This was the first Seattle band to make it on my radar during the 90’s. While Soundgarden and Nirvana had released music before Facelift came out towards the end of 1990, many forget the Alice in Chains debut was a year before Nevermind hit the shelves. A dude who I worked with at Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurant at this time, was a total metalhead and told me I should listen to it. I was knocked out from the first listen. This sounded so different to me than anything else out there. The lyrics were dark, the music reminded me of Metallica, but the harmonies were lighter than death metal. While the band was lumped in with the Seattle grunge scene, they to me were the best band that mixed metal and grunge.
1. Man in the Box
Right out of the gate the sludgy Jerry Cantrell guitar riff dominates, then comes Layne Staley’s drug weary vocals work like their own instrument to create an atmosphere of horror which fits perfectly the darkness of the lyrics. It was like a 90’s version of the first Black Sabbath album in it’s tone and imagery. Feed My Eyes…Can you Sew them Shut?
This is not the sound of an alternative band, as Cantrell’s metal riffs rise over the Sabbath-like rhythm section. This is fucking heavy, but the band’s sense of melody in the chorus made it different than the other Metal bands of the time.
The song that shows off how good this band’s rhythm section. Included on Cameron Crowe’s Singles soundtrack, Would? is the most grungy song I think they ever did.
4. Heaven Besides You
It begins with bluesy licks, moves to a Beatlesque chorus, and then builds up in a heavy jam. Really unique.
5. Them Bones
My favorite Cantrell guitar performance, he shreds on it.
6. Down in a Hole
Another slow grind, sludgy and dark, but Layne’s singing brings some light to it. Can’t think of many bands that could provide this all in one song.
7. Angry Chair
While Kyuss is often considered the forefathers of Stoner Rock, Alice in Chains had to be a big influence on that type of genre, too.
This is the song that makes me think of Staley’s heroin use the most. Nowhere does his vocals show more soul than on this one.
9. Got Me Wrong
From the underrated EP SAP. This EP showed the versatility of the band, as the groove had a funky swing to it and demonstrated they could be more melodic than their debut record.
10. We Die Young
Might be the most metal song they ever did. It reminds me of Motley Crue at it’s heaviest, but with a lead singer who doesn’t sound like he’s sucking on helium.