Review Summary: Alice In Chains will never be the same, RIP Layne, this is a fantastic album with so much emotion behind it
No grunge band was quite as extreme nor daring as Alice In Chains on their album Dirt. This band employed sounds of sheer torment and sludgy riffs to paint a bleak, desolate, depressing landscape that perfectly mirrored their own feelings during their struggles with addiction. The album has stood the test of time as a classic and perhaps will forevermore, carring its foreboding and harrowing messages to masses of people who hear it, and never failing to make their jaw drop. This is the power that Dirt had on me the first time I heard it. At the time I was struggling with depression, addiction and self-harm and it seemed as though Dirt spoke to me - the effect it will have on all those who hear it. No matter what your personal issue, be it a hard relationship or an addiction, Dirt has a song on it that will speak to everyone.
The album is very slow in pace but this really does not affect it. Following two quick cuts that open it up, Dirt is sludgy and takes the time to create an atmosphere of mourning and one that sounds like your very worst nightmare. From the opening shouts in Them Bones through to the monumental closer Would, this is a release that never really lets go of its single greatest weapon - its ability to strike the image it aims to create straight into your heart. The guitar riffs are very powerful and the contrast of high-pitched sections of songs such as the title track mixed in with the murky, low-end riffing on Them Bones only adds to the intensity of this release. If you think that just because this is a slow grunge record, it can not be as heavy as it gets, you would be wrong.
The vocal work here is absolutely stellar and sticks out as the best thing about it. Layne Staley shouts and sings his way through the most morose, honest, gloomy lyrics ever put to record, telling stories of addiction, mortality and relationships gone wrong. The performances on Godsmack and Dirt and Junkhead are strong in their own right but the real stand-out track for the vocals here is Hate To Feel. This is a song that transcends any normal scales you might have for rating someones vocals and is in a category all of its own. The raw emotion it captures and the sheer hate and frustration in the lyrics is more than enough for anyone to contemplate killing themselves to. Jerry Cantrell contributes a lot as guitarist here too, with solos that speak volumes in emotion, and whilst he is not the most technically proficient of guitarists, he more than does his part in laying down a dark-sounding release, no, THE dark sounding release.
Dirt is an album that I highly recommend to anyone who has not yet heard it as this is a landmark in raw emotion captured in musical form.