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Beautiful depression tastes like acid - 100%

TheKidSolano, November 14th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1992, CD, Columbia Records

Darkness, acid, psychedelia, depression and "in your face" headbangers. The sum of these elements (in different amounts, of course) gave rise to an unique balance in the form of this masterpiece which is Dirt. The score I attributed to the album in question does not mean that it is absolutely perfect - as far as I know, there is no such thing - but it turns out to be symbolic, from the personal point of view, because it is a record that belongs to a restricted lot of records that I hear non-stop times and from one end to the other without feeling bored or need to skip tracks.

For me there is no discussion about the nature of Alice in Chains (AiC) as a metal band, even because, as many other reviewers have already pointed out, they get a big chunk of their influence from bands bands like Black Sabbath or Melvins (among others) to the final sound of the band. The aspect that I think it is important to emphasize is that with Dirt, AiC have become, themselves, a reference to be followed by contemporary and future bands.

Although there is a certain negativity going through the band's entire course - in the emotions conveyed by their music, their lyrics and unfortunately by the real life of its members - I think it is safe to say that Dirt has established itself as the solid bridge between the acidic atmosphere of Facelift and the self-destructive environment (for the reasons well known) of the self-titled album that would succeed.

This perfect mix was made possible only by the geniuses they proved to be in composition and to which the technical gifts of each member of the band are keen. I'd like to highlight the powerful and multifaceted voice of Layne Staley ("Them Bones", "Sickman", "God Smack", "Would?"), the delightful groove of Sean Kinney ("Sickman", "Junkhead", "Angry Chair", "Would?") and Jerry Cantrell's infectious riffs and a self-restricted "less is more" kind of approach in his leads. Mike Starr is omnipresent, the bass is audible and important in the construction of the sound wall the album drains.

The end result is suffocating or overwhelming (choose what you consider most appropriate) and it turns out that Dirt has become very effective at conveying emotions. The best way to illustrate the sensations it gives me is that it leaves the listener as if stuck to the ground with a kind of goo that prevents him from rising, no matter how hard he tries.

I venture to say that the most direct and aggressive songs, contrary to what often happens, are the ones corresponding to breathing space: "Them Bones", "Dam That River". They're the "happy tunes" around here! All the others oppress, either by the sick poetry recited by Layne Staley's tortured voice - "Sickman", "Junkhead", "Dirt", "God Smack" - or by the hatred they stink - "Hate to Feel", "Angry Chair".

AiC have still given us room for melancholy, either through the form of a ballad in the case of "Down in a Hole" or through a song ("Rain When I Die") that resembles the passage of a gloomy movie in which the protagonist plays a monologue about what happened and what is to come.

Closing, with a golden key, the epic (epic, by AiC standards) "Would?" which synthesizes, in an effort of remarkable composition and in an unique blow, all the shades offered by the masterpiece that this album represents.

I can only say that I do not consider "Rooster" a song as good as many people think. Anyway and despite being just "an oak song", it is not enough to ruin the gloom and dark class of an album that will surely stand the test of time.

It is interesting to see how the psychedelic passages from "Hate to Feel" or "God Smack" coexist in harmony with the sludgy doom of the remaining slower songs. The glue that allows it is the balance, in perfect symbiosis and complicity, between the overlapping voices of Layne and Jerry that have established themselves as an AiC trademark which eventually seems inimitable in the world of heavy music.

The score is worth both for the album itself, and compared to the rest of the discography that, I might add, maintains, in my opinion, the extremely high standard.

The whole album is a highlight by itself, but if I even had to extol a few songs (as if to recommend a sample), my bet would fall on "Them Bones", "Dam That River", "Sickman" and "Would?".