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There have been so many cases in rock and metal history where a band has softened their sound for simplistic instrumentals and phony lyrics that would have been an insult to their earlier discography and then cheaply label it as "evolving" in a desperate act to hide their shame for obvious pursuit of radio play. With Alice in Chains however, you just don't get this impression throughout the entire album despite the fact that this is now a completely different band to the one that won over such a loyal following in the early nineties for their combination of grunge and metal that had yet to really be perfected by other bands of the time such as the likes of Soundgarden.
There's no doubt the band diluted the heaviness with the use of the electric guitar taking a back seat for the most part, although you just get the obvious feeling about this album that the sound wasn't softened for radio play, quite the opposite, this is actually the perfect example of a band evolving. The instrumentals have their own unique elements of progression and melodies, and Layne's vocals had yet to decay remotely. Alice in Chains and acoustic ballads just go hand in hand, instrumentally and vocally.
This EP is also graced with what is in my opinion Alice in Chains' greatest song of all time, "I Stay Away". Which had some of the most enigmatic, almost atmospheric like vocals of Layne Staley that possessed a rather echoing kind of feel to them. If there was of the only real familiar aspects of this album that would have been reminiscent of the first two releases, its none other than Layne Staley's depressed, dreary but none the less gifted approach to vocals that in my opinion have yet to be topped by any rock & roll vocalist in history.
Another part of this release that may have have helped in appealing to fans of Facelift and Dirt would be Jerry's occasional re-introduction of the electric guitar when ever it came to the guitar solos. However they weren't really executed in the same manner as those on the previous full lengths. Certain tracks such as Whale & Wasp on this album were shining examples of how the solos had the perfect correlation with the acoustic rhythm, the two would just seem to almost swim along together, creating some of the most chilling melodies you can find in the band's discography, and further evidence that focusing on technicality can be a very artistically limited approach to have in the studio a lot of the time, which is something that a lot of more modern bands should take note of.
Favourite tracks: Rotten Apple, I Stay Away, Whale & Whasp
I must say, this is a huge step up for Alice In Chains, not because their last album was bad, it was good too. But mainly because this one is so much better. I hate to say that this is the only other Alice In Chains release that I really care much about, but at least it's a magnificent one. Part of it is probably because it is just an EP, thus there could have been more material that was cut out. That is something that I think that would improve any of their albums, but this one, it is really not needed at all. There is one track that I don't particularly care for as much as the rest, and that is the final one, "Swing On This". I'm not saying that it should be cut, but I wouldn't mind if it were, and would probably make my rating for this 100%. Why do I not care for it? It's just kinda a weird song that sounds like they just threw it on there at the end for shits and giggles. The other thing is, the second to last track "Don't Follow" would have been the perfect outro to an EP like this. But nope, they threw in something else at the end that doesn't live up to the other six tracks on here.
Speaking of "Don't Follow", that is probably my favorite one off of here. It's very mellow, soft, and relaxing. It's good for when you're in a relaxing mood, just to sit and chill out. Layne Staley's vocals on here are completely calm, and don't have that harsh element that they usually have, which is nice for a change. Near the end, they pick up a little bit, and then eases back out very calmly. That is the perfect outro to the song, and as I said, would have been a perfect outro for the entire EP. This song is also all acoustic and played very slowly. There is very little electric guitar at all in this entire release, but that is just another thing that I love about it. Being a metal fan, it's probably weird that my favorite instrument is the acoustic guitar. I guess it's just the sound output of that instrument, it's so soothing in every way. As a whole, I think that this release seems way less depressing than the other releases, however that does not mean that it isn't depressing at all. The instrumental "Whale And Wasp" is a very dark and sad sounding guitar piece consisting of a lot of whiny chords and whammy usage. It's short though, and doesn't drag on, and the guitar tone gives a very neat sounding effect to the listener. It's pretty amazing, as simple as it is. The intro track, "Rotten Apple" is also slightly depressing, and is also very long like a lot of their tracks in general. This one, though, is done very well, again, because it doesn't just repeat a lot of stuff. There's soft mellow parts, small solos thrown in, and lots of variation on the vocal tracks. So it is far superior than a lot of the other songs that they tried this with. Thankfully none of those are on this EP, most are from "Dirt" or their self titled album. So as far as the depression goes, it's turned down a lot, and turned more into relaxing.
