The Essential Guide To Alice In Chains
A complete album-by-album guide to the career of this month’s Metal Hammer cover stars!
Although now utterly familiar, the Alice In Chains sound was a bolt from the blue when they unleashed this, their stunning debut album, as the ‘90s dawned. Brooding, intense and crushing, anthems like We Die Young and Man In The Box defined alternative rock and grunge in a thrilling eruption of massive riffs and chilling vocal harmonies.
BEST TRACK: Man In The Box
Widely considered to be the band’s masterpiece, Dirt established Alice In Chains as one of the world’s biggest rock bands, despite the looming presence of the heroin addiction that was threatening to consume them. Every single track on it is a classic, from the lurching groove of Them Bones through to the soaring melodies of closing elegy Would? (a tribute to fallen grunge comrade Andrew Wood).
BEST TRACK: Rooster
JAR OF FLIES/SAP
Although really just two separate acoustic EPs bundled together, the follow-up to Dirt was every bit as harrowing and powerful as its predecessor. Guest appearances from Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Heart’s Ann Wilson might have pointed to a friendly studio knees-up, but songs like Am I Inside and the seething Rotten Apple suggested otherwise.
BEST TRACK: Rotten Apple
ABOVE (MAD SEASON)
Looser and less overtly metallic than his principal band, Layne Stayley’s one-off side-project (also featuring Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready) sounded like the bastard child of AIC and The Doors, with plenty of mellow jams and hazy, stoner atmospheres. In fact, Above is a magnificent record with enduring appeal; as timeless as anything else the late singer recorded.
BEST TRACK: November Hotel
ALICE IN CHAINS
Despite the somewhat clumsy image of a three-legged dog on its cover, Alice In Chains’ self-titled album exuded a sense of completeness. Although it featured some of the band’s best songs, including the gloriously downbeat Heaven Beside You and scowling epic Sludge Factory, this is a strong but non-essential Alice release. Chapter one ended in grim style.
BEST TRACK: Heaven Beside You
Knowing what we know now, the stripped down simplicity of this acoustic trawl through the AIC catalogue thrums with almost unbearable poignancy. Layne and Jerry’s harmonies had never sounded sharper or more emotive, and the real power of Brother, Down In A Hole and Angry Chair was brutally exposed.
BEST TRACK: Down In A Hole
BOGGY DEPOT (JERRY CANTRELL)
Despite many reservations, Jerry Cantrell had too much music in his head to survive without some means of self-expression, and his solo debut provided him with a suitable outlet. Both AIC bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney helped out on this eclectic and cathartic collection of slamming grunge and cracked country rock.
BEST TRACK: Devil By His Side
DEGRADATION TRIP (JERRY CANTRELL)
Cantrell’s second solo featured bassist Rob Trujillo and drummer Mike Bordin (both then members of Ozzy’s solo band) and was a much darker and heavier beast than its predecessor. Crushing riffs and unsettling introspection were the order of the day. Layne Staley passed away two months before its release, making this a fitting but mournful tribute.
BEST TRACK: Anger Rising
BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE
A new chapter in the AIC story begins. New co-vocalist William DuVall has already silenced the cynics, and the first two tracks to be unveiled – A Looking In View and Check Your Brain – have been greeted with euphoria. Alice In Chains are back and every bit as exciting, not to mention heavy, as they ever were. Welcome back.
BEST TRACK: Black Gives Way To Blue
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