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alice in chains - check my brain

Following the release of "A Looking in View," Alice in Chains has released yet another song, "Check My Brain," off their upcoming album, "Black Gives Way to Blue." The song is appropriate as a single, since it is almost 4 minutes, and has a simple, digestible vocal melody that is sure to be enjoyed by the long-time fans, newer enthusiasts, and the casual people jumping on the bandwagon of AIC hype.

The song starts with thick, viscous single-note riff that constantly shifts, like a doll made of wet mud that just can't keep its shape. The tone of the guitar sounds heavy, but less metallic than "A Looking in View." Relatively lighter distortion ironically enhances the sludginess of the riff, simply because this song is a mid-tempo song, like a walking speed.

"Check My Brain" doesn't waste much time developing itself. The cymbals come in at 9th second, then the rest of the drums and bass come in rumbling unison at 0:16. The dreadful, yet curiously hummable vocal melodies come in at around 0:35, which is a dual vocals of Jerry Cantrell (singing the lower part) and William Duvall (singing the higher part). Both vocals are laced with echoing effects and, possibly dubbing, which make the vocal lines very thick and gives the listener an illusion of multiple vocal melodies, when in fact it is only two melodical lines superimposed. While later works of Layne-era AIC perfected the art of vocal melody and use of dissonance (especially on their self-titled album, "Get Born Again," and "Died"), it seems like AIC has either regressed a little on that department, or that such brilliance was exclusively Layne Staley's talent. Either way, I personally hoped to hear dense vocals with 3, 4, or even 5 different melodies intertwining with each other, much like that of "Frogs," "Died," or "Again," but instead the song progresses with 2 vocal lines throughout. That is not a bad thing at all though, since the harmonization on this song is more along the lines of Dirt/Jar of Flies era.

Props goes to William DuVall here. His vocal input makes this song sound like an Alice in Chains rather than Jerry Cantrell's solo song. While he doesn't sound like Layne, nor attempts to in any way, his vocals are mixed and produced in somewhat subdued way, ultimately lending a hand in creating a signature AIC sound without harvesting much attention to himself. I can only speak for myself, but as a huge Alice in Chains fan, this is something I am very glad to see; I am convinced that DuVall is doing his job as a fan of Layne, someone that respects Layne, than as someone that's trying to replace him. It's great to see the band as a whole, DuVall included, doesn't let his voice overshadow the music.

Once again Jerry doesn't solo too much, but it seems like there's more guitar licks tossed here and there to spice up the song more. In fact he indeed does have a short, brief solo that's as nonchalant as the solo from "Cut You In," his first single as a solo artist. But just like "A Looking in View," he plays his game with mood rather than riffs or solos. Because the song is concise and doesn't drag, he nails it here and creates an eery, headachy gloom.

My only concern is that, the bridge part that comes after 2nd chorus sound like it could have been composed in a way that would fit better with everything that came before it. Perhaps it's things like this, along with vocal melodies, where Alice in Chains really suffers from Layne's absence. But with the members that they have, Alice in Chains did their damn best on this song, and it is nonetheless a sickeningly awesome tune. Ultimately one can't, and shouldn't, complain about how this song came out to be.

All in all, the song is damn near perfect. Jerry Cantrell is still the master of crafting intense feelings out of simple riffs that even children could theoretically play. He has once again proven that artistrey of guitar doesn't have to rely on complexity, speed, or wanking solos. I hate to speak less about Mike Inez (bass) or Sean Kinney (drums) since they are both irreplaceable at this point, but with this particular song, the spotlight is strictly on the guitar and the vocals.

Needless to say, this song left me aching for the new album.

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