Originally called “Tripod” (evidenced by the 3-legged dog on the front cover, and 3-legged man on the back cover), this self-titled album divided many Alice In Chains fans, who probably longed for the band to return to the faster-paced doom-rock found on _Dirt_. They didn’t lose the doom, but, things became a bit more slower, absorbing and sophisticated this time around.
Come 1995 and on, all kinds of rumors were flying around about Alice In Chains: (1). The band would continue in the direction of _Jar Of Flies_, never making another hard rock/metal album again. (2). Layne Staley was drugged-out, losing his teeth and some of his fingers as a result of gangrene (due to heroin abuse and other things.) The former was obviously not true, since this album was a hard rock/metal album. But, the latter was supposedly true. I can’t confirm too much more, since I don’t know too much about this band, so I’ll just get on with the content found on this disc.
The music on here is dark as usual, exploring themes like pain, drug addiction, misery, depression and other things. “Grind” is an intense, grimy cruncher with some distorted backing vocals from Layne Staley during the verses. Jerry Cantrell sings lead vocals here for most of the track. “Sludge Factory” is my personal favorite on here. It features a slowly simmering, scorching, ominous, eerie guitar line fronted by a swapping of snaky vocal harmonies and a seemingly indifferent, but commanding line from Layne, rounded off with some descending jazzy basslines. This is only the description for the main theme that segues into the verses. Such seemingly odd fanfare that actually works. The ending features some robotic vocals, ominous guitar solos and some thick, doomy basslines. “Heaven Beside You” was supposedly written about Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. “Head Creeps” is a disturbing number featuring Layne, once again, in a distorted vocal performance. “Shame In You” sounds like something that could have came off of _Jar Of Flies_, as it’s probably the most mellow on the album. A poignant ballad. “God Am” features some crunchy guitar, fronted by Layne Staley’s moving and plaintive vocals. His vocals on the chorus are so melodic and moving, it makes this an aching listen. “So Close” and “Nothin’ Song” seem to lighten up the mood a little bit – at least on a musical level, as both feature moments that actually make me laugh. “Frogs” is a haunting, slow and melodic number, for the first four minutes. The last few minutes feature Layne mumbling mysteriously. “Over Now” seems out of place on this album. The reason is because it’s more pop/rock oriented, and is not as dark as the rest of the album. However, it’s melodic, tasteful, reflective and catchy. However, the scathing irony of all of this is that the title of this song seemed to foreshadow the future of the band, and this was the last track of their last studio album. Very scary.
This is quite an astounding album, even if it was a departure from the material found on _Dirt_. Certainly worth a listen if dark, eerie, thought-provoking and moving music is your cup of tea. R.I.P. Layne Staley.