Last we heard, Alice in Chains were hard at work on material for their second album since the death of original vocalist Layne Staley. There's no doubt the album will be one of the year's best -- the only question we have is will we hear the album in 2012?

The past five years saw the return of many of the most beloved rock acts of the 1990's -- Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, Soundgarden, and of course Alice in Chains. Though they had tragically lost the main voice of the band when Layne Staley died after years of substance abuse -- they found new life with Comes with the Fall vocalist William DuVall and released their first album in 14 years. 'Black Gives Way to Blue' silenced many of the skeptics and was easily one of the best rock albums of 2009, earning AIC two Grammy nods for 'Best Hard Rock Performance.'

Last July, Heart vocalist and longtime friend of the band, Ann Wilson said she had heard some "amazing" new Alice in Chains material and added they were at work on their next album. The reports were later confirmed at one of Alice in Chains only 2011 gigs when guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell ended their set by saying, "Time to head back to the studio and finish that record." Earlier this month Cantrell was asked by ESPN (via Grunge Report) when the new album would be finished, he replied:

"Whenever we’re done. Schedules in music, I know people have done it and say you need an album out by this date and you’re talking about album tour, it can burn you out quickly. It did with our band. We’ve been fortunate to be partnered up with companies that respect the process. We’re never really forced to make music. If it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t. We’ve been writing a lot. I also had shoulder surgery earlier this year. I’m at the tail end of rehabbing that. That put us back a little bit. But we have some stuff. We’ll do some writing. Hopefully we’ll have it out next year. We’ll put it out when we feel that it’s worth putting out."

We suspect that William DuVall will step into a much bigger role with the release of their next album. While he was by no means absent from 'Black Gives Way to Blue,' he played rhythm guitar and sang mostly backup vocals with the exception of a few tracks like 'Last of My Kind.' It's understandable that AIC would slowly introduce DuVall to fans -- some were already upset that they would continue without Layne Staley. DuVall has incredible vocal range and (as his work with Comes with the Fall proves) he is an excellent lead guitarist -- expect those two things to be more prominent on the new material, which we will hopefully hear sometime in 2012.

Watch Alice in Chains' Live Video For 'Last of My Kind'