Category: Alice In Chains

Alice in Chains – Dirt

ARTIST: Alice in Chains 220px-Dirt_(Alice_in_Chains_album_-_cover_art)

TITLE: Dirt

YEAR RELEASED: 1992

CHART ACTION:  #6 US, #42 UK

SINGLES: Would? (#31 Mainstream, #19 UK), Them Bones (#30 Alternative, #24 Mainstream, #26 UK, Angry Chair (#27 Alternative, #34 Mainstream, #33 UK), Rooster (#7 Mainstream), Down in a Hole (#10 Mainstream, #36 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dam That River

LINEUP: Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Mike Starr. Tom Araya sang on one track with Staley.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Impressive follow-up record that put Alice in Chains in the big leagues, which was good and bad for them as it turns out.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Layne Staley had the voice, Jerry Cantrell had the riffs and the melodies, and Alice in Chains fit right into the rock scene in 1992. Not really grunge, and not in the inner orbit of what was the Seattle scene (though definitely in the conversation), they were more metal than not, but Staley’s voice and the tone and tenor of the songs definitely fit right in the times.

The band, notably Cantrell, had both expanded their sound, and cut out the parts that made their previous release too generic. Songs like “Down in a Hole” and “Rooster” blend the acoustic and the monster riff to great effect, while “Rooster” is a chilling portrait of a Vietnam vet. At least three of the songs are about heroin addiction, which was going through the band at the time (especially Staley).

The tone and tenor of the tracks, and the unvarnished depiction of addiction, created a doomy aura, which was quite effective. Yet, as the band went on, the addictions got out of control, and this era may have been a tipping point, as honest as they were about it.

 NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were going to start recording in LA, but the riots were starting and they had to flee town with Tom Araya until the situation cooled down.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: Even today, it’s a chilling record with great riffs and vocals.

Alice In Chains – Facelift

ARTIST: Alice In Chains Alice_In_Chains-Facelift

TITLE:  Facelift

YEAR RELEASED: 1990

CHART ACTION: US #42, UK #24

SINGLES: We Die Young, Man in the Box (#18 Mainstream Rock), Bleed the Freak

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sea of Sorrow

LINEUP: Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Starr, Sean Kinney

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Seattle band straddling the lines between metal, grunge, and alternative get noticed due to its radio-friendly sound that belies a very dark tone.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This record pummels your head right out of the get go with “We Die Young”, the heaviest metalist track on the album. As you go on, you notice the tracks get slower, heavier lyrically, and on some with catchy hooks made for rock radio.

Staley’s voice and Cantrell’s music make a dynamic combo for the most part. The singer had a knack of conveying his personal pain and angst into the songs he was singing (even though Cantrell wrote at least half of the lyrics on the record). He had a good gift of melody, and Cantrell could work some magic in weaving riffs and melodic solos around everything.

However, the mid-point of the album gets a bit turgid and draggy and loses steam. They had a tendency to wallow in a slower tempo song for way too long and turn it into a heavy dirge that doesn’t go anywhere. The record picks up again at the end, thankfully. It’s a good representative to the more commercial grunge-esque sound that was happening before the big explosion a couple of years later.

NOTES & MINUTAE: A local promoter financed some demos for the band in 1988, but the day before they were to record the studio was busted as part of a huge marijuana sting operation. Obviously, they had to postpone!

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  No

GRADE: B. It does get a bit draggy in the middle, but it has a great start and good ending.