In the midst of its first reunion tour in the summer of 2006, veteran hard rock act Alice in Chains played to a crowd of 30,000 at Portugal's Super Bock Super Rock festival. As the band performed a set of its classic cuts, a handful of fans unfurled a 25-foot-long sign that read, Alice in Chains Get Born Again.
With the September 29 release of Black Gives Way to Blue, Alice in Chains' first full-length album in nearly 14 years, the band's reincarnation is complete. The band says Blue is both a synthesis of past achievements and a tribute to lead singer Layne Staley, who died in 2002 of a drug overdose.
There's a lot of personal stuff here that we're making public, drummer Sean Kinney says. But I'm proud of everything we've done. We've grown as individuals and as a collective.
After the chart-topping release of its self-titled third album in 1996, the band stopped touring and went on an indefinite hiatus. The first hint of a reunion came in 2005, when Kinney, guitarist Jerry Cantrell and bassist Mike Inez performed together at a Seattle benefit concert for South Asian tsunami victims. The members started jamming and soon recruited a longtime friend, Comes With the Fall frontman William DuVall, to share vocals with Cantrell.
The group played European festivals and select U.S. club dates in 2006, and faced a decision the following year: whether to record new material.
There was never an intention to do these shows and then make another record, but they kept feeling stronger about it, manager Susan Silver says. At the end of 2007, Jerry dug deeper than I've ever seen him dig and wrote many of the songs, and in 2008, they decided it was time to lay them down.
Recorded at the Foo Fighters' Studio 606 in Los Angeles, Blue is Alice in Chains' first release on Virgin/EMI, which signed the band this spring.
Four album-listening events this summer gave fans a preview of the new material. Lead single Check My Brain, along with its Alex Courtes-directed video, was released in late August and became the No. 1 most-added song on Billboard's Modern Rock and Rock Songs charts. The band is also targeting an audience too young to remember its '90s triumphs with such hits as Man in the Box and Would? with an in-the-works iPhone application and performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! September 29-30.
As the band gears up for a European tour in November and a U.S. trek in early 2010, Kinney has no reservations about making the album and plans to keep recording with the band's current lineup.
It'd be a disservice to Layne's legacy to not keep moving forward with this project, he says. You hope it strikes a chord, but to me, this record's already a success.