Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains


3.0
good

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
September 27th, 2009 | 57 replies


Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist


Episode V: Alice in Chains

Despite the huge success of their EP Jar of Flies, Alice in Chains never even got around to touring for the album. By the time, Staley’s drug addiction was becoming a greater burden than ever, and eventually led to all tour dates being cancelled, simply because he wasn’t in a condition to perform. This even led to a short hiatus during 1995. During that period, however, Staley partially recovered, and would form the supergroup Mad Season with Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), John Baker Sounders (The Walkabouts) and Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees). They released only one album, Above.

Afterwards Staley got back with the rest of Alice, and although it was still a difficult process, they managed to create their third and last studio album, which was self-titled. In Staley’s absence, Cantrell had been working on solo material, but this was instead used as a starting point for the new album when Staley unexpectedly returned.

Alice in Chains’ Alice in Chains was:

- Layne Thomas Staley (R.I.P.) ~ Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
- Jerry Fulton Cantrell ~ Lead Guitar, Vocals, Lead Vocals on Grind, Heaven Beside You and Over Now
- Michael Jennings ~ Bass Guitar
- Sean Howard Kinney ~ Drums, Artwork

And the difficult recording process resulted what is also a difficult listen. In a way, Alice in Chains is even more depressing than Dirt, and is often sludgy-sounding. With Staley being the main man behind the lyrical content, a great many songs are vague, undoubtedly caused by his condition. He sounds like he’s indeed trapped in something he cannot get out of, creating some of the band’s most unpleasant and strained material. In the same way as the infamous Dirt, this is also what becomes the album’s downfall, and an even greater one. Dirt may have had unpleasant material, but most of it was hidden behind a layer of heavy, metallic instrumentation. Alice’s 3rd album gives way to the sludgy tone, and became the sound of the real troubled Alice in Chains.

Particularly the middle part suffers heavily from this, and are negatively driven by a mumbling and vaguely wailing Staley, who doesn’t know where he’s going anymore half of the time. With the added sludgy instrumentation, tracks like Shame in You, God Am and So Close don’t quite become success stories, and Head Creeps and Again are merely passable.

Cantrell’s material is a definite counter to this, and his three contributions sound surprisingly happy when compared to the other nine. Grind also features vocal distortion, but is actually driven by the more upbeat and melodic vocals it also contains, and the only true Alice ballad Heaven Beside You certainly isn’t perfect, but makes up for it by being honest and down-to-earth. Over Now is a bit of an enigma. It seems a perfect fit for the band’s last studio tracks with Staley, obviously because of its title, and succeeds in everything BESIDE the vocals, which sound happy where depressing is what is expected of them.

The troubled sound that dominates the album, however, certainly pays off at moments. The lengthy Sludge Factory is an impressive take, having one of Staley’s very best performances, and is also one of the examples that shows that the sludgy instrumentation can work quite well. Nothin’ Song makes the mumbling vocals Staley provides work because the acidy guitar section complements it so well, and the longest track Frogs is a bit of a grower, but positively slow and dreamy.

The final issue with Alice’s third is its length. 12 tracks, 3 over 7 minutes, make for a total of 65 minutes, and considering the amount of unsuccessful material, this doesn’t really help in creating a better listening experience. It could have used some cutting down, but the album somehow just feels like it should be left like it has become, unexplainable as it is.

As difficult to get into as it may be, the album can pay off. It is the final studio chapter in the classic Alice in Chains era, and however troubled and flawed at places, it still shows sides to the band that none of its full-lengths or EP’s did before, some tracks providing new and unexpected amazement. Do not expect too much, but do not give up hope after one listen either. Like every Alice in Chains album up to that point, it is most certainly worth the effort.

Yoda recommends:

Sludge Factory
Heaven Beside You
Grind
Frogs
Over Now


To be continued...



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user ratings (1438)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
September 27th 2009


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My least favourite AiC album, but far from poor.

Romulus
September 27th 2009


8437 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I seem to like this more than most. Shame In You is actually one of my favorite songs by them. And yet another great review.

fireaboveicebelow
September 27th 2009


6837 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I never listen to this

Zip
September 27th 2009


5312 Comments


The new album is good though

fireaboveicebelow
September 27th 2009


6837 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

so are the rest of them lol

Zip
September 27th 2009


5312 Comments


three legged dogs make me sad

Chewie
September 27th 2009


4532 Comments


really cool review set ups. Kudos for doing like 1 per day for this group.

Nagrarok
September 27th 2009


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kudos for doing like 1 per day for this group.

I had them all written up already (except for We Die Young) some time ago since I was planning to do a streak building up to Black Gives Way on September 29th, so it's all easily posted now.

Merkaba33
September 27th 2009


702 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You don't give this album enough love. Grind and God Am are two of my favorite tunes. I actually tend to think this is on the same level as Dirt with just a tad bit more filler.

shindip
September 27th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Over Now is so epic. I kinda like the contrast between the semi-happy vocals and the depressing theme

Nagrarok
September 27th 2009


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't. I think its rather counter-productive to the quality of the track.

shindip
September 27th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it makes it sound like layne is glad to be dead and hes sorta...free or something

Nagrarok
September 27th 2009


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hmmm... I get what you mean but it just doesn't do the same for me.

KILL
September 27th 2009


71839 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

my least favourite aic album too. nice review

Digging: A Guy Called Gerald - Black Secret Technology

DeadToPain
September 27th 2009


694 Comments


"Sure, God's all powerful. But does he have lips? What?"

Relinquished
September 27th 2009


25097 Comments


This is good

ManRunsOverBus
September 27th 2009


45 Comments


I only gave this album a couple of listens. Good review though,I might go back and check it out again.

Counterfeit
May 31st 2010


17819 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Really meh album. Grind, Heaven Beside You and Again are the only good studio song imo. That being said, Sludge Factory and Frogs are absolutely amazing on unplugged.

Romulus
May 31st 2010


8437 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Shame in You is so good

Nagrarok
May 31st 2010


8256 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really meh album. Grind, Heaven Beside You and Again are the only good studio song imo. That being said, Sludge Factory and Frogs are absolutely amazing on unplugged.


This is definitely their worst, but there's still some great material such as the songs you mentioned. Sludge Factory and Frogs were already highlights here (except for the irritating ending on Sludge), and were both indeed massively improved on Unplugged.



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