So, this leaves us with the more upbeat sounding elements to this. "Nutshell" is another one of my personal favorites, as the intro riff to that is just perfect, and beautiful to the ears. My favorite rock band, Stone Sour, always plays some of this song before going into their own song "Bother", whenever they play it live. I saw that twice, and it was absolutely incredible, whether done by Corey Taylor or Layne and Jerry. It's very calm the whole way through, and contrasts just about everything else that Alice In Chains does. Again, mostly acoustic. That leaves us with "I Stay Away" and "No Excuses". These are what I call the standard rock songs on the album. They're simply upbeat, electric, but not played in a minor tone (for the most part) and remain content. They're both played on the radio quite frequently, and are also the two tracks that introduced me to this band. This was the first review I ever wrote to mention every single track on the release, but that was completely unintended. It's just that each one played a completely unique role in this, and all needed to have their own honorable mention.
To sum it up, I call this the recovery from depression. I imagine people getting help, and although still battling it here and there, they're just kicking back and relaxing. Relaxing with some rock based tunes and mellow happy pieces. All of that together makes for a wonderful release.
Alice In Chains has always been a big part of my life, from as young as 4 years old, up until this present moment. Their music has always had this dark mystique to it, and that intrigued the growing musical mind of myself. As I was born in 1995, most music I was into by the time I was old enough to care came from either A: leftovers from the grunge age of the earlier 1990's or B: the modern, so-called "Post-Grunge" movement which, ultimately led into the debacle that modern radio rock is today. Most radio rock today is what I call "Modern Cock Rock", which is crap such as Buckcherry (Buttcherry) among others. One band that was a staple of rock radio from the early 90's (and even now) was the Seattle based "Alice In Chains".
Um... well this disc is quite strange, It is like AIC set on chill-out mode. I am almost certain that the first song by AIC I ever heard was the incredible "Nutshell" off of this EP. "Nutshell" makes my skin crawl whenever I listen to it. I constantly feel as if the spirit of late front man Layne Staley is standing over my shoulder. The song itself is a haunting song, but is also a song that will stick with you, you may even find yourself humming to this grim tune. The EP's opener "Rotten Apple" is much in the same vein, dark and gloomy, with Staley's signature moaning, giving this song a whole new dimension and atmosphere. The album switches almost too soon, from gloomy and bleak to up beat and a tad more hopeful with the radio staple "I Stay Away" and "No Excuses" which are both songs that I remember hearing when I was a lot younger on Detroit based radio station 101.1 WRIF. The instrumental "Whale And Wasp", while it is a great track, sticks out a tad, it being a bit different than the majority of the content of Jar Of Flies.
In concluding, the album is an essential for any fan of hard rock, to heavy metal, to even commercialized, over processed, radio rock. If a kid came up to me and asked me what music was, I would buy him/her a copy of Jar Of Flies and tell them to have a nice day. The EP is great for a listen while you're relaxing, nothing overly heavy and bone crushing. Overall, it seems like a nice, yet more electric companion to the 1991 EP Sap.
This is one of those reviews where I'm sat here thinking; "where do I start?"
I grew up listening to Alice in Chains, and I remember getting this for Christmas one year. I think I was around 12, and was bang into Dirt at the time. I never expected this, back then I judged a book by its cover, and from the image I was expecting a really dark, heavy and oppressive release, which was exactly what I got, just not in the way I expected.
With a large use of acoustic guitars and bass, Jar of Flies was just about a fully fledged acoustic album, save for the inclusion of electric guitars which would add to the atmosphere. At the time I first heard this, I feel I was maybe a little too young to fully appreciate the depth and scope of the material on offer here; although I certainly persisted with the album. I often find it funny how things change, and I've changed. Once upon a time I would have gladly shelved this in favor of Facelift, but now when I fancy a bit of Alice in Chains it's almost always Jar of Flies.
Something about the harrowing, bleak, almost suffocating emotional energy blended with strangely uplifting, and warming music really creates the appeal in Jar of Flies. Sinking its hooks into me over the years, I think the beauty of this album is that even though I think I know the album like the back of my hand, I always find something new to love.
