Review Summary: A flat-out classic of the grunge movement that never ceases to amaze with its flawless track list.
An integral part of the grunge movement that arose throughout the 1990's, American quartet Alice In Chains unleashed a blistering display of masterfully crafted riffs and a crushing atmosphere with their sludgy, dark debut, the magnificent Facelift. Released in 1990, this is a ten-track affair that carries itself forward gracefully with a never-ending attack on the ears that is both heavy enough to appease the fans of louder music whilst maintains its accessibility by containing many memorable, catchy moments. Factor in that the album also spawned a highly successful single with the infectious and masochistic inward-looking Man In The Box as well as containing another fan favorite (We Die Young), and Facelift has all the makings for a classic of its genre.
Whilst not boasting as flamboyant and varied styles as their next work, nor quite as hard-hitting and depressing feels as that particular album, this is a record that has more than enough traits of its own that keep it feeling fresh. Bombastic choruses and over-the-top loudness in the mix ensure that this release goes straight for the throat with its unfriendly war on the ears. The occasional softer, more deliberately paced segments of Facelift such as Sea Of Sorrow are all the more disturbing and are more likely to catch a listener off guard as a result of this. The pacing of this entire album is magnificently done, from the speedier introduction to Put You Down (which vaguely feels like something from Pearl Jam's legendary debut) to the eerie, disturbing Love, Hate, Love, Alice In Chains are guaranteed to keep each track feeling like something completely new.
Also vital to the success of this album is the incessant attack of the guitar work, painstakingly written by Jerry Cantrell. Plenty of these guitar riffs are forced from the speaker box on this release, being both simplistic in nature and absolutely astounding in sound. The crunchy, low-end introduction to Man In The Box and the high pitched squeaks of I Know Something (Bout You) instantly stick out as two of the finest examples, with the fiddlier riff that follows the intro to the latter of those two songs showcasing surprising versatility. Accompanying the guitar madness is a flawless rhythmic section to the band, with the bass work filling the void between six-string and drums in spectacular fashion. The instantly recognizable drum patterns to closer Real Thing complete an overly amazing performance across the board for the instrumentalists.
Often seen as half the reason for the mass attention and critical acclaim garnered by Alice In Chains, Layne Staley's vocal work on here is something that will knock the breath from you. His gravelly and incredibly fitting voice for such depressing lyrical content as We Die Young and Man In The Box stands out as one of the finest of its genre, earning him spots on numerous best-vocalist lists. The vocal harmonies that stood out so much on the follow-up to Facelift are also present on this album, and are just as astounding as ever, with Layne and Jerry occasionally dual-tracking the vocals to create a series of somewhat-creepy vocal passages. The final piece of the puzzle on this album is the cracking production job, ensuring each instrument is more than audible and that they form a cohesive and sweeping statement for the music industry.
Facelift is a spectacular accomplishment of depressing and awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping musicianship in which every member knows their role and amazes in their own way. Whilst tracks like We Die Young and Man In The Box have lived on and become better known than others from this release, each song is a masterpiece in its own way and there is no reason on Earth why any self-respecting music fan should not pick this album up as soon as possible.