Alice in Chains after Layne Staley

Chris Cornell’s death last year was a big loss for music and grunge community. Out of all big names of Seattle grunge from the 90s only Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains still stand today, like pieces of live history.
Alice in Chains lost its face, voice and some would say “essence” with death of Layne Staley in 2002. Band had to go through so much hardship to be where it is today, facing great personal loss, fans who felt betrayed by their comeback and changing tides of music industry.

After the tragic death of Layne Staley the band went on hiatus, devastated by the loss of their singer and best friend. Layne’s voice and personality was a big part of Alice in Chains and the band members wondered if AiC could exist after his death (and should it). In 2005 Sean Kinney, the drummer of the band, came up with the idea to do a charity concert for the victims of the tsunami disaster in South Asia. His idea was happily supported and Alice in Chains reunited to perform for the first time in 10 years. K-Rock Tsunami Continued Care Relief Concert in Seattle was held on February 18, 2005. Playing together again convinced them that Alice in Chains shouldn’t be history and few months after the concert they reunited as a band.


In 2006 William DuVall officially joined Alice in Chains on their reunion tour and sang Layne’s parts. Jerry Cantrell said that it only took one audition for DuVall to get in the band and we can hear why, as their voices fit together so good. William’s vocal work really pays homage to Layne while still having distinct, personal touch. In 2008 Alice in Chains went back to studio to record their fourth album, and in fall 2009 Black Gives Way to Blue was released.

Black Gives Way to Blue talks about addiction, loss, saying goodbye and moving on. The whole album is dedicated to the memory of Layne. In some songs there are moments where you can almost hear Layne somewhere in the mixing frequencies of Jerry’s and DuVall’s voices. Sound of the album is grunge in its core, but with big doom and sludge metal influences. The album had big success in music community, but the fans had mixed feelings. Many of them were very opinionated, believing that the band shouldn’t continue making music without Layne. In an interview for Classic Rock Magazine in 2009 Sean Kinney said: “Look, it’s a big move to fucking stand up and move on. Some people, the music connected with them so strongly, their opinions, how they feel about it… It’s amazing that they have such a connection but they seem to act like it happened to them. This happened to us and Layne’s family, not them. This is actually our lives. If we’re okay with it, why can’t you be? This happened to us, this didn’t happen to you. But this album isn’t about that, it’s a bigger universal point. We’re all going to fucking die, we’re all going to lose somebody, and it fucking hurts. How do you move on? This record is us moving on, and hurting. That, to me, is a victory. I already feel like I’ve won.
He said it for the whole band and their work continued to prove the point.

Their fifth studio album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here was released in 2013. In this album we can see the development of Cantrell’s lyrical themes, touching various subjects (e.g. religion, as we can see from the title). The sound preserved the heaviness of the previous album, but filtered through different emotions. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here was a step in different direction for AiC and in time it really grew on fans.

Rainier Fog was released just few weeks ago. The single The One You Know from May promised less metal influences and more going back to the roots in the new album. Success of the single brought them second place on “Top 25 Most Anticipated Albums of 2018” list by Ultimate Guitar.

The album is named after Mount Rainier, a volcano that lies 95 km of Seattle and the title track is dedicated to the Seattle music scene. Again we notice a different approach to lyrical work. DuVall said for Blabbermouth: “We make a habit of kind of starting pretty much with a clean slate every time we’ve gone in”, and we can really see that pattern repeat through all their albums.

Alice in Chains post-2006 releases really show that the music has won. They survived battles with drugs, loss, changing music industry, skeptic fans and came out victorious. Their love and passion pulled them through hard times and drives them to still make music today. Their sound changed throughout the years, growing and evolving, but still kept that Alice in Chains trademark. If you are listening to an Alice in Chains song, you know that it’s them and no other. It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to their older or newer work, the essence is always there. We are thankful that we still have Alice in Chains among us, making music for the music itself, trying to make something new and evolve with every release. That takes a lot of work and creative output, especially with experienced bands like Alice and Chains. They’ve done a masterful work at staying true to their sound while changing it every time.