Review Summary: Simply put, this is one of the best albums ever made
Alice In Chains were originally lumped in with the grunge crowd probably because they came from Seattle but their music is far closer to metal than grunge. 'Dirt' was recorded in 1992 and many fans, including myself, hold the opinion that this album is the best record they produced and one of the best records of all time.
Now, for a record to be a classic it has to have many things. It needs both brilliant musicianship and a brilliant vocalist. Dirt has both of these qualities and more. Jerry Cantrell has some mind-blowing riffs and solos on this album along with one of the best guitar tones ever committed to record. He sings also and has a great voice as well. Mike Starr plays bass on the album and he compliments the guitars brilliantly and has some great bass riffs too (Check out Would?) Sean Kinney plays the drums on the album and does so spectacularly. And finally, last but definitely not least, Layne Staley is the main vocalist and lyricist on the cd.
Lyrically, this album deals with drugs and depression and does so wonderfully. Imagine yourself as a drug addict curled up in the foetal position in a corner of a cold room waiting for his next fix of heroin and you get some idea of what the atmosphere of this record is like. That's right, it's dark, bleak, unnerving, depressing but most of all, brilliant. Some of the lyrics here are poetic such as the lyrics to 'Down In A Hole':
"Bury Me Softly In This Womb
I Give This Part Of Me For You
Sand Rains Down And Here I Sit
Holding Rare Flowers
In A Tomb.....In Bloom"
However the album also contains songs written about different topics. The song 'Rooster' was about Jerry Cantrell's father's experiences in the Vietnam War. Cantrell's father was a member of the 101st Airborne, who wore patches on their arms featuring a bald eagle. There are no bald eagles in Vietnam, so the Vietnamese referred to them as roosters.
The album is heavy for the most part but it also contains some acoustic tracks. This is where the emotion and atmosphere of the record are turned up to 11. Tracks such as 'Down In A Hole' and 'Would?' are far more emotional and depressing than the tracks, which precede them. These are the tracks where Staley's autobiographical lyrics come to life. If you not feeling somewhat unnerved listening to these tracks you obviously have no feelings or are dead. These songs just drip of despair and isolation but definitely not on an 'emo' way, They are delivered flawlessly by both Cantrell and Staley who both have amazing voices. Some of the vocal harmonies are very complex such as 'Them Bones' and 'Would?' The lyrics as I mentioned before are very poetic but some of them also sound almost biblical such as the lyrics to 'Would?’ that are:
"Know Me Broken By My Master
Teach Thee On Child Of Love Hereafter
Into The Flood Again
Same Old Trip It Was Back Then
So I Made A Big Mistake
Try To See It Once My Way
Drifting Body Its Sole Desertion
Flying Not Yet Quite The Notion
Am I Wrong?
Have I Run Too Far To Get Home?
Am I Gone?
And Left You Here Alone
If I Would Could You?"
The album is a masterpiece from start to finish. It is one of the masterpieces of the so-called 'grunge' movement along with albums such as 'Badmotorfinger' by Soundgarden. It was received phenomenally well at it's time of release. It was released in the Autumn of 1992 and went platinum by the end of the year. It has remained the band's most successful album to date and is a testimony to the ability of this incredible band and the tragically short lived lyrical and vocal prowess of Layne Staley.
Reasons To Buy?
Contains both heavy and ballad tracks
Reasons Not To Buy?
None, unless your deaf and/or insane