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Alice in Chains, ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’ (Virgin/EMI)

Once alt-rock’s moribund ne’er-do-wells, Alice in Chains still have an appealing outcast aura on their first studio album in 14 years (and their only release sans late singer Layne Staley). As with latter efforts Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains, Black‘s most tender moments (“Private Hell”) are its most essential. And while William DuVall is a serviceable Staley impressionist, this comeback would register with more purpose had guitarist Jerry Cantrell assumed the vocal lead. Instead, DuVall warbles misanthropically over too many muddy, grunge-era grind-a-thons (even Elton John’s piano cameo on the poignant title track feels ’90s retro).

WATCH: Alice in Chains, “Check My Brain”