Review Summary: Deeply Introspective, Alice In Chains release their most mature work to date.
Released after a labored recording process, Alice In Chains eponymous album provides one of the best glimpses into the broken life of Lane Staley. Coming off a stint in rehab after 1993's “Jar of Flies”, Staley still managed to write some of Alice In Chains deepest lyrics prior to issues with his addiction causing the following tours to be cancelled. This would be the last Alice In Chains album to feature Staley as his addiction forced the band into a hiatus.
Sonically this is Alice In Chain’s most diverse album. Alternating their typical sludgy grinding riffs and some of the haunting acoustic elements from that had appeared on their EPs. Does that make this one of Alice In Chains most accessible works? No. Dirt or Facelift probably take that title. But it is their most mature work and while not for beginners, fans of the band and genre will enjoy this thoroughly. Lyrically, we are given a snapshot of the state of the band at the time. It ends up covering all the conventional AIC subjects - depression, anguish, agony, isolation - while at the same time taking on deeper more specific topics such as the existence of God, rumors surrounding the band, battling with addiction, loss of love and repeating mistakes.
One of the big positives about this album is getting to hear Jerry Cantrell sing on songs like “Grind”, “Heaven Beside You” and “Over Now”. Though often overshadowed by Staley, Cantrell shows here that he is more than capable as a lead singer. Especially memorable is “Heaven Beside You”, a 5 and a half-minute ballad in which we see Cantrell come to grips with the pain of parting with his longtime girlfriend. “God Am” is also one of the highlights. This is Staley’s battle with religion and it reads like a broken prayer - Staley is not ok and pleads with god to make it better but questions god because nothing changes. This is probably one of the more ballsy songs Layne wrote. Penning the lyrics “How proud are you being able to gather faith from fable” is one of the more gutsy and daring things that AIC has tackled. The album closes with two long epics “Frogs” and “Over Now”. “Frogs” is a song about drugs and how they have affected friendships. “Over Now” is extremely similar to “Heaven Beside You” lyrically and ominously contains part of “Taps”. Overall however, the album has holes. Songs like “Brush Away” and “So Close” qualify as filler where as Facelift and Dirt didn’t have the same level of filler that is seen here. This is a drop off from Dirt but is a haunting and pleasurable album through and through
P.S. This is my first review so any advice or suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!