Alice In Chains
The Band: Layne Staley- Vocals
Jerry Cantrell- Guitar, back up vocals
Mike Starr- Bass
Sean Kinney- Drums
Dirt is widely acknowledged as a grunge masterpiece, and for good reason. "Alice In Chains" were probably the biggest grunge band of the nineties and this album is their best, in my opinion at least. It"s nearly
flawless from beginning to end. I mean the instrumentals were tremendous. The guitar was solid and had the occasional good solo. The bass was well-written and you could here it well throughout the album. The drums weren"t too complicated, but they were still pretty good and had their moments here and there. No real problems there. So, why did I say "nearly" flawless. Simple, because of the vocals. To be frank I couldn"t stand them. When Layne was actually singing like verses and choruses his vocals were okay, but in several songs he did this thing where he just makes noise overtop of the guitar, like in the title track "Dirt". It"s honestly one of the most annoying sounds I"ve ever heard and I"ve heard James Blunt sing! Truly it"s like being kicked in the nuts, but for your ears. Or if you"re a member of the female congregation like being hit in the boob. Although, other than that this album is a classic and some of you out there may actually like the vocals, but they"re just really, really not my cup of tea.
Now I"ll talk to ya"ll about how this album feels, because I think it"s important to know the feel of an album before you purchase it well. Well there are several descriptive adjectives I could use to describe this. For example: gloomy, dark, scary, haunting, depressing, damp the list goes on. So, pretty much if your one of those people who"s more into pop-punk, you know "fun" music this probably isn"t for you. Honestly, it"s not even really my cup of tea. I"m not a big fan of overly depressing music, with the exception of a few metal bands. Although, if you"re ever in a rather glum mood and need good music to suite your mood this album is right up your alley. A lot of the songs deal with topics like addiction and isolation. It also has a range from heavier tracks to a few ballads. I found the ballads to be the most depressing. Mainly because of their softer nature. There are actually a few tracks on here that you can listen to that aren"t too
depressing, like "Them Bones". It"s a good paced track not too depressing and even has some good soloing in it. So, overall if you just listen to a few tracks at a time this isn"t to sad of a listen, but when you listen to it all the way through, dear god it"s just mind numbingly disheartening.
Moving along, I"d like to briefly
tell you all about the bands history. In 1987, Layne Staley met Jerry Cantrell at a party. Cantrell invited Staley to join his band "Diamond Lie", soon after they added Star and Kinney to the mix. They began writing material and playing at clubs in Seattle. The band eventually changed their name from "Diamond Lie" to "Alice In Chains". In 1989 they signed with Columbia records and released a series of demos. Soon after the band released their debut album "Facelift". The album was an instant hit and the video for "Man In The Box", one of the singles from the album, became a regular on MTV. The band went on tour opening for bands like Iggy Pop and Van Halen. Playing with successful bands like those two gave the band a lot of good publicity and "Facelift" soon went gold. The bands career would continue to progress from there, as they released several more very popular albums (like Dirt) from that point on.
And now we get into the instrumentals. The guitar as a previously mentioned was splendid. The rhythm guitar work was fantastic. The majority of the songs were in drop D, I believe. Most riffs were heavy and distorted. The majority of the riffs were also rather fast and carried a few songs. The tone on Jerry"s amp was perfect for this style of music. It really helped to give the album that grunge-y atmosphere. There were also a lot of marvelous lead riffs. Like in "Dirt" there was a great little riff, some wah was used which was nice. Although, the vocals overtop of it sort of ruined it. There weren"t too many solos on the album, but the ones it had were outstanding. Like for example, the solo in "Them Bones". It was playful and dark at the same time. The high pitched notes tap danced through my head melodically, seeming to actually sooth my mood some, but it still had this depressing feel to it as well. All in all the guitar was probably the strong point of the album.
But that"s not to say that the bass wasn"t excellent either. It definitely had it"s standout moments scattered about. Like in "Would"" there was some driving bass in the intro, that continued throughout the verse. Several songs had that aspect. Although, there were also several tracks where the bass was difficult to here. That didn"t bother me too much, though, and from the tabs I"ve seen for the bass in those particular tracks the bass was still well-written, even if it was hard to hear. The tone on the bass was also more than adequate. It went perfectly with the guitar"s tone. The bass also did an good job of keeping on time. Recently when I"ve been listening to that aspect of the music and I"ve noticed in some bands the bassist doesn"t quite have the rhythm right. Which is key because the bassist"s rhythm is what keeps the drummer in time and if the drummers not in time that screws up the guitarist.
As I previously mentioned the drums were good but not too good. Slightly above par. I liked that that Kinney didn"t rely too much on simple beats to get through songs. He used his toms a lot, which added to the albums sort of eerie sound. Also, his fills were exceptional. Very accurate and precise. I find Kinney to be a very technically sound drummer. What I mean by that is like I said before, he"s accurate. If you listen closely in some songs drummers will accidentally hit the rims of the drums and things like that, but Kinney doesn"t. At least not from what I could tell. Also, the drums were in proper timing throughout the album as well.
The vocals as I already mentioned weren"t great to say the least. Although, I will admit they suit the band quite well. That however, doesn"t change the fact that I can"t stand them, for the most part. For the actual lyrics they weren"t that bad, even slightly enjoyable at times. But it"s that damn whining thing he does that sort of turns me away from the album. The perfect example of it is at the beginning of "Dirt". He completely ruins the great wah riff they had going by attempting
to mimic it. Of course he did a terrible job and was extremely off key. I think album may have been better with a singer more like Chris Cornell.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Pros: Instrumentally sound
Recommended tracks: Them Bones, Rooster, Would"
Any grunge fans out there, I would really recommend this album to you. Otherwise the majority of you out there might not like it. I know I personally wasn"t too fond of it, but that was just because of the vocals. I still gave it a four, because I think it did deserve a four. I thought about giving it a 3.5 but I thought that if it weren"t for the vocals this would"ve gotten a 4.5 and seemed like a whole point was too much to take off just for the vocals. Like I said in the early going of the review, this is good to listen to when you"re depressed, but other than that, unless you"re really into AIC it may just put you into more of a glum mood. That doesn"t change the fact that it is a very good album, though. Until next time keep your stick on the ice.