From Layne Staley's haunting vocal delivery and poignant lyrics, to Jerry Cantrell's brilliantly restrained guitar work, the performances here are sheer magic. Not to forget Sean Kinney's quality percussion back-beat and of course Mike Inez's wonderful bass and acoustic bass work. The production is perfect for what the band were going for, and really gives the music a lot of room to breathe, filling the room; I'd certainly recommend playing this one loud.
As I started off, I mentioned I was expecting a dark and heavy experience, which back when I was younger essentially meant I wanted Dirt the second. Obviously this isn't heavy in the sense of guitar riffs or distortion; I think much like The Devin Townsend Projects Ki album, this is heavy in the sense of its atmosphere, and how the sum of its parts weigh down on you. This is particularly evident in "Rotten Apple" and "Nutshell", which are worth the price of admission alone. The former fitting the dark and heavy description given above/earlier perfectly, the second being an emotional piece of music that will always be a personal favorite (and to be fair, likely that of your average coffee shop dweller).
I've went on quite a bit here, although Jar of Flies has always been a personal favorite and likely always will be - its one of the oldest CD's in my collection. I rated this higher in my first review, and decided to lower it due to it basically being an EP. All in all though Jar of Flies is a release I feel works best as a way to break up a listening session, or a good release to wind down with after a hard day. A wonderful listening experience, which I'd give some pretty high recommendation.
(Edited 15th September 2013)
Alice in Chains decide to integrate more acoustic lines, mellower atmosphere, and a generally 'softer' sound into their brand of grungy metal. And as a fan of their mellower songs anyway, I say "Why the hell not?"
This is a band that progresses on every release, from a musician's standpoint and a songwriter's. All the instrumental work is better and Staley's voice is just as memorable as it ever was. The most notable aspect of this album is killer use of atmosphere. Though this is not a heavy album when you look at the ingredients, it sounds heavy because of the way they're mixed. The lyrics are just as dark and moody as ever, but the music occasionally serves as a sort of positive counterpoint that gives the album a unique sound (though they always had moments like that, sort of). And then there's stuff like "Swing on This," almost jazzy in essence, to throw off any stereotypes of the band's nature. Oh, and did I mention Cantrell's lead guitar gets better on every album?
This EP is essential for the AIC fan, and since the rerelease comes with their other EP, there's no viable reason not to own this. Some of the songs aren't up to par with the classics "No Excuses" and "I Stay Away," but that's to be expected on an Alice in Chains album.
This is Alice in Chains’ definitive work, and although it is only an EP, it listens like a full length album. Unlike "Dirt", which is lauded as being a revolutionary work of genius, this release is worthy of all the praise that it receives as it truly breaks new ground. While it does mostly an acoustic album with some highly blues inspired moments, I would argue that this is the most metal album that they have ever put out. It has great vocal work, intricate guitar soloing, the best overall exploitation of the rhythm section and an overall spirit that reaches for greatness.
“Rotten Apple” is the gloomiest and most atmospheric work on here, and the longest song that I believe AIC has ever put out. Plenty of good blues soloing on here, be it the wah pedal driven leads at the beginning, or the clean toned guitar that dominates the ending. The lyrics are a bit dark, but the overall feel of the song doesn’t quite cross the line into being morose.
“Nutshell” and “I Stay Away” have great acoustic work driving them along; the latter is probably the more well-known due to its many dramatic changes and triumphant sounding chorus. The former was widely imitated by bands such as Seether and Stained, though they never came close to capturing the same emotion in the vocal department, nor could they rival Cantrell’s nostalgic leads.
My pick for the highlight of this album is probably the most well-known song on here. “No Excuses” sees some of the most memorable lead playing I’ve heard, in addition to some great work by the rhythm section. The drum intro is an instant give away that a great song is coming, I don’t know how they got that sound out of the snare, but it works wonders on this song. This song also takes my pick for the best vocal delivery, as Jerry’s and Layne’s voices meld together perfectly.
The rest of this album is not quite as amazing as what preceded it, but it’s still solid. “Whale and Wasp” is a short atmospheric instrumental with some dreary sounding guitar drones. “Don’t Follow” and “Swing on this” are more blues driven and don’t quite have the same amount of hooks as the first 4 songs, but they work well and showcase some of the strengths of the bassist and drummer.
