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Emotionally intensive music done properly - 98%

psychosisholocausto, July 28th, 2013

Alice In Chains are renowned as being one of the best bands in grunge, primarily due to their first two albums. Originally fronted by Layne Staley, they put out three albums before that particular man died due to his long-standing heroin addiction, leaving behind a legacy, before they reformed under the guidance of DuVall for two modern albums. The most recent of these albums was released in 2013 and marked a return to the sound they created on Dirt, which inspired many people to dive back into their previous releases to check out this particular album. Those who decided to do this will be exceedingly impressed by what this album has to offer, whilst those who are yet to do so should consider doing that as soon as possible, as this album will change your life.

Dirt is frequently cited as being one of the best albums in grunge music, although it has more of a metallic tint to it than, say, Nirvana or Pearl Jam. It combines that monumental vocal talents of Layne Staley with the extremely tight instrumental work of guitarist Jerry Cantrell to create one of the most unsettling atmospheres in musical history. This was a release captured at the height of the band's personal troubles, with every member struggling with some form of addiction, ranging from heroin to alcohol, and the band acknowledges this within the album, adding to the unnerving feel each of these songs have. In fact, the lyrics are one of the main reasons that Dirt succeeds. Opener Them Bones kicks things off in bleak fashion with lyrics pertaining to mortality, whilst Junkhead and Godsmack are two extremely open and honest songs about the addiction Staley was battling, Rooster deals with Cantrell's grandparent who fought for his country and Down In A Hole is just a depressing rout. Rarely is there an album that is as flat-out open and honest as Dirt, but it truly works to its advantage here, conveying the emotions that the band felt and the true hopelessness of the situation Layne found himself in.

Of course, lyrics are only half the story and in order to give them even more feeling, a solid vocalist is required, and this is exactly what Alice In Chains provide. Staley boasts one of the most powerful voices I have ever had the pleasure of hearing, hitting some unbelievably strong notes on some songs. From the opening staccato screams on Them Bones to the switch between a shouted style of singing into a vibrato note on Junkhead, Staley gives his absolute best performance here. The debate rages to this day as to which of the band's two frontmen they have had to date is the better vocalist, but this release should settle that debate. A signature of the band's sound is the dual vocal lines that Jerry Cantrell provides the other half to, and they are done to great effect here. Dam That River and Angry Chair have two of the best sections of dual singing on the album. The guitar playing that Cantrell provides is also absolutely stellar, with some beautiful solos found on songs like Them Bones, whilst Rooster is pretty much a lesson in how to create a truly dark and horrifying sound with a guitar. He is not the most technically gifted guitarist of all time, but the ability he does possess, he puts to great use here.

The other members of the band are not to be overlooked either, with Dam That River and Them Bones showing off some superb drum playing. Would also contains one of the best bass lines of all time, rumbling along throughout to make for a stellar sound. Every member of Alice In Chains knows their role and they do their job fantastically, to create for one of the best-sounding releases of all time, and anyone who has not checked this out so far should consider doing so. The songs are immensely catchy, from the very powerful chorus of Would to the madness that ensues on multi-part track Sickman, and will hook you right in.