As you may or may not know Jerry Cantrell was the co-founder of Alice In Chains along with Layne Staley, after gaining hefty recognition with massive video airplay of 'Man In The Box' from the debut album 'Facelift' they became huge stars and one of the most important metal bands to have come from the Seattle alternative movement (even though they had nothing in common with the other bands). After releasing Dirt they're oft disputed best they released another EP entitled Jar of Flies (the first, 'Sap' was released after Facelift) and their final self titled album.
After longstanding rumours of Staleys drug addiction the band began to dissipate, it became clear that they were coming apart, Staley then went into seclusion before sadly dying in the year 2002, meanwhile around about the end of the 90s Jerry Cantrell released his first solo album entitled 'Boggy Depot', which was met with mixed reviews since it was a large step away from his previous work, he then began work on 'Degredation Trip', originally slated to be a double album the studios wouldn't have it, so he released it as a single cd first, dedicating it to Layne as well (the release and Laynes passing were quite close), before finally being allowed to release it in its full form.
On first receiving the album I was like a five year old at Christmas (even though I had to import it from the States for Ł20!!!), after listening to the first track on the first disc 'Psychotic Break' I knew I was in for a treat, this song is the perfect opener, giving off simultaneously a nauseating claustrophobic feel along with some kind of adrenaline charge, this feeling basically sums up the whole album, there are the slow burning songs constantly keeping you on edge such as 'Feel The Void' and 'Thanks Anyway', there are the hard rockers like 'Anger Rising' and 'Hellbound', keeping the package from being boring but not too aggressive.
The first disc has a mostly downbeat feeling to it, even the heavier songs like 'Bargain Basement Howard Hughes' and 'Spiderbite' have that kind of asphyxiating aura around them, each song is like a hole delving deeper into the dark recesses the pschye of Cantrell (which is clearly expressed in 'Psychotic Break' with the line "Reside In Darkness, thrive where most won't go"). It is rather difficult to express just how dark this album is, it becomes quite clear that it was Cantrell and not Staley who was the dark element of Chains. The disc continues on in the same fashion allowing each track its own identity, until the final track of the disc ('Gone') which is a touching country style ode to Layne, beautiful cannot describe how heartfelt this song sounds, fantastic ending to a dark disc.
Disc two has a different feel from the first disc, although still incredibly dark the songs all have a more upbeat message to them (upbeat in Cantrell terms meaning slightly less than extreme nihilism) there are more rock based songs and the slow burners here actually have a faster more exhillirating pace such as Dying Inside, though the first song of the disc 'Castaway' is probably the bleakest of them all with strange creaking sounds and a repeating ominous baseline. The album ends with the breathtaking '31/32' which is yet another country style ode to Layne but in contrast to the sadness of 'Gone', this song has a message grounded in the acceptance of the passing, and is the most beautiful song on the album.
In whole the album is filled with contrasts but they meld to create a very dark, absorbing whole which although hard to get into should not be missed.