In short, this is the album that I most associate with Alice in Chains’ greatness as a metal band, and yes I call them a metal band. In their day they were labeled grunge because they came from Seattle and didn't wear mascara, but if you compare them to the rest of the scene, that's as far as the commonalities go. This is a must have for any fan of this band. Although it lacks the electric heaviness of their full length albums, it makes up for it with pure artistic genius.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 19, 2008.
I have to admit that before hearing Jar of Flies originally I was somewhat skeptical and scared of what to expect. Unsure of how this will stand in comparison to their previous releases because of how they changed and evolved their sound. Fortunately their new softer, more acoustic oriented material is not only worthy to the name Alice In Chains name, but is so different and beautifully depressive at times it deserves to be classified totally separate from previous heavier albums. Special mention goes out to the very well placed lead electric guitar work as well. Jar of Flies features some of Layne Staley’s most passionate vocals ever. The vast majority revolves around these gentle acoustic strings and Staley’s incredible vocals. Don’t expect any extraordinary drum fills (that would be ridiculous on this emotional album anyway). That said, the bass work is very noticeable because of the nature and his contribution has really helped define the albums sound. Jar of Flies lyrics are too damn personal and emotional to even think of bringing complexity into the mix. All complexity would do is cloud this excellent release. So now you know this change in sound has truly evolved their sound so how about tracks?
This album is filled with memorable melodies and hooks. Rotten Apple is an excellent starting song. One of the better acoustic riffs on the album and also contains great lyrics to kick this album off. This leads to the extremely passionate, personal nature of Nutshell, which could possibly be one of Alice In Chain’s best songs over and can never be described as accurately as it deserves to be. Has Layne ever sounded better? I Stay Away is definitely another highlight with its great acoustic material and amazing chorus riffs blended with different more orchestra-based instrumentation finished off with the trademark AIC vocals. No Excuses is another excellent song on this album. Not as depressive tone as Nutshell, but the music is spot on and fits the song very well. One minor knock on this release from Alice In Chains is that somewhat formulaic but the big question is who cares? Undeniably catchy melodies and the lead guitar did a great job in varying its work on each song to not make it seem too repetitive. Whale and Wasp is an excellent instrumental as well. Excellent blend with the presence of an orchestra once again. I love the opening lead guitar riff because it can feel so damn cryptic. Some of the best lead on the album. Thus far top notch stuff. I love it!!! Don’t Follow is another classic Alice In Chains track. The harmonica is a welcome addition and the acoustics were great as always. Not one of their best vocal performances but it was still very good for pretty well anyone else. Swing on This is a great tune, but on this album it felt like the vocals, guitars weren’t as good as the rest of the album. All in all, Jar of Flies has seven very solid songs at worst. At best, a masterpiece of the 90’s but I think a classic Alice In Chains album is more realistic. Recommendations? Listen to the whole album! :P Best of luck with finding weak tracks!
Unlike so many great metal and rock bands, AIC completely mellowed their sound from their earlier work on their two eps, Jar of Flies and Sap, and completely make it work. Actually, I lied. They did two amazing things. The first one was stated above and the second one is that while they mellowed their sound, their music still remained as bleak and "heavy" as ever. The Cantrell/Staley vocal duo's vocals are as haunting as ever yet beautiful at the same time.
'Rotten Apple' is probably the most bleak song on the album. The vocals are immensly powerful and the lyrics are amazing. This seems to be the norm with AIC. 'Nutshell' is a slower, more somber tune, yet it is amazing. Great guitars accompany the once again amazing vocals. They lyrics are especially depressing knowing what Staley put himself through up until his passing. "And yet I fight, this battle all alone. No one to cry to, no place to call home." 'I Stay Away' was another single off of this album (along with Nutshell) and the orchestral music in the background fits perfectly. Amazing song.
The album goes slightly downhill from here, but remains rather strong. 'No Excuses' is a great Cantrell song and has extremely catchy verses. It also features some nifty cymbol work. 'Whale & Wasp' is a short instrumental and works very well. 'Don't Follow' and 'Swing on This' are slightly weaker tracks, especially the latter, but are decent ends to a great ep.
Alice in Chains is a great band and this ep is a great album. Very recommended for any AIC fan or a fan or softer, beautiful rock music.