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Raw, unfiltered grunge - 88%

PhobiAddiction, June 3rd, 2015

After the release of the iconic album Dirt, Alice In Chains became a household name of the early 90s. The bleak musical tone combined with Layne Staley's anguished vocals and tragic lyrics exemplified the power of the grunge movement. It became obvious that the band's unique blend of alternative rock and metal was striking a chord with the public. After the acoustic-flavored EP Jar Of Flies proved a success, it was time for another full-length album. So how do they follow up their magnum opus? With something even heavier.

From the beginning, the music clearly emphasizes this album's darker tone. Jerry Cantrell's guitar crunches through distorted power chords and screaming leads. There are, however, a select few moments where he utilizes a cleaner, more acoustic sound to offer contrast, such as in the closing duo of Frogs and Over Now. Mike Inez and Sean Kinney, while rather underplayed in terms of outstanding performance, hold each song together with a lumbering sonic pace. As Layne's heroin addiction worsened, his lyrics became even more bitter and hopeless than before. His pained vocals are often paired with Jerry's softer lines to create ingenious harmonies. All of these elements combine to create a dreary, sludgy mood akin to the lighter side of industrial doom metal. The production also seems more metallic and lo-fi, fitting the (intentionally) ugly sound.

While some of the tracks consist of the typical grunge formula (verse-chorus-verse-chorus) there are others that reside in a more atmospheric style. These songs take their time to build and progress. The shorter, radio-friendly tunes found on Dirt have no place here. This is not the same album. Granted, this doesn't always work effectively. Songs such as Sludge Factory and Head Creeps tend to drag towards the end and lose their touch after the first listen. Near the end, a few more filler tracks become evident, as if they were leftover outtakes. However, the last two aforementioned songs bring the album to a satisfactory, if depressing, end.

It seems the band knew that Staley's days were numbered, and opted to release their darkest, saddest, heaviest album as a sort of swan song. With one of the most emotional and unmatched performances in alt rock history, it fits that description. While not the musical masterpiece that proceeded it, Alice In Chains' self-titled album stands as a wholly distinct record in their catalog.

Drained, tired, sloppy.....and brutal - 86%

Chratheostic17, March 4th, 2015

Coming from a huge death metal fan, I honestly would consider this the darkest, most brutal album ever recorded, more so in an artistic/lyrical manner than a traditional. Right from the beginning of the band's career, they were infamously for their cynical views on life and their overall depressive approach to music.

However the whole signature "darkness and depression" approach that helped the band make a name for themselves, really is on another level in comparison to early albums like Facelift and Dirt. In this album we witness music solely from the point of a vulnerable man who's in an irreversible state of depression and drug abuse and with certain lyrics you get the haunting impression that he is more than aware of that. Sometimes, I actually get the feeling in songs such as Over Now and in particular, Frogs that when they were in the making of this album, Layne knew that this would probably be his last album with the band. His vocals just sound so diluted and defeated but at the same time they manage to fit in perfectly with the chilling instrumentals.

I say chilling instrumentals because as always, Jerry Cantrell is on the top of his game. Once again, the man's contributions are incredibly diverse. Alice in Chains have mainly always been recognized, at least in this first stage of their career as a grunge band, however there are many instances where the riffs Jerry wrote would have been far more familiar to any metal listeners who got a hold of this album than those on the alternative/grunge side of things. That being said, there was a huge instrumental contrast on this album in the sense that some of the stuff couldn't really be further departed from metal and is surging deep in to the depressive depths of grunge.

In conclusion, if you're looking for a place to get started with this band then I would almost certainly try the other albums first. As enjoyable and unique sounding as this was, it certainly wasn't the Alice in Chains as we know it, and was undoubtedly their most experimental release to date along with Jar of Flies. This certainly may no longer appeal to the fan base this band spawned when the likes of "Man in the Box" and "Them Bones" echoed throughout radio stations in the days of the band's first two releases.

