Yeez's Guide to Alice In Chains (1987-2002)

Started by Yeez, Jun 1, 2023, in Music Add to Reading List

  1. Yeez
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    Joined: Oct 9, 2020

    Yeez SXN80'S Morrissey

    Jun 1, 2023
    I did like 2 guides on this site previously (Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana). Despite the 1 year gap between them I'm probably gonna make these more frequently from now on. This time around I decided to do a guide on the metal/grunge band Alice In Chains, specifically from 1987 to 2002. This period of the band is heavily intertwined with heavy (and I mean HEAVY) heroin use, so if that puts you off or something, you've been warned.
    EARLY YEARS + FORMATION (Alice 'N Chains)
    In 1986, former members of the Seattle band Sleze formed the glam metal band "Alice N' Chains". Out of the members, the most notable was Layne Staley who had previously been the vocalist for Sleze. After the band disbanded, Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell as they became roommates acfer Cantrell was kicked out of his house by his family. Cantrell got in contact with drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr before recruiting Staley into their band which they named "Alice In Chains".
    In 1990, AIC released their debut studio album, "Facelift". Facelift is noticeably more clean soundwise compared to their later work. While the record wasn't succesful at first, the single "Man In The Box" lead to the band's first breakthrough into the mainstream. The band partaked in the "Facelift Tour" which made them even more well known in the metal scene.
    After the Facelift tour concluded, AIC began working on new material.These sessions included songs that would later be included on their second studio album, with the rest of them being selcted into an EP, "Sap". Sap is short, being only five songs long. The song "Brother" includes Cantrell's first vocal appearance on an AIC record, which he would later do more prominently. "Got Me Wrong" proved to be another big hit for the band and the song "Right Turn" featured contributions from Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and Mudhoney's Mark Arm. Sap would also mark the last time that Layne Staley would be addiction free for a long period of time, as his heroin usage became increasingly normalized,
    In 1992, AIC releades "Dirt". Dirt, is a masterpiece. To say that the album is darker than Facelift and Sap would be an understatement. While the record has many themes that include depression, anger, anti-social behavior and relationships, there is nothing more prevalent on Dirt, than heroin use. Lead single "Would?" is dedicated to early Seattle Grunge singer Andrew Wood who died from a heroin overdose. Up to this point, all songs had been written and composed by Cantrell, with Staley's first 2 lyrical contributions appearing on Dirt (Hate to Feel and Angry Chair). Dirt includes the band's biggest hits which include "Them Bones" and "Down In A Hole". Dirt is an essential album in the Grunge genre and if you take anything from this thread, it's that you should DEFINITELY listen to Dirt
    To say that the "Dirt" tour increased turmoil in the band is putting it niicely. Most notably, bassist Mike Starr was kicked out of the band due to his drug addiction,being replaced by fomrer Ozzy Ousbourne dummer Mike Inez. AIC decided to go for a softer sound in order to test their chemistry with Inez. These sessions lead to the band's second and last EP "Jar of Flies". JOF is sonically comprised of acoustic rock in stark contrast to the band's earlier metal work. The clearest examples of this would be the opener "Rotten Apple" and lead single "Nutshell". Lyrically, the songs include more frequent references to Staley's drug use and the effect it had on his mental state. Jar of Flies despite being an EP, is an essential part of the band's discography
    Staley's drug addiction kept getting more and more intense and the band went on hiatus after he checked himself into rehab. During this time, Staley formed part of the metal band "Mad Season" but the help of his bandmates did little to decrease Staley's increasing heroin use. In 1995, AIC reformed to work on material for a new studio album
    "Alice In Chains" better known as "Tripod" would be AIC's last album with Layne Staley. If Dirt was a cry for help, Tripod is an admission that you've hit rock bottom. Besides 3 songs written by Cantrell, Tripod is entirely written by Staley with it being by far their harshest record. Layne's voice was noticeably damaged at this point and the record takes more influences from genres like Doom and Sludge metal. There is no hope in Tripod's lyrics and in a way it sort of spelled the end for this era of the band. While I think the record is near perfect, it is definitely not a good starting point as it essentially serves as the end mark for this era of the band.
    In 1996 AIC performed their MTV unplugged concert after 2 years of no live performances. By this point, Layne's voice had withered noticeably and he was missing various teeth. In 1999, Staley recorded 2 final songs with AIC, "Get Born Again" and "Died". The band essentially broke up at this point with the members moving on to various solo pojects. Staley's drug addiction kept getting worse and the last available picture of him being taken in 1998
    On April 19th, 2002 Layne Staley was found dead at his Seattle home. He weighed 86 pounds and his body was heavily decomposed after two weeks. This era of Alice In Chains was over.
    AIC later reformed with William DuVall replacing Staley. The band continues playing to this day, with them currently recording material for their fourth album with DuVall.
    Alice In Chain's 90's discography is some of the most sentimental and personal work in the grunge genre. Even 20 years after Staley's death, the band's early work continues to be incredibly important. Best listening order would be Sap->Dirt->Jar of Flies->Facelift->Tripod.
    Oct 4, 2023
  2. jankland
    Posts: 8,634
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    jankland In My Cringe Arc.

    Jun 2, 2023
    Finally some good f---ing food, top 3 grunge band easy and you could even make a case for them probably being #1 and i wouldn't be mad at it.

    R.I.P. to Layne, Chris, and Kurt, the pioneers of some the best and most influential music of the 90s
    Ordinary Joel and Yeez like this.
    Ordinary Joel and Yeez like this.
    Oct 4, 2023