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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 heavyriffingofpost-Van Halen metal and the gloomy strains of post-punk, the band developed a bleak, nihilistic soundthatbalancedgrinding hard rock with subtly textured acoustic numbers. They were hard enough for metal fans, yet theirdarksubjectmatter and punky attack placed them among the front ranks of the Seattle-based grunge bands. While thisdichotomyhelpedthe group soar to multi-platinum status with their second album, 1992's Dirt, it also divided them. GuitaristJerryCantrella ...read more

In many ways, Alice in Chains was the definitive heavy metal band of the early '90s. Drawing equally from the heavyriffingofpost-Van Halen metal and the gloomy strains of post-punk, the band developed a bleak, nihilistic soundthatbalancedgrinding hard rock with subtly textured acoustic numbers. They were hard enough for metal fans, yet theirdarksubjectmatter and punky attack placed them among the front ranks of the Seattle-based grunge bands. While thisdichotomyhelpedthe group soar to multi-platinum status with their second album, 1992's Dirt, it also divided them. GuitaristJerryCantrellalways leaned toward the mainstream, while vocalist Layne Staley was fascinated with the seamy underground.Suchtensiondrove the band toward stardom in their early years, but following Dirt, Alice in Chains suffered from near-cripplinginternaltensions that kept the band off the road for the remainder of the '90s and, consequently, the group neverquitefulfilled theirpotential.

Staley formed the initial incarnation of the band while in high school in the mid-'80s, naming the group Alice NChains.Staleymet Cantrell in 1987 at the Seattle rehearsal warehouse the Music Bank and the two began working together,changingthegroup's name to Alice in Chains. Cantrell's friends Mike Starr (bass) and Sean Kinney (drums) rounded out thelineup, andtheband began playing local Seattle clubs. Columbia Records signed the group in 1989 and the label quickly madethe bandapriority, targeting heavy metal audiences. Early in 1990, the label released the We Die Young EP as a promotionaldeviceandthe song became a hit on metal radio, setting the stage for the summer release of the group's debut, Facelift. AliceinChainssupported the album by opening for Van Halen, Poison, and Iggy Pop, and it became a hit, going gold by the end oftheyear.As the band prepared their second album, they released the largely acoustic EP Sap in 1991 to strong reviews.

Prior to the release of Alice in Chains' second album, Seattle became a media sensation thanks to the surprisesuccessofNirvana. As a result, Alice was now marketed as an alternative band, not as a metal outfit, and the group landed asong,themenacing "Would?," on the Singles soundtrack during the summer of 1992. "Would?" helped build anticipation forDirt,thegroup's relentlessly bleak second album that was released in the fall of 1992 to very good reviews. Following itsrelease,Starrleft and was replaced by Mike Inez. Dirt went platinum by the end of 1992, but its gloomy lyrics launched manyrumorsthatStaley was addicted to heroin. Alice in Chains soldiered on in the face of such criticism, performing successfully onthethirdLollapalooza 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 thefirstEPto top the album charts. Despite the band's continued success, they stayed off the road, which fueledspeculationthatStaley was mired in heroin addiction. Later that year, Staley did give a few concerts as part of the GacyBunch, aSeattlesupergroup also featuring Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, the Screaming Trees' Barrett Martin, and JohnSaunders. Thegroupsubsequently renamed itself Mad Season and released Above in early 1995. Later that year, Alice inChains re-emergedwithan eponymous third album, which debuted at number one on the American charts. Again, the bandchose not to tour,whichlaunched yet another round of speculation that the band was suffering from various addictions andwere on the vergeofdisbanding. The group did give one concert -- their first in three years -- in 1996, performing for anepisode ofMTVUnplugged, which was released as an album that summer. Despite its success, the album did nothing to dispeldoubtsaboutthe 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 thepresenceofInez and Kinney on the record, not to mention Alice producer Toby Wright -- seemed to confirm that the groupwasonmoratorium at best, and defunct at worst. Staley, for his part, stayed quiet, conceding his spot on MadSeason'ssecondalbum to Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan. In 1999, Sony put together a three-disc Alice in Chains boxset, MusicBank,divided between the group's best work and assorted rarities. At the turn of the new millennium, ColumbiaRecords issuedLive,which plucked material from bootlegs, demos, and festival shows covering the years 1990, 1993, and1996.

As if the group hadn't been repackaged as many times as possible with its limited repertoire, a ten-track best. ofset,GreatestHits, appeared in July 2001. With no sign of the group reclaiming their spot atop the alt-metal heap (andsuchcopycat acts asGodsmack, Days of the New, Puddle of Mudd, and Creed taking the Alice in Chains formula to the top ofthecharts), Cantrellcompleted his sophomore solo effort, Degradation Trip, in 2002. But just two months before thealbum'srelease, in April 2002,the news that every Alice in Chains fan had been fearing for years had finally come to pass:LayneStaley was found dead dueto a lethal overdose of cocaine and heroin. (Former bassist Mike Starr also battled hisownaddictions through the years, andin fact appeared on the VH1 reality show Celebrity Rehab in 2010; Starr continued tofightchemical dependency until hisdeath in March 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah.) Although understandably grief. stricken,Cantrelllaunched his solo album'ssupporting tour according to schedule, opting to open shows in the summer for another AliceinChains-influenced band,Nickelback. Alice in Chains spent the next few years in limbo, eventually reuniting in 2005 forabenefit show with Damageplanvocalist Pat Lachman filling in for the deceased Staley. After rotating through a handfulofdifferent singers, the groupeventually settled on Comes with the Fall vocalist William DuVall, who appeared on thegroup's2009 comeback record BlackGives Way to Blue.

Black Gives Way to Blue was a successful comeback, debuting at five on the Billboard 200 and going gold in theU.S.andCanada, while racking up two Grammy nominations. The group toured into 2010 and then in 2011 set to workonanotheralbum, titled The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, which arrived in the summer of 2013. « hide

Similar Bands: Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Temple of the Dog, Mad Season

LPs
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
05/28/2013

3.7
753 Votes
Black Gives Way to Blue
2009

3.8
1,502 Votes
Alice in Chains
1995

3.8
1,443 Votes
Dirt
1992

4.4
3,010 Votes
Facelift
1990

3.9
1,729 Votes
EPs
Jar of Flies
1994

4.3
1,679 Votes
Sap
1992

3.7
633 Votes
We Die Young
1990

3.6
69 Votes
Live Albums
Live
2000

3.7
166 Votes
MTV Unplugged
1996

4.3
825 Votes
Live Facelift
1991

4.3
17 Votes
Compilations
Discover
2007

3.7
3 Votes
The Essential Alice in Chains
2006

4.2
125 Votes
Greatest Hits
2001

3.6
221 Votes
Music Bank
1999

4.5
80 Votes
Nothing Safe: Best of the Box
1999

3.9
162 Votes
Jar of Flies/Sap
1994

4.4
76 Votes

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