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Alice And The Theory Of Evolution

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I’m on record as believing that, in most cases, it’s best for a group to disband when a member dies.  Led Zeppelin did the right thing, I think, though The Who didn’t.  Sure, there are notable exceptions.  Take AC/DC, for instance.  They hit their commercial peak after Bon Scott’s death with new singer Brian Johnson.  Now, I still think of Johnson as “the new guy,” and for my money Highway to Hell easily trumps Back in Black as the group’s best album, but I do realize that I’m in the minority. 

Anyway, when Layne Staley died in 2002, I figured that was the end of the mighty Alice in Chains, and I wasn’t the only one.  Not only that inimitable voice but also the force of Staley’s personality seemed to many of us to make Staley irreplaceable.  So when Alice announced in 2005 that they had recruited a new singer, William DuVall, and would record again, I had grave doubts.  But their first album with Duvall, Black Gives Way to Blue, was a solid, creditable Alice in Chains album; and their new one, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, is even better.

Some Things Never Change

I still miss Staley, but I have to say that DuVall was the ideal choice as a replacement.  His voice is not dissimilar to Staley’s, and I imagine (I haven’t heard) that, in concert, he does a fine job of the band’s older songs; but at the same time, he’s not a clone, and his own style very nicely complements the group’s new compositions.  Besides, Alice was always largely dependent on the powerful yet subtle Sean Kinney and Mike Inez, and of course on Jerry Cantrell’s unique guitar and vocals, too, and those elements remain (although Cantrell's long, long hair, alas, seems to be gone).  The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here builds on the strengths of Black Gives Way to Blue (and, hey, aren’t those two great album titles?) and suggests that this powerhouse of a metal band ain’t goin’ nowhere.  Check out the new album, and have another listen to some of the early classics – not forgetting the terrific EP Jar of Flies, which is in some ways the best thing the band ever did.


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