate response was, “Damn … I don’t think I’ve ever heard an opening like that before. Ever.”  or something like that. Which is probably true. The closest I can think of is Eddie Van Halen with his drill at the beginning of “Poundcake,” off of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

The opening track, “All Secrets Known,” says it all: “Hope, a new beginning. Time, time to start living. Just like just before we died. There’s no going back to the place we started from.” Literally. You can’t bring Layne back … all you can do is move on and start anew. Precisely what Alice in Chains have FINALLY gotten around to doing.

It’s been about 14 years between studio releases for these guys. You would think that there would have been more of a change in sound, but really … it’d almost be cruel to hard-core fans to abandon the sound that got them where they are now. Their raw, visceral edge that’s so prominent on CDs like Facelift or Dirt is amply evident on the new CD. This is the AIC CD for the rising generation, and it will more than cement the new fans as AIC hard-core legionnaires.

In a nutshell, Layne would be proud.

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