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Alice In Chains... very possibly the most unknown band from the grunge scene, to people who don't listen to rock. But if you've listened to rock radio, you've probably heard this band dozens of times, and this album is the reason. Here present is the classic line-up (say what you will, but Mike Starr is by far their best bassist), who start off right from the get go to pummel you into submission with heavy riffing and awe-inspiring lyrics. Though many an album by this band is excellent, "Dirt" remains the definitive one. Maybe it's 'cause HALF their best known singles appear here. Ah well, let us proceed.
As I said before, the album begins furiously, with "Them Bones". Morose, longing and morbid, Jerry and Layne's gloomy song of mortality is like a harsh wind, keeping up with the chugging pace of the guitar work. Also present are two blistering guitar solos, providing even more power to the behemoth song. From that song's conclusion, you know you're in for a wild ride.
Overall, the band provide a wonderful balance between melody, technique, and raw power. "Dam That River" is a bitter song of rejection, failure, and addiction. "Rain When I Die", beginning with Jerry's haunting guitar intro for me remains the perfect unknown song from the album, featuring the duo's best singing on the album in my book. Then, the more fan-familiar "Down In A Hole" and "Rooster" bring it through again. None of the songs appear to be speeding up, but rather, becoming more and more droning. But it's the dark, heaviness of these tracks that make them so wonderful.
Side 1 (Or up to Rooster for the CD users), leaves no doubt to the band's delivery. But, torward this end, they start to waver. "Godsmack", "Hate To Feel" and "Junkhead" seem uncoordinated, compared to the intensity of all the prior songs. Riffs will be heavy, but vocals will be really sloppy and wavery, or they'll be too light and the vocals... a little too polished. They aren't bad mind you, just... possibly unfinished?
What revives the album from this stumble is the infamous "Angry Chair". Here, the riffs, the melodies, and the lyrics all compliment each other, giving an almost vicious air. Concluding this comes "Would?", a song that though not recorded along with the rest of the album, captures the vibe of the first side, taking it suddenly up-tempo. On each of the verses, the haunting dual attack of the Stayley/Cantrell team just takes you away.
So in conclusion, this album solidifies AiC's quality as a band. However, a few of it's weaknesses get thrown into a more vivid light. The album removes any of it's failures, but takes quite a while to get there. The band's variety is limited, so new converts may not take to it instantly. So if discouraged, listen the album through once or twice. Certain songs do grow on you. And of course, the fans will hardly be dissappointed.