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Better than most full length albums - 84%

DMhead777, May 12th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Columbia Records

This ep is the perfect transition from "Dirt" to "Alice in Chains". There are many new elements the band toys with and it sounds fantastic. The heaviness from "Dirt" is gone, but the raw emotion is ramped up to 11. If anyone doubted Alice in Chains had any talent then I would introduce them to this ep. It's extremely dark and shows the band's creative side.

The production is clear, but still has that grit to it from past works. The bass is a lot more present and the electric guitars are gone in favor of a more acoustic sound. It's very appropriate for the level of depression this album encompasses. There are some extremely heavy lyrics here. This is especially true on the song "Don't Follow". It's hard to imagine writing these lyrics and being aware you're actually going through them. This entire ep is one giant ball of "help me". Every song has something new to say and expresses themselves different than the last track. You get harmonicas, violins and cellos on certain tracks. It sounds odd on paper, but totally works. "I Stay Away" gives its message across much stronger with those added instruments.

It's apparent that the entire band put their heart and soul into this. I don't want to keep singling out Staley, but his voice sounds better than ever here. With the more emotional, and less metal, sound you can really hear the pain in his voice. He hits some higher-than-normal notes that sound incredible with the laid back guitar tone of Cantrell. "Nutshell" is a great example of this change. I'm glad that song was higher in the album because I wasn't sure if I was feeling this style change after "Rotten Apple". Most fans see that song as emotional, but I couldn't decipher the lyrics too well there. However, that guitar work by Cantrell is unbelievable.

For Alice in Chains, this is a short record to put out. It's a 30 minute ep that will definitely show you a different side of the band. I would argue that it it's better than "Facelift" and "Alice in Chains" combined. There is so much passion written in the music and vocals that it's impossible not to enjoy. It's a perfect follow up to "Dirt" and if the band's career stopped here then I would still be very satisfied.

Recs: "Don't Follow", "I Stay Away", "No Excuses", "Whale and Wasp"

Warm Colors, Dark Feelings - 95%

psychoticnicholai, July 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Columbia Records

More than anything, the Jar of Flies EP captures the soul of Alice in Chains in its most definitive form. Yes, people gravitate towards Dirt since it sounds more definably metal and contains most of their famous hit songs. While that's all fine and grand, this acoustic EP captures their emotions and attitudes in the most earnest and soul-bearing way possible. Alice in Chains are revisiting the ideas explored on Sap and developing them even further into songs that are even more atmospheric, definitive, and overflowing with emotion and sentimentality. It showed that earnest melancholy was Alice in Chains' true strength, and that they could make an acoustic EP with the gravitas to rival or even exceed their main albums. This not only made Alice in Chains' acoustic material become a main pillar of their definitive sound, whereas before it was just seen as a side effort, but it also gave us some of the greatest acoustic ballads and atmospheric segments that grunge had to offer.

Right from the beginning on "Rotten Apple" it hits you, the sound of the bass whose timbre is very warm and inviting, but whose melodies are very forlorn. This has a very "end of summer" feeling to it that sells the melodic beauty of not just the song, but the album as a whole. The imagery conjured on here is one of lonely red sunsets and beaten forgotten roads in the middle of nowhere. This imagery is only reinforced by Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell's vocal harmonies that do equally well in the roles of "warm and sentimental" versus "morose and lonely". They sound haunting, but also earthly and world-weary. The overall sound of this album combines a sunny atmosphere with a dark outlook which is unique and interesting with the two styles rarely ever feeling as though they're in conflict. It's a smooth experience that's accented all the further by such great guitar leads such as those on "No Excuses" and "I Stay Away". Jar of Flies has a strong, fleshed out sound that is perfect for maximizing that “end of summer” feeling which plays a lot into the acoustic guitar sound itself, and is brilliant at drawing up a relatable, but emotional soundscape that is fused very smoothly into songs that are both catchy and full of a strange sense of melancholy and runaway wanderlust.

Though Jar of Flies is primarily an acoustic EP, it makes a strong effort to go beyond that. Whether it’s the electric accents to “Rotten Apple”, the soothing atmospheric drones and wails of “Whale and Wasp”, or the full backing orchestra on the hit “I Stay Away”, all of these give an added depth to each of these songs that makes it a richer and more textured experience. This helps these songs carve deep grooves into your memory and adds all the more impact and emotion to the story being told. If there’s one big improvement from Sap on Jar of Flies is that addition of a richer sound with more layers. While they both banked a lot on the emotional impact of their very melancholic and emotional acoustic rhythms, the way things worked with Jar of Flies involved adding a lot more colors to the sonic palette and pulling you into music. The whole thing fits a mood that’s at peace, but also very gloomy and earthen. The only song that really strays from that path and prevents this album from being perfect is “Swing on This” which is just a little too “hoedown-ish” and jaunty to fit in with the rest of the album, throwing off the flow. It isn’t bad, but it feels odd after hearing all of these more brooding, smooth-flowing, and serious songs beforehand.

All things considered, Jar of Flies is one of Alice in Chains’ finest works. It contains some of their most emotive and iconic songs out there with only minimal departures from full-on earthy acoustic rock. Despite this, it still has metallic levels of darkness and compositional strengths with many songs like “Nutshell” that get to you at your most personal with a depressing, yet warm sounding aura and lyrics that maintain a delicate balance between moodiness and sentimentality. This album also helped turn Alice in Chains’ acoustic ventures into a primary mainstay of the band, with the later albums featuring acoustic songs to round them out, often being released as a lead single, the songs on this album are so rich and so catchy that they ended up as part of the band’s essential canon of hits rather than a simple, but pleasant diversion a la Sap. Jar of Flies is consistent grunge that paints depressive imagery with warm colors and warm guitars and it would go on to be vastly influential with songs that have both a radio level of catchiness and a level of emotion, texture, and awe that made it influential, long-lasting, and important. It sticks to you, but it always feels significant and weighty. It also approached dark melancholic feelings through acoustic rock without being totally grey and mopey. It brought a lot of color and warmth to the style and kept things heavy, even if it isn’t “heavy” in the traditional guitar sense of the term. It’s emotionally, thematically, and melodically heavy. It’s moving while still being down-to-earth and personable. This is one of the essential classics right here.

A very risky masterpiece - 88%

Chratheostic17, March 16th, 2015

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

Absent Of All Light - 100%

kgerych1995, May 12th, 2012

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.

Heavy, but not in the conventional way. - 93%

Andromeda_Unchained, November 27th, 2011

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)

Making Mellow Work - 86%

DawnoftheShred, December 16th, 2006

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.

AIC nails it on this one. - 92%

hells_unicorn, November 14th, 2006
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Columbia Records

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 ( on August 19, 2008.

You think evolving is a bad thing? LISTEN TO THIS - 90%

WitheringToSerenity, March 17th, 2004

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!

They managed to do something amazing - 89%

ThunderheaD, April 29th, 2003

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.