Earlier this year, rumors were finally confirmed that Alice In Chains would be releasing an album full of all new material. This would be the band's first album of new material since iconic lead singer Layne Staley died of an overdose. I was skeptical. I believed the band should have called it a day and gone on their separate ways. Guitarist/singer Jerry Cantrell had already embarked on a solo project along with drummer Sean Kinney, and bassist Mike Inez had been playing in Ozzy Osbourne's band.
The new singer is William DuVall and he has some very large shoes to fill. Layne Staley's vocals were extremely powerful, and gave the band's music a harmonic, eerie edge. Not many knew that the reason Staley's vocals were so haunting were from his immense inner pain and struggles. DuVall does an exceptional job of filling in. His vocals are similar to Staley's but lack that powerful edge. Nevertheless, he does a fine job and the harmonics with Jerry Cantrell are incredible.
The songs are typically slower-paced and very emotional. It is clear that this album's lyrics deal with a lot of the pain that the band went through after Staley's death. It's kind of a depressing listen to be quite honest. The music is powerful and dark. It calls to mind the band's heyday. It does really sound like the band had never left. This is easily one of the comeback albums of the year.