Reaping disharmony's spoils. - 100%

Empyreal, April 25th, 2013

Human depression and misery are such prevailing emotions all across the board, no matter where you live, what time period you’re in or what the cause is – people are prone to misery and sadness for reasons so widely varying that it’s almost impossible to shove all the reasons under the same umbrella. But the remarkable thing about people is that we get better, we move on, we adapt. We have the capacity to change and heal our wounds and continue living life. We have so many options now especially, with the lines of communication and travel networking the whole world together, to go somewhere new, start over, see beautiful things. So while misery is prevalent all throughout the human spectrum and while it will never go away – we can get over it. But what if you just can’t? Some people just fall through the cracks and become lost to any help or hope of recovering. These are the clinically depressed and the drinkers and – here’s your tie-in to the music I’m reviewing – drug addicts.

Yes, Alice in Chains was a band about inner turmoil and depression. Their first two albums were classics, albeit with a few fillers here and there and they never quite hit perfection. As many rock stars of the 80s and 90s did, the band became entwined with substance abuse, most notably here in the case of Layne Staley, who as we all know, OD’d in 2002 on heroin and cocaine. This is their self-titled album and the last album Staley ever appeared on with them, and frankly, the cracks were beginning to show. This was a broken band.

But that’s part of why this is so perfect. See, the thing with Alice in Chains is, they always had a knack for writing killer hooks and groovy, bluesy rock n’ roll riffs. Sometimes they even got pretty Sabbathine-heavy, and about half of their material could be termed somewhere close to heavy metal. But that wasn’t what they were truly great at; that was never their true talent. What Alice in Chains were good at was crafting masterful, soul-bleeding evocations of sadness and sorrow. On some tracks, like “Love, Hate, Love” and “Down in a Hole” off previous albums, they nearly perfected that; but on this self-titled album, they finally mastered their art.

This is one of the most broken-down, disharmonious depictions of wretched misery ever put to record. And it’s because Staley really was on the end of his rope here. You can hear it in every vocal line he sings. His voice, previously a loud, crowing holler, has been reduced here to a reedy monotone, the drugs and hard lifestyle having worn him down to a husk. The band has to layer over him like half a dozen times to even make his voice audible over the rest of the music. And while some people will tell you that he’s not as good on here, that he’s one of the factors that holds this album back…I think it really works. While his voice is so much less expressive and his range has diminished to almost nothing here, the pure decrepit sorrow is just so evident that it pretty much fits what the band was going for. With Alice in Chains’ themes of self-loathing, of questioning American societal values and the way people treat one another, and of mental deterioration, what better narrator is there than Staley’s droning, half-dead voice? It’s great, and captures exactly what they were trying to convey. When he moans through the eerie chorus of “Brush Away,” or the eight-minute crawl “Frogs,” you will know that nobody else, even Staley himself in the past, could have made these songs work as well as they do here, with that drug-addled, decaying whine as the sole guide through the muck.

The rest of the instruments follow suit, with Jerry Cantrell’s blues-rock-inspired guitar taking on a very organic and emotive form as opposed to the more traditional riffing on previous works, and the rhythms of Sean Kinney and Mike Inez rolling along like a pick-up truck on its last sputtering, choking legs of life. While this was a Seattle-based band, the sound here and atmosphere really call up an old Southern gothic style; very seedy, evoking wide, empty fields with a windmill and a broken down barn in the distance, the sky hanging low with clouds the color of wheat. The riffs are heavy and the leads are just pure whiskey-soaked, smoky goodness – calling back to the band’s bluesiest, grungiest influences. On “Grind,” they lay down a monster riff; on “Sludge Factory” we get some of their best guitar licks yet – pure slow, juicy Southern-cooked goodness. “Head Creeps” is one of their most malicious, oppressive pieces, just a masterpiece of eerie schizophrenia, and “Again” has a killer main riff and a hooky chorus to boot. Dirges like “Shame in You” and “Nothin’ Song” form hypnotic, droning overtures that will just leave you worn out and depressed. Since that’s exactly what the band wants, I think they succeeded wholeheartedly.

