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Alice in Chains is a curious case of the "wait and see what happens" band: they started as a bluesy hard rock act from Seattle and they could've make it work anyway at the end of the '80s, but to the heavy music fan's happiness they managed to evolve pretty fast and also pretty well, directing their musical inspiration to a heavier sound.
When they signed to Columbia in 1989, they already had a bunch of demos independently recorded since the classic and also original line-up got together. These demos were the ones which made Columbia put their eyes on the boys. But before the commitment with the label was all settled up (which took several months), the guys were already experimenting and even refining a little in the demo songs, playing them live in some gigs, so in 1990 when the recording sessions started, they were somewhat a more mature band. As a way to see if the debut record would be as promising as it looked it would be, a vinyl/cassette-only EP/single was released before the proper record's release. It features three songs off the official recording sessions: We Die Young, It Ain't Like That and Killing Yourself.
We Die Young is one of the band's most well-known classic songs up to date. It is fast-paced at only 2 minutes and a half, and even being so short it anticipated everything that would later become Alice in Chains' trademark. Layne Staley's vocals are pristine here, with the classic opener line "scary's on the wall/scary's on his way" uttered in his powerful, coarse, and eerie one-of-a-kind voice and Jerry Cantrell's simple, but straight-to-the-point guitar approach with a short but amazing solo which shows that he already knew how to edit songs, adding power to the guitar without being flashy, thus highlighting his instrument by not overdoing it. It Ain't Like That is one of the most Sabbathian-like songs the band ever recorded and maybe the first sludgy tune on the band's career with Cantrell following Tony Iommi's doom rhythm pace here. It contrasts positively with the first one, making them an excellent debut duo (which will be later improved by the band's first full-length opening duo We Die Young/Man in the Box).
Killing Yourself sounds like a blending of the two previous songs and to this date I don't know why it didn't make it to the band's first record, Facelift. It has a lyrical content that actually fits the band's "proposal" and Layne's vocals are pretty good on it. I have to confess, though, that if compared to the other two songs off the EP, it sounds kinda underproduced, but I believe that it would be more fitting and mature than some Facelift songs like Put You Down or I Know Something ('Bout You). Too bad it didn't happen.
Anyway, We Die Young successfully served as a good appetizer of what Alice in Chains was going to bring to the world with Facelift, and these three songs were wisely chosen to feature on this EP as Man in the Box was only included on the band's first record a few weeks before its releasing, so I don't believe they even considered putting this song here. I have this release on vinyl, and to be honest with only three songs is pretty rare for me to put it to play, but it was a valid first attempt and it showcased well the strong points of Alice in Chains' early days.
By 1989 Alice in Chains had become one of the first of the "Big Four" Seattle grunge groups to get singed to a major label. Before the release of their 1990 debut album Facelift on Columbia Records, Alice in Chains issued this Promotional EP on Vinyl and Cassette. It features two tracks from said album; "We Die Young" and "It Ain't Like That" along with the song "Killing Yourself" which is only available on this EP.
The title track is quite possibly the heaviest song this band has ever recorded, the song is almost thrash/groove metal like, with some awesome riffs from Cantrell and the typical virtuoso-like vocals one would expect from the late great Layne Staley. The song is just an all-round' great heavy metal anthem.
The other tracks on this album unfortunately offer little, even to the hardcore completist fans out there.
"It Ain't Like That" is one of the weakest songs from Facelift. It features forgettable lyrics, boring riffs and is really just one of those dull album filler type of songs. The same can be said for "Killing Yourself" which sounds like a leftover track from one of Alice N' Chains old glam metal demos. Killing Yourself is only available on this album and a few other demos/bootlegs surfacing out there, however it doesn't matter since it's rubbish.
It's near impossible to find physical copies of this album (there are some copies floating around on ebay for about 100 dollars), so if you're a hardcore fan who's desperate to own everything then I'd recommend to just download this EP for free wherever it pops up on the internet. For the casual listener there's really no point owning this album. It pains me to give a great band like Alice in Chains such a low score.
Originally written for www.metalmusicarchives.com