Big news this morning is Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell has confirmed to Guitar World the band has finished recording its fifth studio album and second without original vocalist Layne Staley. The new disc will follow up 2009′s Black Gives Way To Blue, which ended a 14-year gap between studio efforts for the group and featured singer/guitarist William DuVall. Cantrell said, “In my opinion, that record stood up to anything else we’ve put out in our career and this new one is right up there, as well.” Alice In Chains began working on new material in 2011, but the sessions for the album were delayed when Cantrell had to undergo shoulder surgery. He said the pressure in following up Black Gives Way To Blue was like “having to deal with the sophomore jinx for the second time in our career.“ Alice In Chains all but faded from the scene after the release of its self-titled third album in 1995. Staley’s death in 2002 seemed to seal the band’s fate as well. But Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez regrouped in 2006 with DuVall, first for several tours and then eventually to create new music. Although no official release date has been confirmed yet for the new album, I hear it’s out in March and a song might appear online in the coming weeks. So eyes and ears open, people!….One of my other favorite bands is Rage Against the Machine, and just like the constant questions about whether or not Led Zeppelin might ever tour or record again, so are the questions rolling around about Rage. Tom Morello, being the consummate tactful man that he is, has said nothing is planned. He told RollingStone, “There’s no plans, no current direction of anything. It was my great hope that we’d celebrate the 20th anniversary with a five-continent world tour. But short of that, this box set that celebrates the 20-year span of Rage Against the Machine is something that will hopefully be very satisfying for longtime Rage Against the Machine fans as well as turn on new fans to what the band is all about.“ When asked why it’s so hard to put a tour together, he said, “We’d have to agree to go on one. Once a year, the band meets and very seriously discusses and turns down awesome offers to tour the world. That’s part of the program. I’m very grateful that we did agree to do is this box set, which we’re very, very proud of. Some of those early videos, you know, we’re playing these clubs for 25 people. I remember that period very, very well. I had been in a lot of bands before Rage Against the Machine, bands that had tried hard to make it, and with that band, with Rage, it just spontaneously combusted. It immediately connected with something in the reptilian brain of fans of rock, hip-hop, punk, metal, activists in a way that was global right off the bat.” On the topic of his relationship with his bandmates today, “Oh, I mean, we communicate fairly regularly, and my relationship with those three guys is what it’s been for some time. I love them. I consider them brothers and brothers-in-arms, and whether or not we ever play music again in any capacity is unknown. I’m grateful for the music we played together, and thank goodness the cameras were rolling at that first show at Cal State Northridge, and it’s been very hard. For me, as a fan, not just as a member of the band, it’s some of the most exciting stuff I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear, let alone to be a part of.“ Be listening for a Rage Against the Machine featured artist of the week on the XL soon! And today marks 12 years since the release of “Renegades,” their last album together. (I remember because it came out on MY BIRTHDAY!)…..I love David Draiman! He never lets anything get past us and I like this story! The Disturbed frontman has written an impassioned plea at the band’s Facebook page for fans to rally behind Lamb Of God singer Randy Blythe, who was officially indicted on manslaughter charges on Friday (Nov 30th) by authorities in Prague. Blythe claims he is innocent of the charges, which stem from the death of a fan who was either pushed or fell from the stage at a Lamb Of God show in the Czech Republic capital. Blythe faces five to 10 years in prison if convicted. Draiman wrote, “This is a travesty of justice. (Blythe) is being a man and standing up to these charges. Show your support by (sic) on their Facebook page and Twitter pages, raise awareness amongst your friends, and take the time to donate to his defense fund on both pages. You can also help by writing your local elected officials and pressuring the U.S. Dept. of Foreign Affairs/State Department to get personally involved. We stand behind Randy, hope all of you will as well.” So this is a call to arms, people! Let’s get this started today! If you care at all about injustice, this is something to rally around….Speaking of which, a couple of weeks back, I went to the NY Public Library to see a lecture with Henry Rollins of Black Flag interviewing Damien Echols (West Memphis Three member, who was wrongfully accused of killing a boy 20 years ago.) I bought his book, Life After Death, and it is really good. Check it out….And don’t forget to check out Korn’s Jonathan Davis in the documentary “Wounded Warriors” at www.monsterenergy.com. It should be posted later today!…Celebrating a birthday today is ME!