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Alice in Chains sophomore release is Dirt is almost universally overrated and I cannot believe it has received such acclaim. Many of Dirt’s songs have received extensive radio airplay like Them Bones, Rooster, and Would? Dirt is a mix between the slow gloomy doom of 70’s Black Sabbath and the more modern early 90’s alternative grunge scene. Alice in Chains outlook on Dirt is very dark and bleak owing most likely to Layne Staley’s drug induced lyrics.
The songs range from up-tempo groove metal numbers to the mainly mid/slow tempo grungy doom metal numbers with a lot of focus on strong atmosphere. Dirt’s production is done well placing each instrument clearly in the mix. As said above Dirt’s atmosphere is extremely important to each songs identity, giving a dark foreboding helpless feel to every song. Dirt has a very melodic edge to it mainly on the more epic numbers like Rain When I Die, Rooster, and the title track Dirt. Power chords and eerie held notes make Dirt simplistic and very minimalistic in terms of songwriting and complexity (guitar solos are rare and usually melodic).
Layne Staley’s vocals are solid mainly focusing on a mid-range grungy voice reminiscent of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain minus the annoying quality. Jerry Cantrell guitar work for the most part is either of solid or filler quality and he provides effective background vocals. Mike Starr’s bass guitar is audible for most of the record and really adds a big deal to Dirt’s overall heaviness. Sean Kinney drum work is solid and just enough to pass closer inspection but far from evolutionary or excellent. Overall the band members contributions while mainly solid could have been much improved upon and far less restrained.
Dirt has many factors and elements that weaken the overall quality and entertainment value of its songs. Many of Dirt’s songs are overextended and are very repetitive especially on the choruses. Dirt is too long just barely missing the hour mark and too many songs are present. Dirt could have been reduced to 9 or 10 songs and to 45 minutes in overall length for a much more effective impact. Iron Gland is under a minute and serves no purpose besides adding another track to the album (Tom Araya from Slayer quest vocals and he should be ashamed of his participation on this song) Dirt’s material is far from original and has been done before and after much better in terms if quality.
Dirt is overall a below average album and could have been done much better. Dirt seems to be given so much credit because of its high rate of singles appearing on rock radios around the country. Best songs are Them Bones, Rooster, Dirt, and Would? I recommend this album only to fans of grunge rock and alternative metal anyone else please stay away.
-10 points restrained and minimalistic approach to songwriting
-10 points overextended songs that are very repetitive especially on the choruses
-5 points overall length of Dirt and its songs is too long
-3 points Iron Gland serves no purpose besides as a filler track
-3 points Dirt’s material is unoriginal and has been done before much better