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Entertainment behind the scenes

Revived Alice in Chains releasing first album with new singer

By Dean Goodman
June 13, 2009

Alice in Chains, the Seattle rock band silenced by the slow drug-fueled demise of late singer Layne Staley, will release its first studio album in 14 years on Sept. 29. 

ucp54-001-mf“Black Gives Way To Blue” marks the band’s first release with new singer/guitarist William DuVall (at right in picture) who shares vocal duties with guitarist Jerry Cantrell (second from left). It will also be the band’s first release for Virgin/EMI; all its previous albums were handled by Columbia Records.
During the 1990s when Seattle was at the epicenter of the “grunge rock” phase, Alice in Chains spearheaded the gloomy genre with a string of dark, druggy albums. Four of them hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200, including the chart-toppers “Jar of Flies” (1994) and its self-titled studio swan song the following year.
But Staley’s chronic heroin problems hampered the band’s progress, and it ended the decade on an enforced hiatus. Staley eventually died of an overdose in 2002.

Just when it seemed like Alice in Chains would be no more, Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez (left) and drummer Sean Kinney (second from right) recruited punk-rock veteran DuVall to fill in for Staley, and started touring with him in 2006. The reception was surprisingly strong, and the emboldened band started recording its new album in Los Angeles last October with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters).

But bands with new singers invariably face a tough challenge regaining their past glory. Deep Purple, AC/DC and Van Halen all thrived after personnel shifts. Other groups like the Doors, Queen, INXS, Anthrax and Motley Crue struggled. In the case of Alice in Chains, DuVall won’t face the harsh glare of the spotlight by himself: The lead vocals are a 50/50 split with Cantrell, who often harmonized with Staley and sang lead on such nuggets as ”Heaven Beside You.”

(photo credit: James Minchin)

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