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How I feel about Alice in Chains

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2020 2:41 pm
by XsInMyEyes
Alice in Chains are my favorite band.
It took some time to realize it -- my first exposure to the band was to the Unplugged as a child; I took to their studio output when I was coming of age at 17, and encountered Dirt -- but I am convinced this is true. I wanted to share my thoughts on the diversity of the music, how it really makes me feel, and Alice as musicians.
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Layne Staley (Lord Rest his Soul) was a singer with Viking levels of power, Cantrell's guitar-playing purveyed the moods of his libretto chuggy, memorable riffing of pure grunge power (!!), while a fine rhythm section of Sean Kinney behind the drum kit and Mike Starr (Lord Rest his Soul), then Inez, on bass allowed the raw emotion of Staley and Cantrell to be convected through thoroughly melodic and tuneful guises.
In my teenage days, I was a downhearted, alienated misfit kid, who adored pure, genuine rock and metal music, of which Deep Purple, 70s Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy, and Judas Priest were favourites, and was thoroughly appalled by the soulless nature of the nu-metal and hip-hop that I found myself bludgeoned by.
Grungers of Seattle and elsewhere, like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots... and more obscure artists like the underloved My Sisters Machine, all fantastic and all had a God-entrusted aptness to draw a parallel betwixt playing loud, resonating with and reconciling anguish (while, of course, the mighty Mother Love Bone and Malfunkshun brought classic-rock up to date!) ... but they rarely bridged the gap with the same prowess of Alice in Chains. Their blend of heavy and moody made me feel a really intimate connection to the music.
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In my humble and respectful opinion, "Dirt" is perhaps the most gripping hour of music ever unleashed.
It coalesces all of the intrinsic integrants of rock music, both of years gone by and the then-present, bringing into one heavy-rock maleficence, and the quiet-loud dynamics and periodicity of the then-ongoing alternative-rock explosion, and using the muscular yet hauntingly delicate sound to proclaim the members own desolation and grief. Staley's tortured shrieks of addiction on "Junkhead", which is as minimalist as is thunderous, and the noisy "Sickman", and the morbid storytelling of Jerry Cantrell, recollecting his father's tales of the horrors of Veitnam in "Rooster", of his own violent history with a band member in "Dam that River", "Would?" recounting his loss of a beloved friend in Andrew Wood, both men's compunction of love and loss on "Rain when I Die", makes every lyric strike a nerve.
Jerry Cantrell may not be the most technical guitarist ever, he doesn't need to be! He is truly "the riff-lord", as his every move on the guitar conveys, and constructs a dark ambiance around the lyrics. The Herculean thrash that he rocks out on "Dam that River" couldn't better complement his retelling of his brawling with a bandmate, and the somber heartland-tinges on "Rooster" illustrates the bleak anguish endured by a Veitnam war soldier.
"Dirt" slashed any doubt that this band was grunge ("Dirt" is everything grunge conjures up, dirty yet melodic and full of unfiltered passion!). Dirt is a rock masterpiece from the darkest pits of Gehenna.
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Alice will inevitably have their skeptics, but hearing their eclectic blend, I find myself increasingly feeling that there's something by them for everyone For instance, my father, who is obsessed by Neil Young almost as much as I am, adores "Over Now", which marries gently chugging acoustics, with pensive folky harmonies that offer a charmingly peculiar feeling of solace and alleviation.
Their original and ever-evolving blend -- of loud-rock, post-punk, doom, blues-rock, acoustics, an obvious love for music, and having true soul -- shows a real rock journey across albums as members enjoyed exploring every musical avenue, and that they were one of the most adaptable and multi-talented rock bands of their era. From ascending classic-rock to grungy heaven on "Facelift", brooding acoustic melancholia on "Sap", the Alice-Unchained purveyance of raw emotion on "Dirt", the pensive and moving jangle of "Jar of Flies", and the heavier-than-ever integrating of stalwart riffs and delicate acoustics on S/T ... there was little ground left uncovered by Alice in Chains.
Alice's discography is a diverse jungle of a million styles, from the moving soft-sway country ballad of "Don't Follow", the scum-bucket noise-thrash of "Sickman", and the ethereal guitar-pop of the warming "No Excuses" -- there's something for any music lover!
Alice have some outstanding Deep Cuts, too! One fave from 1995's S/T was “Brush Away”, which entwines jangling folk textures with the thunderous minimalism of loud grunge riffing; the buildup into an eruptive chorus. The melancholic yet quizzical undercurrents of the libretto, conveyed by the contrast in guitar playing, gives assent to solicitude and a feeling of affinity with the music when stricken by emotional fragility... and stand to impart the tribulations of a heroin-addicted rocker...
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Not to mention that the members have hearts of gold! Pivotal, alongside Chris Cornell and Michael Stipe in the organisation's founding, a share of proceeds from their album sales went to Artists for a Hate Free America!
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This band truly moved. Thank you for the music.