The best song here has to be the sole outlier, “Heaven Beside You.” This one, unlike the others, is more focused on the vocals than the guitars, and has a gentle acoustic motif running throughout, with a mesmeric, cathartic Cantrell-sung chorus. The lyrics are a great ode to acceptance of depression and a willingness to try and get better. The narrator of the song realizes that he’s hit bottom, and accepts it, refusing to simply wallow in depression over it and vowing to try to come back from the edge. It’s a soothing trip and a welcome break from the rest of the album’s near-constant insanity and decay. Along with closer “Over Now,” which I will discuss shortly, the slight break in the abject misery of the rest of the album is necessary, and adds depth and dimensions to the whole affair.

This whole thing has a very “personal” air to it, so while I can talk all I want about the mechanical factors that make up its composition, really the focus of Alice in Chains is the soulful emotions and the meanings of the music here. This album is constantly teetering on the edge of a breakdown, and at several points, really does dig down deep into one. The lyrics, while ambiguous, do well with the music to further this vision. Every song is about the limits of human sanity and tolerance, and what happens when we’re pushed to the edge. It’s a very dark, haunted trip and nothing is ever truly spelled out for us, rather just talked about in very vague, poetic ways that serve more as a portrait of someone’s deteriorating mind rather than actually telling a contained story in each track. There’s something nightmareish and diseased about the tone and lyrics on this album, and the band really wants the listener to share those feelings. As the album goes on, the lyrics become less and less well developed – while they are uniformly vague, the ones in the early songs are at least coherent enough. But by the time you hit “Nothin’ Song”…

Began this take at 7:38
Head hit the board enough that it aches
Wonder should I be working so late
Began this take at 7:38
Head hit the board, enough that it aches
Wonder should I be working so late
Wonder should I be working so late
Began this take at 7:38
Head hit the board, enough that it aches
Wonder should I be working so late
Wonder should I be working so late

…yeah, pretty much babbling at this point. Just like, say, a drug addict, spiraling downwards into pre-infant mentality, barely able to form a coherent thought at all. The following song, “Frogs,” features barely any lyrics at all, with much of the vocals just moaning “Why’s it have to be this way?” over and over again. Tragic and affecting in its patheticness – the narrator tries to hold onto the last bits of sanity still clinging to his brain. The crest of the narrator’s decline comes full circle. And closer “Over Now” is a release from pain, a final catharsis after sinking deeper and deeper into the bowels of the other songs’ despair. We do, indeed, pay our debt sometime – and for all this album’s woes and gloom, I think Staley did pay his in the end, as this is a musical masterpiece, a classic of the highest order.

Like I said in the opening paragraph, sometimes people are just broken; sometimes they can’t come back from tragedy and degradation. The wonders of our accomplishments as a species are numerous, but sometimes we fall and we fall hard. Alice in Chains is a perfect, focused, wholly unified vision of exactly that concept, and every song adds to the vision of pure bleak depression. This is music that’s really about something – everything about it, from the vocals to the musicianship to the lyrics, adds to the overall effect, and Cantrell and co. really had something to say about depression and drugs and how far a person can be mentally and physically pushed. What I like about it is that it never focuses on why the narrator is where he is – there’s no sob stories about bad childhoods or the origins of turmoil and ruin. This is just about the here and now, about the last few hours of light in a dying mind, and the deranged, mean-spirited and incoherent thoughts that come with it.

Frankly, I’ve never seen an album so complete and total in its uncleanness, in its filthiness and its vision, and that’s why it gets the big 100%. It is a perfect portrayal of despondent, half-insane melancholy. Alice in Chains is not for everyone, and especially not if you really don’t want to depress yourself, but for the woebegone and the strung-out, this is your song. Your voice in the night – your light in the dark.

