It’s not an easy task replacing a lead singer. For every Sammy Hagar in Van Halen, there are countless bands whose fortunes were felled by changing the voice of the group. It’s far easier to drop a guitarist or bass player. But a lead singer, for better or worse, defines a group’s sound.
When Layne Staley died in 2002, Alice in Chains had been on hiatus for six years, and people assumed the band was done. However, guitarist Jerry Cantrell had shared lead vocal duties with Staley. For all intents and purposes, Cantrell was the sonic core of the band. So when the group announced they were coming back with a new record and a new singer, anticipation was high.
The band hired William DuVall and recorded their first album in over a decade, 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue. That record was a surprising success for many who viewed Alice in Chains as a grunge leftover from the early ’90s. After a two-year tour, the band started putting some ideas together for a follow-up release. During that time, the band was in the news again for tragic reasons when former bassist Mike Starr died of an overdose in Salt Lake City on March 8, 2011. Starr had been battling substance abuse for years and was a contestant on the controversial reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, where he talked openly about his addiction to methadone.
There were also rumors swirling about Alice in Chains calling it quits. Cantrell addressed those in a Billboard magazine article, stating, “What I said was I approach every record as if it were my last, trying to make it the best record it can be.”
By mid-2011, the band had started writing new material. However, the recording process was delayed by Cantrell’s surgeries for back and shoulder issues. Following his recovery, AIC entered the studio to record new songs, and the resulting effort, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, comes out on May 28. The album, like its predecessor, was produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush). In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Cantrell told the magazine that Dinosaurs is “completely different from anything we ever did … You see growth and that the band is moving ahead in new territory that we haven’t been to before.”
Two songs released so far from the record, “Hollow” and “Stone,” show that AIC has not lost a step, pushing their musical boundaries while retaining their signature sound. The songs, “Hollow” especially, emanate a sludge metal dynamic, showcasing the underlying metallic strain that has been a part of the band’s music from the beginning. And “Hollow” charted as the #1 Top Gainer of Active Rock charts for six weeks all the way back in December of 2012, after the band posted a lyric video of the song on YouTube. The song also reached #1 on the Mainstream Rock radio chart. “Stone” has been getting significant airplay as well, perched on the Top 10 Active Rock chart.
Alice in Chains is currently on tour, performing at a series of festival dates throughout the summer including Rocklahoma, the Download Festival, and the Ottawa Blues Fest.Powered by Sidelines