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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)