To be forever consumed by darkness - 92%

JamesIII, November 7th, 2010

If there is one thing that made Alice In Chains a band to remember, it is perhaps the fusion of their melodic nature with the complete and utter darkness that surrounds their character. In the mid-90's, darkness often delving into issues revolving around teen angst or social themes written in such a pedestrian manner the listener could derive no feeling from them. This band was always different, seemingly on a completely different plane than their closest peers in Soundgarden, as their message of pain and suffering was far more personal than hacks like Aaron Lewis or those in Seether who emulate this band could ever comprehend.

Coming off a flicker of sheer brilliance in the Jar of Flies EP, I'm sure it was a curious thought to ponder where the band would venture to next. Not surprisingly, they maintained the route they began on Dirt, but instead of repeating themselves the songwriting became more mature and the themes even more serious. What is produced is a veil of pitch black darkness that is even more thick than what Dirt had, this coming from the fact that unlike that album, there are no truly weak songs here. Dirt had "Hate to Feel" and "Iron Gland," neither of which were particularly worth revisiting, but this album in particular has none of that.

One thing to notice about this album is the overall length of the songs. Some of the band's longest songs are present here, such as the heavy as hell "Sludge Factory," the scary as hell "Head Creeps," or the creepy as hell "Frogs." On repeat listens some of these can be a tad too long for their own good, but there is certainly a majestic nature to them that always accompanied Jerry Cantrell's brand of songwriting (except "Head Creeps," which was written in its entirety by Staley.)

Of course, most of the songs here are just the right length. Songs like the layered "Heaven Beside You" and the gloomy "Brush Away" are both different in nature, but produce the same sense of overlapping darkness ever present on this album. Even the bluesy "Over Now," which ironically closes the album, produces a foreshadowing character about the eventual demise of this band and its iconic frontman, despite being one of the more upbeat songs present. Although some of the tracks simply fail to deliver the greatness produced by the more recognized songs here, there is not a single song I'd consider skippable or even mediocre by Alice In Chains' standards.

Alice In Chains has since been reborn out of the ashes of its questionable future, going beyond touring and even releasing a new album. As it stands, however, this is still the darkest album produced by this band. I can't really put this on the same level as Facelift or Jar of Flies, but it beats out Dirt in terms of overall quality. Its also seemingly the most overlooked album in the band's catalog due to a lack of major hits that the band's first two LP's had plenty of. Be that as it may, this stands as one of the better rock albums of the mid-90's, and completely dwarfs anything put out by those corporate rockers who consistently tried to imitate them but were never able to mimic the excellence heard here.

The Sound of a Dying Band - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, July 22nd, 2009

Just when you thought that it couldn't get darker than "Dirt" or "Jar of Flies," Alice in Chains released in 1995 what may the creepiest and most depressing in their discography in the form of their third full-length effort. The music is incredibly bipolar and the lyrics are absolutely hopeless. No wonder it was the last full-length album to feature the late vocalist/guitarist Layne Staley...

After spending some time going into more melodic territory, this could very well be the heaviest album that the band has released to date. In fact, it seems to have a few similarities to "Facelift" in its angry riffs and muddy execution. But while that album was often carried by the band's youthful attitude and a few sleazy moments, this album is primarily driven by the band's growing resent and spiraling down in bitterness and depression. Staley in particular sounds weaker than on their debut but still adds a lot to the atmosphere with his creepy layering and ghostly moans.

"Brush Away" may be the creepiest track of the lot thanks to the spooky guitar tone and "Again" is a memorable track with an uncomfortably upbeat riff and intrusive vocal layering. The longer tracks such as "Sludge Factory" and "Frogs" are also haunting due to their eerily slow pacing.

Even with the heavier tracks seemingly dominating this album, there are still a good number of ballads that help balance things out and look back to earlier releases. Songs like "Shame In You" and the ironically titled "Over Now" wouldn't have sounded too out of place on "Jar of Flies" and feature gentle acoustic lines under mournful vocal harmonies. "Heaven Beside You" is an exception to the rule with its somber tone being overlooked in favor of its oddly optimistic lyrics and upbeat vocal harmonies led by guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell.

