Alice In Chains

Picture of Alice In Chains

Facelift

Alice In Chains - Facelift ©1990 CBS
1. We Die Young
2. Man In The Box
3. Sea Of Sorrow
4. Bleed The Freak
5. I Can't Remember
6. Love, Hate, Love
7. It Ain't Like That
8. Sunshine
9. Put You Down
10. Confusion
11. I Know Somethin (bout You)
12. Real Thing

Predating the Seattle phenomenon by a good two years, AIC's debut release was a tad unstable, bordering on silly (see Chili Peppersesque "I Know Somethin"), but had much of the essential blend of crunch and melody these burnouts would just run into the ground on Dirt. My main quibble with Facelift comes with its patchwork-like feel; some balls-out metal, some ballady, some funky, it comes off sounding like a compilation. The inclusion of a handful plain awful ditties like "Confusion", and the aforementioned funk metal atrocity does it no favors. However, "Sea of Sorrow" and "Bleed the Freak" are among the best the band has penned. Ying and yang and only fitfully impressive, but ultimately cool in retrospect. In 1990, this record must have scared the daylights out of CBS and their ever-expanding legion of hair bands, but at this point, I doubt Alice In Chains really knew what they wished to relay to the world. Points for audacity, but them wrinkles were in need of ironing.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 12/1998

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Dirt

Alice In Chains - Dirt ©1992 Columbia
1. Them Bones
2. Dam That River
3. Rain When I Die
4. Down In A Hole
5. Sickman
6. Rooster
7. Junkhead
8. Dirt
9. God Smack
10. Hate To Feel
11. Angry Chair
12. Would?

Dirt represents Alice In Chains in their brief moment of truly hitting on all points, even if the record contained its fair share of dross and truly wretched material. However, for the tracks on here that worked, they are exceptional. The band often was able to tap into a great pool of emotional and moving songs, as "Rooster", "Rain When I Die" and "Down in a Hole" demonstrate. Layne Staley, when not letting us know about his drug of choice, has a very powerful and emotional voice. The music is also quite good on the strong tracks, especially the exotic sounding title track. There is also groovy crunch, as on "Them Bones", "Would?" or "Dam that River". The problem with this record is that the bad tracks are downright horrendous. The aforementioned drug imagery of "Junkhead" and "God Smack" merely reflecting the state of mind Staley must have been dwelling in at the time. It is unfortunate that the great songs on Dirt are forced to be surrounded by such drivel. The album could very well be an all time classic if it were only consistent all the way through.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1999

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Sap EP

Alice In Chains - Sap ©1992 Columbia
1. Brother
2. Got Me Wrong
3. Right Turn
4. Am I Inside
5. Untitled

Alice in Chains has always has had this softer, much more intriguing side that snuck out a couple acoustic EPs, Sap being the initial foray into their other dimension. Frankly, I much prefer the band in this mode as they are able to succinctly capture their mood with strength and conviction. Layne Staley's voice is exceptionally well suited to an acoustic atmosphere, allowing him to explore more facets of his voice than just screaming. In a way, I've always found it to be tragic that he's become one of the wasted talents of the 90s with all his drug problems because Sap convinces me that in 1992, he was at the threshold of becoming one of the best singers in ages. "Am I Inside" and "Right Turn" are both very solid, dark pieces of work, with the latter receiving a little help from his singing friends in Mudhoney and Soundgarden. Though short (unlisted obnoxious track five not withstanding), Sap is to the point and a keeper in the Alice in Chains soap opera.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2000

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Jar Of Flies

Alice In Chains - Jar Of Flies ©1994 Columbia
1. Rotten Apple
2. Nutshell
3. I Stay Away
4. No Excuses
5. Whale And Wasp
6. Don't Follow
7. Swing On This

Why this long EP was not released as a legitimate album is an enigma, as Alice In Chains never reached such a peak of cohesive songwriting, emotional performance and tight arrangements on any of their full-length studio recordings.

The songs range from melancholy ("Rotten Apple") to more upbeat ("No Excuses", "Swing on This"), and feature mostly acoustic instruments, together with AIC's usual harmonized vocals. As the EP was recorded very quickly, the rhythm guitars and bass were recorded direct, but the inherently awfulness of direct guitars is considerably diminished by heavy processing. Jerry Cantrell's usually sloppy lead work is uncharacteristically clean and inspired ("Nutshell"), and the drums and bass are pleasantly prominent.

Together with Sap, this EP shows Alice In Chains at its best, and should have the utmost priority in anybody's AIC purchases.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 06/2001

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Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains - Alice In Chains ©1995 Columbia
1. Grind
2. Brush Away
3. Sludge Factory
4. Heaven Beside You
5. Head Creeps
6. Again
7. Shame In You
8. God Am
9. So Close
10. Nothin' Song
11. Frogs

A disappointment of immense proportions, AIC stumble back with this self-evident mess, utterly musically powerless compared to previous stuff, this album works like an insomniac's elixir. Layne sounds totally uninvolved, barely present and Cantrell seems to have bored with the genre itself. Alice In Chains just drones; often jammy, bleak and broken for all the wrong reasons. I've seen more life in an open grave. Folks, Layne has left the building. Drugs are bad.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 12/1998

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Unplugged

Alice In Chains - Unplugged ©1996 Sony
1. Nutshell
2. Brother
3. No Excuses
4. Sludge Factory
5. Down In A Hole
6. Angry Chair
7. Rooster
8. Got Me Wrong
9. Heaven Beside You
10. Would?
11. Frogs
12. Over Now
13. Killer Is Me

Considering that Alice In Chains' best record is an acoustic collection of songs (Jar of Flies), this live Unplugged album could have been a great summary of their career, with the band's excellent grasp of what makes an acoustic arrangement work. Unfortunately, that was not to be, and this is a lackluster record from start to finish, with more than a few painful moments. In fact, Alice In Chains unplugged is something that probably should not have been recorded, as the unforgiving acoustic setting deprives them of Jar of Flies' subtle-but-necessary arrangements and bluntly exposes Cantrell's and Staley's substandard singing and guitar playing.

While the drummer and bass players hold their own, singer Layne Staley sounds completely uninvolved for most of the show, and Jerry Cantrell's guitar playing (obviously unretouched in the studio) is painfully upfront, with plenty of fret buzz and no dynamics. As on most Unplugged albums, the acoustic instruments are in fact plugged in (as opposed to miked), and to this day nobody has found a way to make direct acoustic guitars sound remotely acceptable. The result is a recording that sounds like a high-school cover band's demo, and the electric hits ("Would?" and "Angry Chair" in particular) are simply unbearable.

With two excellent acoustic EPs widely available, this Unplugged album is subpar and redundant. For completists only.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 06/2001

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