Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains, Seattle’s grunge metal darlings!

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I have the hardest time classifying these guys. Are they metal, grunge, rock, or what? They’re from Seattle, so you can definitely hear that influence, but they tend to use heavily distorted chord progressions that are more on the darker side. Their vocals are extremely melodic, with excellent harmonies between Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell.

I read their band history on Wikipedia, it’s pretty crazy. Definitely worth a read if you have the time. They seem to follow the whole Kurt Cobain theory of quiet > loud > quiet, except they do it by the album instead of inside a song. One thing is for sure, this band always keeps you on your toes.

I had a big block of time when I was just cranking the tunes Friday afternoon, so I made it through all their albums (that I own) in one sitting.

Facelift

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An incredible first album, they hit it hard, right from the start. Man in a Box was the song that put them on the map, with its great melody and signature AIC harmonies. While I still think that is by far the best song on this album, there are many other good ones, with many other styles as well. Lots of variety, ranging from metal to rock, grunge, and funk.

Sap

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This is my favorite album by these guys. I wish this were more than just an EP, as these songs are great. It’s a perfect sing along album and I especially enjoy singing the harmonies. Anyone surprised by their success later with MTV Unplugged needs to give this a listen, it should have been obvious. The vocals melt together perfectly and the guitars sound rich and bright. Great recording.

The songs on here have some brooding sections, but it’s done in a very musical and beautiful way. Here’s my favorite track, Brother.

Dirt

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If you ever need a great album to lift weights to, this is it. The guitars on this album are heavy and in your face. I think Jerry Cantrell takes things to a whole new level on this one. The album is produced with mastery, with everything sounding wonderful. There are a few songs where Layne Staley’s voice starts to sound whiney and annoying, but it’s mostly kept in check. In my opinion this gets worse the further on you go with their discography.

I got to see these guys at Lollapalooza in Milan, MI the summer this album came out. They were every bit as good live as they were in the studio. Expert musicians and performers. Even though they got a bit more popular with their next album, I feel that this was the zenith of their musical career.

Rooster is my favorite track off this album. The way the song builds to the chorus is expert level songwriting.

 

Jar of Flies

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Another “quiet” album to follow the “loud” of Dirt. This one added more expanded sounds than just the acoustic guitars of Sap. This is a very good album and it’s interesting how most of their songs don’t follow the usual radio “formula” for song writing. They are a very original and creative band. You can hear more of the dissonance creeping in with this album, but since it’s not heavily distorted it doesn’t stand out quite as much. A nice listen.

Grind

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This is where I get off the Alice in Chains bus. There are some good songs on here and others that are just brutal. The dissonance of the melodies and the whiney vocals of Layne Staley are almost too much for me on this one. Instead of varying the harmonies like they did in the earlier albums they just keep the same interval for all the backing vocals. It gets old fast.

Here’s a quote from Layne Staley about his drug use and how it was progressing at this point: “Drugs used to work for me, now I’m in Hell.” Really? Like it was a big surprise how this turned out? It’s a story that’s been played over time and time again. Talented, creative people experiment with drugs. They put out some great music and then everything goes to shit, usually with them dead. Well, the expected outcome happened here. He was found dead in his apartment after an over dose. Just need to shake my head and add this to the mile high stack of cautionary tales about using drugs and what it does to you.

Great band, loads of talent and amazing song writing. Too bad it couldn’t have lasted a bit longer.