Alice In Chains - "Hollow"

A few months ago, I wrote a retrospective on Alice In Chains’ 1992 album, Dirt — by pretty much any measure the band’s masterpiece, and a revealing document of singer Layne Staley’s genuine struggles with addiction, among other things. Those struggles eventually killed Staley, in 2002, seven years after he recorded his final album with AIC (the band’s self-titled third LP), leaving the band’s guitarist/songwriter/co-singer Jerry Cantrell without a frontman. It’s hard to blame Cantrell for recruiting new vocalist William DuVall in 2006 (which led to a fourth AIC full-length, Black Gives Way To Blue, in 2009): Cantrell clearly had remaining creative energy, and the AIC brand has a great deal more value than anything else Cantrell might associate himself with. Furthermore, it’s not unheard of for bands to replace frontmen — this is especially true of metal bands (and AIC is, at its core, a metal band). It’s not even necessarily tasteless for bands to replace frontmen after passing too young: After Bon Scott died, AC/DC brought in Brian Johnson, and that worked out OK. But something about AIC MK2 feels a little ghoulish just the same: Maybe its because Staley’s own identity was embedded so deeply in the core of AIC’s best music; maybe it’s because DuVall seems to have no greater goal than sounding exactly like Staley, lending the project a tribute-band quality. The band just released a new song, “Hollow” — preceding a 2013 LP — and while Cantrell’s gifts are on display in abundance (by any objective measure, “Hollow” is a very good AIC song), it still kinda icks me out. But don’t let my reaction affect yours — give it a listen.

Comments (13)
  1. Whoever signed off on them doing an instagram video needs to be…well we can’t say THAT word right now but you know…how about ‘bitch slapped?’ ontop of that the song is just sadly not that good, hopefully this is just a C grade album primer and they have at least a few better nuggets stowed away. this song sounds just like a leftover Laye track from the last album they ever did with him, except with NO Layne, i e horrible sounding w/out that edge.

  2. Every time they release a new song – Cantrell, Kinney, and Inez come in with the intro – and I think, “Wow, pretty good.” Then DuVall starts singing and it sounds so eerily like Layne that I get disgusted and turn it off.

    I forced myself to listen to “Hollow” the whole way through this time. I’ll admit it, it’s decent, and it definitely sounds like AIC. But then comes the sad realization that it’s really not, and I’m disgusted once again.

  3. Staley had very distinct vocals, and no one likes to hear this, but I really believe he’s given a lot more credit than he deserves. If Cantrell hadn’t joined the band, Layne would have kept doing Poison-style glam rock. Look up “Candy Layne” on Metal Sludge. “Black Gives Way To Blue” (which is great) proved who was the creative force in the band. This song is not the greatest thing I’ve heard, but it fits in with the band did on the last album. And it easily kicks the Soundgarden release to the curb.

  4. miss lane staley big time. he really was a rock god.

  5. they should just continue with a different name.

  6. I’d venture to say Jerry Cantrell is as much the lead vocalist here as William DuVall. From what I can tell, 100% of this song is harmonizing, with Jerry’s vocal’s really coming through most. If this were to sound as much like Lane Staley as you all say, there would be a single vocalist in the verses intoning like on the song “Dirt”. They chose to sound like AIC through the AIC signature multi-vocal harmonies, instead of copying Lane Staley with single vocal parts. Also, it’s a great song.

  7. Not bad, if a little eerie with the Layne voice.

    Also, to the writer: Props for your last piece on Alice in Chains, about Dirt. I wasn’t old enough to listen when it was first released, but I’m glad I do now, after reading your article in the fall. “Rain When I Die” begins every job these days.

  8. They seem to have retained their sound but come on! It could have been a lot better, I’m just saying!

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