Of course there are a few strange tracks on here. "So Close" is a particularly strange track with a rather upbeat outlook. Unfortunately, it is let down by its directionless nature and may be one of the worst Alice in Chains songs to date (Unless you count the infamous "LoveSong." "Nothin' Song" is also a really strange track made memorable by its incredibly odd lyrics ("Gotta finish so I can awake/Feed the cat as she spreads all the waste/Snap her neck or trade in for new make "). I'm not even gonna guess what the hell that is supposed to mean...

Even if the band has officially regrouped with new vocalist William Duvall at the helm, I still feel that this makes a solid ending to the Alice in Chains legacy. It's not as strong as "Dirt" or "Jar of Flies," but it still has great songs and an insanely dark outlook. Recommended to fans of depressing music everywhere.

1) Great balance of heavy and soft songs
2) Eerie vocals and excellent guitar playing
3) A haunting atmosphere
4) Excellent songwriting

1) A few weird tracks here and there
2) May be too dark for some listeners

My Current Favorites:
"Grind," "Brush Away," "Heaven Beside You," "Again," and "Over Now"

Beautifully melancholy. - 100%

Doodsvrees, February 14th, 2008

I’ve been a big Alice in Chains fan for quite some time now, but up until very recently, I’d only heard a small amount of their material. Almost everything I listened to was off of Dirt. I’d bought this album a while ago honestly just because I wanted to have it for my collection, I never planned to like it. Well recently I thinned out my record collection and came across this. Rather than sell it or toss it aside, I decided to sit down and give it my full attention.

The album starts with “Grind”, and while it was difficult for me to get into at first, once the chorus hits it’s undeniably great. What I really enjoy, but what saddens me at the same time, is the immense sorrow and dread that you can hear on this album. The time is 1995, and Layne’s drug problem is consuming him. Most everyone in the band knows this will probably be their last full length together, so naturally the songs are going to reflect that. While it’s sad and somber, this album really showcases some of their best work in my opinion. I think that this album, more than the others, really reflects how the band was feeling at the time.

The next song “Brush Away” is easily one of my favorites on the entire album. I would even go as far as saying it’s one of my favorite Alice in Chains songs of all time. I love the atmosphere with this song; the melody is so hollow and foreboding. Layne’s vocals are especially haunting on this one, making it that much better.

“Sludge Factory” is a song I’m familiar with because it’s featured on their MTV Unplugged album. Once again, the song features haunting and hollow vocals from Layne/Jerry. This song packs a bit more of an edge than their others, though. It’s done beautifully and in my opinion is as good here as it is on the live album.

I’m not going to review every song, but the next ten are just as great as the first. All featuring great guitar work by Jerry and complimenting that is Layne’s unmatched vocals. It’s an album of theirs that’s totally overlooked in my opinion, but one that really deserves some recognition. Pop it in on a rainy day and you’ll see what I mean. Absolutely unbelievable.

The Mournful Wailings of a Doomed Man - 85%

Metaphysical_Anomaly, January 6th, 2007

Let's time warp back to 1995 for a second. Metal, which had enjoyed a blossoming throughout the 80's and early 90's had hit a wall due to the grunge movement that was currently in full swing. This movement sprung up mainly from Alice In Chain's hometown of Seattle, with the ever hated Nirvana as front runners and poster children for this sad and pathetic brigade. That being said, Alice in Chains never enjoyed much popularity from metal fans who viewed them as "too grunge", as well as from die hard grunge fans who viewed them as "too metal". Could this have been the reason that Layne Staley took to the drugs that eventually took his own life?

In any case, their music, which on the last album was only slightly less dark, had taken a more metallic twist on "Alice In Chains" which made for a very decent album. From the opening of "Grind" to the very end of "Over Now", Alice in Chains take you on an hour long journey of depressing hooks, sorrowful vocals, and morose melodies. The sludgy riffage on the aptly named "Sludge Factory" highlight the album's noticeably more metal feel, though the soulful vocals of Staley still give the album its necessary grunge fix.

