Alice in Chains – Grunge / Metal
Some of the biggest influences on the grunge music scene during the early days were heavy metal, hardcore punk, glam rock, and garage rock. Along the likes of Black Sabbath, The Stooges, the New York Dolls and even Neil Young! Which some hail him as the ‘Godfather of Grunge” because of his love for loud distorted guitar playing. I also include the Pixies in the mix as well.
Grunge also becomes known as the Seattle sound. Which brings us to Alice In Chains who are one of the first grunge bands signed to a major label. The album is “Facelift” which includes the song “Man in The Box” It’s the first grunge album to reach the top 50 on the Billboard 200 and certified gold in September 1991. With Nirvana following behind them going gold in November 1991.
Alice In Chains – Starting Out
Starting out as a Seattle based metal band called “Sleze” with Layne Staley as their lead singer. Eventually the name and direction changes to glam metal band “Alice In Chains” circa 1986. A year before Staley even gets introduced to Jerry Cantrell hanging out at a party at a local rehearsal place. They become friends, and Cantrell ends up crashing at his warehouse space for a while because he was homeless. Shortly after, Alice in Chains breaks up as well as Diamond Lie (Cantrell’s band). To make a long story short, they help each other out and shortly after, they re-form Alice in Chains along with recruiting drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr as well.
They start touring the Pacific Northwest and captures the attention of local promoter Randy Hauser who takes interest in the band after seeing them perform live and offers to pay for demo recordings. Luck was not on their side at this time because the day they were supposed to get their demo to Hauser, the warehouses that they record their demo’s at was part of a police drug raid and things are put on hold.
These demos were called the Treehouse Tapes (circa 1988). The demo lands into the hands of Columbia Records’ A&R representative Nick Terzo, who sets up an appointment with label president Don Ienner. With The Treehouse Tapes, Terzo signs Alice in Chains to Columbia in 1989.
Below is the song Rooster which was a tribute to Jerry Cantrell’s dad. A Vietnam veteran having to deal with the psychological scars from being in the war. When he was writing the song, he takes the viewpoint of what his father experienced. It’s one of the band’s defining tracks.
First off Alice in Chains is a very complex band, that has had a lot of success in the 90’s and to this day they are still relevant now. Unlike a lot of 90s bands, they remain true to their style while still evolving. Now mind you, this band’s material deals with some hard-hitting subjects that for some are hard to swallow.
So, they may not be the right choice for the timid at heart. But, if you take the time to dig deeper into their catalogue of music, you’ll know why this band has the fan base they have. Even if you’re not completely into rock or metal, you’ll find a song that resonates with you. With Staley’s powerful voice and dual harmonization and Cantrell’s songwriting skills is what made Alice in Chains so relatable.
The Highs, Low’s & In Between
While the band is rising to fame and their music and popularity is exploding on the scene, lead singer Layne Staley was dealing with own demons. The tipping point was the death of his longtime girlfriend and fellow addict in 1996. Even though they were no longer together, her passing left a dark space in his soul. It was during this time that he started distancing himself from the band and pretty much the rest of the world.
Staying home doing drugs and playing video games. The band tried to on numerous attempts to get him the help he needed and to get him into therapy, nothing seemed to change his mind. Sadly, he passes in 2002 due to a drug overdose. Following the path of Mike Starr, the band’s original bass player who parted ways with the band in 1993 due to his addiction issues.
The Return of Alice In Chains
Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney reunited in 2006 without a particularly clear vision of the shape of things to come. However, they soon discover William DuVall, who ends up joining the band as a vocalist and a guitarist. In 2009, the new lineup releases the fourth album, “Black Gives Way to Blue”.
Fans were not happy with the fact that the band was moving on with new members Mike Inez (1993) and William DuVall (in 2006) joins the band as co-vocalist and guitarist. Cantrell says that Staley and Starr are not replaceable and that they wanted to continue the band and its legacy. In 2017, the group starts working on another new album recording in Seattle. The result is recorded primarily in Seattle, the result is “Rainier Fog” which is released August 2018. Continuing the band’s legacy.
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