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Alice in Chains

In many ways, Alice in Chains was the definitive heavy metal band of the early '90s. Drawing equally from the heavy riffing of post. VanHalenmetal and the gloomy strains of post-punk, the band developed a bleak, nihilistic sound that balanced grinding hard rock with subtlytexturedacoustic numbers. They were hard enough for metal fans, yet their dark subject matter and punky attack placed them among thefront ranksof the Seattle-based grunge bands. While this dichotomy helped the group soar to multi-platinum status with their second album,1992'sDirt, it also divided them. Guitarist Je ...read more

In many ways, Alice in Chains was the definitive heavy metal band of the early '90s. Drawing equally from the heavy riffing of post. VanHalenmetal and the gloomy strains of post-punk, the band developed a bleak, nihilistic sound that balanced grinding hard rock with subtlytexturedacoustic numbers. They were hard enough for metal fans, yet their dark subject matter and punky attack placed them among thefront ranksof the Seattle-based grunge bands. While this dichotomy helped the group soar to multi-platinum status with their second album,1992'sDirt, it also divided them. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell always leaned toward the mainstream, while vocalist Layne Staley wasfascinated withthe seamy underground. Such tension drove the band toward stardom in their early years, but following Dirt, Alice inChains sufferedfrom near-crippling internal tensions that kept the band off the road for the remainder of the '90s and, consequently, thegroup never quitefulfilled their potential.

Staley formed the initial incarnation of the band while in high school in the mid-'80s, naming the group Alice N Chains. Staley met Cantrellin1987 at the Seattle rehearsal warehouse the Music Bank and the two began working together, changing the group's name to Alice inChains.Cantrell's friends Mike Starr (bass) and Sean Kinney (drums) rounded out the lineup, and the band began playing local Seattleclubs.Columbia Records signed the group in 1989 and the label quickly made the band a priority, targeting heavy metal audiences. Early in1990,the label released the We Die Young EP as a promotional device and the song became a hit on metal radio, setting the stage forthesummer release of the group's debut, Facelift. Alice in Chains supported the album by opening for Van Halen, Poison, and Iggy Pop,andit became a hit, going gold by the end of the year.As the band prepared their second album, they released the largely acoustic EPSap in1991 to strong reviews.

Prior to the release of Alice in Chains' second album, Seattle became a media sensation thanks to the surprise success of Nirvana. As aresult,Alice was now marketed as an alternative band, not as a metal outfit, and the group landed a song, the menacing 'Would?', on theSinglessoundtrack during the summer of 1992. 'Would?' helped build anticipation for Dirt, the group's relentlessly bleak second albumthat wasreleased in the fall of 1992 to very good reviews. Following its release, Starr left and was replaced by Mike Inez. Dirt wentplatinum bythe end of 1992, but its gloomy lyrics launched many rumors that Staley was addicted to heroin. Alice in Chains soldiered on inthe face ofsuch criticism, performing successfully on the third Lollapalooza tour in 1993, which helped Dirt reach sales of three million.

The band released the low-key EP Jar of Flies in early 1994. It debuted at number one upon its release, becoming the first EP to topthealbum charts. Despite the band's continued success, they stayed off the road, which fueled speculation that Staley was mired inheroinaddiction. Later that year, Staley did give a few concerts as part of the Gacy Bunch, a Seattle supergroup also featuring Pearl Jam'sMikeMcCready, the Screaming Trees' Barrett Martin, and John Saunders. The group subsequently renamed itself Mad Season andreleasedAbove in early 1995. Later that year, Alice in Chains re-emerged with an eponymous third album, which debuted at number oneon theAmerican charts. Again, the band chose not to tour,which launched yet another round of speculation that the band was suffering fromvariousaddictions and were on the verge of disbanding. The group did give one concert -- their first in three years -- in 1996, performing foranepisode of MTV Unplugged, which was released as an album that summer. Despite its success, the album did nothing to dispel doubtsaboutthe group's future and neither did Cantrell's solo album, Boggy Depot, in 1998.

Cantrell basically released Boggy Depot because he couldn't get Staley to work, but its very existence -- and the presence of InezandKinney on the record, not to mention Alice producer Toby Wright -- seemed to confirm that the group was on moratorium at best, anddefunctat worst. Staley, for his part, stayed quiet, conceding his spot on Mad Season's second album to Screaming Trees singer MarkLanegan. In1999, Sony put together a three-disc Alice in Chainsbox set, Music Bank,divided between the group's best work and assortedrarities. Atthe turn of the new millennium,Columbia Records issued Live,which plucked material from bootlegs, demos, and festivalshows coveringthe years 1990, 1993, and 1996.

As if the group hadn't been repackaged as many times as possible with its limited repertoire, a ten-track best-of set, GreatestHits,appeared in July 2001. With no sign of the group reclaiming their spot atop the alt-metal heap (and such copycat acts as Godsmack,Days ofthe New, Puddle of Mudd, and Creed taking the Alice in Chains formula to the top of the charts), Cantrell completed his sophomoresolo effort,Degradation Trip, in 2002. But just two months before the album's release, in April 2002,the news that every Alice in Chainsfan hadbeen fearing for years had finally come to pass: Layne Staley was found dead due to a lethal overdose of cocaine and heroin. (FormerbassistMike Starr also battled his own addictions through the years, and in fact appeared on the VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab in 2010;Starrcontinued to fight chemical dependency until his death in March 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah.) Although understandably grief-stricken,Cantrelllaunched his solo album's supporting tour according to schedule, opting to open shows in the summer for another Alice inChains-influencedband, Nickelback. Alice in Chains spent the next few years in limbo, eventually reuniting in 2005 for a benefit show withDamageplan vocalistPat Lachman filling in for the deceased Staley. After rotating through a handful of different singers, the group eventuallysettled on Comeswith the Fall vocalist William DuVall, who appeared on the group's 2009 comeback record Black Gives Way to Blue.

Black Gives Way to Blue was a successful comeback, debuting at five on the Billboard 200 and going gold in the U.S. and Canada,whileracking up two Grammy nominations. The group toured into 2010 and then in 2011 set to work on another album, entitled The DevilPutDinosaurs Here, which arrived in the summer of 2013. « hide

Similar Bands: Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Mudhoney, Mad Season, Jerry Cantrell

LPs
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
05/28/2013

3.6
1,029 Votes
Black Gives Way to Blue
2009

3.8
1,772 Votes
Alice in Chains
1995

3.8
1,755 Votes
Dirt
1992

4.4
3,614 Votes
Facelift
1990

3.9
2,074 Votes
EPs
Jar of Flies
1994

4.3
2,008 Votes
Sap
1992

3.7
772 Votes
We Die Young
1990

3.6
82 Votes
Live Albums
Live
2000

3.7
180 Votes
MTV Unplugged
1996

4.3
945 Votes
Live Facelift
1991

4.4
24 Votes
Compilations
Discover
2007

3.9
7 Votes
The Essential Alice in Chains
2006

4.2
129 Votes
Greatest Hits
2001

3.6
233 Votes
Music Bank
1999

4.4
96 Votes
Nothing Safe: Best of the Box
1999

3.9
176 Votes
Jar of Flies/Sap
1994

4.4
93 Votes

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