Songs like "God Am", and the acoustic "Heaven Beside You" use an amazing vocal intonation by Staley coupled with good scale progression to not only catch the listeners attention, but jerk the tears right out of their eyes. Other songs like "Head Creeps" seem to use a more groove oriented melody with a dismal tremor in Layne's voice to give the full effect of his malady. Finally, we come to the last song on the album in "Over Now". The song begins with "Taps" being played through a distorted phonograph and melds into 7 minutes of pure unadulterated, tear soaked hair in your eyes, sobbing. The vocal display intertwined with a soft, yet powerful, acoustic melody on guitar make for an outstanding ending song. A song that, whether Layne intended it to or not, foreshadows its creator's demise.

"Alice In Chains" as an album has very few weak songs, and rather, seems to use each song to highlight different reasons why you should feel utterly sorry for yourself. It's like being pushed into the mind of a hopeless drug addict and listening to a musical lecture on everything you've done wrong with your life. No, it's not like that, it IS that. You are experiencing the heart wrenching remorse that Staley has endured since his addiction to drugs, and it rips you apart. Highly recommended for anyone who is contemplating suicide.

This Has Some Amazing Moments - 84%

DawnoftheShred, December 16th, 2006

It's hard for me to pick a favorite among Alice in Chains albums. On one hand, every album has several outright brilliant, classic songs that deserve highest praise and on the other hand, every album has a couple songs that just accomplish nothing more than providing moody filler for an otherwise memorable disc. Alice in Chains' final album unfortunately features more of this filler than most, but has some outright amazing moments that not only compensate for those songs, but downright justify them.

This album provides a peak not only for the band's creative output, but also for their absolute dreariness. Layne Staley's downward spiral required Jerry Cantrell to share vocal duties with him. This results in an impressively creepy layered effect on some of the songs, but also means that the amazing Staley melodies are pretty much gone. They're still good, but not like those on Facelift.

Musically the album fuses Dirt with their mellower EP's. You have your heavy sludge metal moments, with lots of creative riffing. "Grind" and "Nothin' Song" are prime examples. But then you also get even better, more expressive mellow songs. This culminates in the album's final track, the unbelievable "Over Now." I actually first heard this song years after it was released, on the radio. I was familiar with Alice in Chains and generally liked them, but this was the song that made me actually take the time to track down and listen to their albums. This song is brilliant, beautiful, and tragic all in one perfect combination. The song still gives me chills when listening to it and it's easily my favorite AIC songs. I'd purchase this album on the merits of that song alone.

I'd say about half the tracks on the album don't really stand out. They aren't bad, but they're not outstanding, so they're just present and generally forgotten. But they're hardly detrimental to the album on a whole, I just generally disregard them in comparison to the album's masterpieces. This album is a fitting final release from an amazingly talented band and deserves far more appreciation than it receives.

Going out with a bang. - 87%

hells_unicorn, November 15th, 2006

This is definitely the most morose and utterly depressing album that AIC has ever put out, but there is some real musical genius going on here. Layne Staley’s drug addiction has all but turned him into a shadow of his former self, yet somehow he managed to get his voice in proper shape to deliver another stellar performance. However, unlike on the other releases preceding this one, Jerry Cantrell has assumed the role of reluctant front man. Although some fans of Alice In Chains may not have fully taken to Jerry’s increased vocal presence, the precedent set on this album would serve him well as he embarked on a rather brilliant solo career after this band split.

The two true highlights of this album, ironically, are two of the most well-known. “Grind” contains a lot of spooky sounding lead riffs over top a thudding guitar and bass drone. The vocals are a bit disjointed, as Layne Staley has thrown some distortion onto his vocal track, while Jerry Cantrell keeps his track clean. But it all meshes together beautifully; further complemented by one of my two favorite Cantrell solos of all time. “Heaven beside You” has a large collection of guitar tracks, all of them creating a sort of collage of riffs, one on top of the other. Cantrell dominates this song both vocally and musically, and what results is a highly catchy, yet gloomy slower song.

