Tag Archives: Dirt

Dirt

It turns out that Alice in Chains were just getting started, and there’s just no way that I can do this masterpiece justice with this measly little review. Simply put, the relentlessly heavy Dirt is one the darkest, most exciting, despairingly beautiful albums of all time. Layered, churning riffs and a powerhouse rhythm section move along the strange vocal harmonies, which are as brilliant in their own disturbing way to create a dense, foreboding sound that you can almost feel.

Many of these songs contain complex, shifting dynamics that show off an awesome musical unit, while the tortured vocals often focus on the destructive dangers of drug addiction. In fact, Staley would afterwards confess to a major heroin addiction (his “drug of choice,” so to speak), surprising nobody who listened to this album. Rather than celebrate or preach about their chosen lifestyle, Alice in Chains simply tell it like it is (or at least how they see it), and pretty it isn’t. But it is incredibly powerful, and the band’s increased sophistication was duly noted by the critics, who in particular appreciated “The Rooster,” a poignant tribute to Jerry Cantrell Sr., a Vietnam War veteran.

Both the best heavy metal album of the decade and the best drug album ever made (a dubious distinction, to be sure), Dirt is certainly not for the faint of heart. However, listeners who like their music heavy should find the album hypnotic; highlights include “Them Bones,” “The Rooster,” “Angry Chair,” “Down In A Hole,” and “Would?,” but my sole recommendation would be to put it on, press play, turn it up to 10, and prepare to be awed.

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Facelift

This album predated the grunge explosion, though the band would thereafter get lumped in with the other major Seattle bands (Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam) who “broke” at around the same time. Still, each had their own distinct sound, and Facelift was an ultra heavy and dark debut album with a brilliant beginning barrage.

“We Die Young” immediately introduced Jerry Cantrell’s crunching guitar riffs and singer Layne Staley’s intense vocal delivery, while the heavily wah wah-ed “Man In The Box” became a signature song and the one that first got the band noticed. Next, “Sea Of Sorrow” surges along on a sing along chorus before the band gets more atmospheric for “Bleed The Freak” and “I Can’t Remember.” On the latter song you can really sense Staley’s feelings of helplessness, and (the overly long) “Love Hate Love” features an equally tormented vocal performance. “It Ain’t Like That” and the brighter, bluesy “Sunshine” keep things rolling right along, but aside from “Confusion” the rest of the album can’t quite maintain the impressive pace of the album’s first half.

Still, the albums less than exemplary conclusion doesn’t too badly mar this strong introduction to the band’s singular sound. A big part of that sound is the band’s eerie vocal harmonies, which add a unique, otherworldly element to their thick and muscular attack. This is Alice in Chains’ most straightforwardly metallic album, and it’s extremely effective as such, but this mighty quartet would soon broaden their palette considerably and deliver even more richly rewarding efforts.