Alice In Chains - Alice in Chains
Columbia
Heavy Metal/Grunge
12 songs (64'56")
Release year: 1995
Alice In Chains
Reviewed by Adam
Archive review
Though it wasn’t nearly as well received as Dirt or Jar of Flies, there has always been something very endearing about Alice in Chains’ self-titled 1995 album to me. Rewind back to 1994, I was in 8th grade, and was absolutely smitten with the band. I had heard the rumors of a permanent breakup, which saddened me greatly. When the “tripod” album hit it in late 1995, I can remember being so relieved and happy to hear from the guys again and knowing that the rumors were just that. Turns out that the band did take a 6-month hiatus and was very close to calling it quits, primarily due to the problems arising from the continued drug abuse of Layne Staley. The remaining three members: Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Inez began jamming together on songs Jerry initially wrote for a planned solo album. After some time, they invited Staley back, stating that it just didn’t feel right without him. The resulting album isn’t nearly as hard-edged and in-your-face as Dirt, but it is just as bleak. I think of Dirt as the raging storm and this album as the aftermath.

It was clear that the band, particularly Cantrell, were none too happy at reading some of the more outrageous rumors that swirled prior to the album’s release, and the opening single Grind is lyrically aimed squarely at the perpetrators. Though the opener charges on the strength of a pounding main riff, Alice in Chains is a much more subdued album as a whole. The second single, the (at times) borderline upbeat Heaven Beside You, features Cantrell handling the vocal duties almost in their entirety. His voice was always the smooth counterpart to Staley’s pained rasp, and on its own makes for a much calmer track. The album also features some of the longer songs in the band’s history, with a few clocking in at over 7 minutes in length. The first is the immensely heavy, and aptly named, Sludge Factory. The anvil of a main riff is almost doom-esque in its crawling and drawn out pace. Couple this with lyrics by Staley that paint a morbid and drug addled picture, and you have a song that probably has more in common with the Dirt sound than any of the others. Despite his addiction, Staley was still growing as a songwriter, and his one entry on this album Head Creeps I feel is his strongest as it captures the suffocating essence of Alice in Chains perfectly with piercing vocal harmonies and razor sharp guitar leads. The third single Again continues in the vein of the Grind with a slightly faster muted riff, but it is after this that the real gem is unearthed, at least in my opinion. Shame in You is a peculiar track, but I have come to revere as one of my favorite Alice tracks. It has an odd higher tuning which makes it sound almost like a dream, but the real highlight moments are found in Staley’s vocals, which are mesmerizing and beautifully harmonized. It is only after this song that the album falters, with a succession of three forgettable tracks (God Am, So Close, and Nothin’ Song). There are points that I liked in each, but generally I would just assume skip all three as none of them are consistently good throughout. The last two songs follow the low-key bleak formula of Heaven Beside You and are also the other two 7+ minute tracks. The first is the strange Frogs, a long and depressing tale that features one of Sean Kinney’s better performances on drums and some distant vocals from Staley that almost sound like he is singing them to you on the other end of a phone. The album closer is the outstanding final and cathartic single Over Now. Cantrell handles the primary vocal duties here as well, and the feel is remarkably similar to Heaven Beside You until it descends into a dark hole with a very somber final two minutes. It was almost as if Cantrell could sense that this was the last we would hear (discounting the Unplugged album) from this group.

Some critics derided this album for sounding tired and weak, but I thought, and still do, that this change of pace was beautiful and unique in its own way, fitting for a band that had just been through so much together. I would never recommend a novice Alice in Chains fan start here, but its still essential listening for anyone even remotely interested in the suffocating and dark sounds that only this band can produce.
Killing Songs :
Sludge Factory, Head Creeps, Shame in You
Adam quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Alice In Chains that we have reviewed:
Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here reviewed by Khelek and quoted 87 / 100
Alice In Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue reviewed by Adam and quoted 90 / 100
Alice In Chains - Facelift reviewed by Goat and quoted 73 / 100
Alice In Chains - Jar Of Flies EP reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Alice In Chains - Dirt reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
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