Songs that highlight Layne Staley’s singing include “Brush Away”, “Sludge Factory” and “Again”. The first is a short and dreary rocker with a rather spooky sounding main riff. The second is a bit overlong, but is heavy as hell and highlights one of the most twisted sounding vocal harmonies that AIC has put together. “Again” is a catchy mid-tempo song with a very simple, yet quite powerful driving guitar line.

The rest of the songs on here are solid, though some are a bit longer than they need to be. “Frogs” is the darkest sounding track on here, in addition to the longest, and is spearheaded by some more twisted vocal harmonies and gloomy sounding lead breaks. “Shame in You” is a slow rocker with a more laid back feel and some strangely pleasant sounding vocal harmonies. “Over Now” is another long track that almost seems to be taken from their EP material, as it is mostly acoustic and sounds heavily blues influenced.

As the last full length release by this esteemed Seattle quartet, this was a departure on a high note. It's not quite the masterpiece that "Facelift" was, but it carries many essential listening for the fan of Alice in Chains more Sabbath inspired brand of Metal/Grunge. The band has recently reformed and may record another album, and although it may not be the same without Layne, I'm quite optimistic. Though probably not an opinion that will sit well with everyone, I argue that Jerry Cantrell was the driving force behind this band and that he will continue to make it the great experience that it was.

Later submitted to ( on August 19, 2008.

An Enigma. - 82%

erickg13, November 1st, 2006

Alice in Chains has always been a bit of an enigma musical, their 1995 self-titled doesn’t really help clear this up. Starting from their early days as a hard-rock glam band, to the doomy grunge of their 1992 opus “Dirt”, and finally the oddly metallic and inaccessible 1995 self titled album, they have never really had a single style.

“Alice in Chains” is a very different animal than anything else that the band ever did. The vocals have a processed edge, the guitar is less organic and feels drony, while the bass and guitars sound as though they were done a computer. Also the lyrics have moved from looking to themselves, and what is going on with their lives, to becoming critical of the public and those around them. Just listen to the lyrics on the opening track “Grind”, “you'd be well advised not to plan my funeral before the body dies, yeah”, to realize what I mean.

The band sounds, to say the least, tired. However it seems that this lack of energy is made up for with some top notch songwriting.

Layne Staley voice sounds frail and weak. While other songs have his voice completely masked by this processing, possibly to mask his voice. The cover is referred to as Tripod, and clearly Layne is considered the missing leg.

Jerry Cantrell provides the great guitar which has become his signature. However the style is very different from what might be expected, rather than the organic playing he sounds very metallic and rigid. However, “Heaven Beside You” is a brilliant acoustic song, which ironically features Jerry on lead vocals.

The rhythm section of Sean Kinney and Mike Inez, is solid, however sometimes sound robotic. Mike Inez, makes a strong debut on this album, Alice in Chains last full release of new material, and while he may have more talent than Mike Starr, I have never considered him part of the “classic” Alice in Chains lineup. Sean Kinney has always been a great drummer in my mind, and doesn’t really let up on this album, but he used to have flash and bravado to his playing which seems to have been taken over by a robotic style.

As you can clearly see a lot of the description uses the words like processed, robotic, and metallic. I’m totally sure if this was intended when making the album, or just developed during the production. At points it adds to the music, while at others it seems to push you away.

Some of the choice cuts are the opener “Grind”, the standout acoustic “Heaven Beside You”, and the trippy electronic “Again”. Those are the better songs, while other songs may not be as good, but have more of an emotional feel to them.

Overall, this is a decent album from Alice in Chains, and a sad way to end their studio recording career, with Layne Staley, at least. Any fan of Alice in Chains should pick this up, while newer fans should check out “Dirt” or “Best of the Box” first.

Not their best but still some great music!!! - 77%

WitheringToSerenity, March 23rd, 2004

Alice In Chains last studio album may not be their greatest album, but it is still a solid release by an excellent band. Alice In Chains have opted to let Jerry Cantrell do more vocals which I dont think is that bad of an idea. His vocals are great but he is obviously not comparable to Layne Staley who was an integral reason for early Alice In Chains success. Jerry Cantrell does some good guitar work, Grind being an obvious standout but otherwise most of the work here is painfully average for Alice In Chains songs. The songs are catchy, still interesting but are still missing something the magic they had on Dirt/Facelift. Everything said, Cantrell cannot be faulted for a lack of diversity using much of his acoustic studio experience to full use on to form enjoyable leads like on songs like Sludge Factory. Generally a slower paced and darker album, thanks in part to the new "sludge" sound occasionally created on their s/t.

Album starts with Grind that has an awesome intro with a great chugging rhythm and very nice (wah) lead guitar. Continues with some great melodies and a top notch solo. Sludge Factory is exactly what it says. Slower paced, murky, but solid vocals, variety of guitar styles/techniques and an overall enjoyable song. Heaven Beside you is one hell of a catchy acoustic ballad if I've ever heard one. Vocals are excellent and has a great solo. Head Creeps falters a bit although I personally think its great, vocals are a bit different but I love the verse riff. Fades in parts but still a pretty good song. Again has a more solid, stable guitar/rhythm than impressive but is the vocals are top notch and put this son gover the top. God Am has the occassional flourishing melody but is spoiled somewhat by the main guitar riff which is surely not one of Cantrell's greatest. All in all still a some good riffs/solos and a decent song.

Further on, it becomes quite obvious this is one of AIC's most experimental albums to date. So Close and Nothing Song are great examples. The latter follows a slower tempo and although not the most interesting of songs creates a few memorable vocal melodies. Not too keen on the guitar. This brings us to Frogs and the opening bass intro brings one to believe something foul is in the air and delivers this soft, dark and incredibly slow feeling tune with one of the few strong bass presences of the album. Some nice lead guitar for the first time in awhile, but this great song but not enough to save the latter part of the album. Over Now finishes off with a strong, mid tempo, softer song with nice blues-ish lead guitar and acoustics by Cantrell and some of the better vocal melodies in the last half of the album. Quite a way to finish the album! I am a fan of all of AIC's work but I admit this is not their best effort. I would never consider this merely average however it is a shame Alice In Chains ended with some weaker material. Very strong first half of the CD but towards the end it started to fade and so has the rating. They experimented and it didnt pay off as well as hoped. Still an album most AIC fans should enjoy!!! Recommend Dirt or Jar of Flies albums first. Favorite songs : Grind, Heaven Beside You, Again, Frogs.

swansong - 80%

ironasinmaiden, April 17th, 2003

By the time Alice in Chain's 95 self titled disc came out the band was in shambles, reeling from Staley's drug addiction, among other instabilities. The result is an exceedingly emotional and personal album, as well as a spotty one. There are a couple tracks that just fucking suck (so close, nothing song). However, Alice In Chains classics like Grind, Over Now, Head Creeps, and Sludge Factory justify a fan purchase

"Grind" opens the album with a massive old school Sabbath riff (treated with Cantrell dischord). Never has AiC's harmonizing sounded so effective. Brush Away is one of several experimental songs... trademark Alice gloom punctuated with delay. Again is fueled by a very industrial rhythm, and fails to endure repeated listens. Head Creeps, however, dabbles in electronic soundscapes quite effectively

Layne's lyrics are alternately beautiful and desperate... God Am for instance... "hey god where have you been man? I'm not fine fuck pretending". Frogs is intensely desolate, and Shame In You moved me to tears. I don't recommend this for the suicidal... in spite all of their bleakness, Alice in Chains managed to create inspiring music.