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  • No one really talks about it much, but the 90’s alternative explosion was rooted in heavy metal. It was just covered up. Nirvana claimed a punk tradition, citing The Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, and The Pixies as influences. Pearl Jam covered their dirty roots with big Who-ish guitars and poppy melodies. The Smashing Pumpkins spent their time in the 80’s new wave and goth areas. But Alice in Chains was no-bones about their metal-ness, and in leiu of keeping up pretenses, they pummeled the music industry, their fans, and the radio with bottom-feeding guitars and an iron fist. And in 1992, they went about making their follow-up to “Facelift.” “Dirt” remains today their masterpiece and THE definitive early 90’s rock/depression experience.Drugs, self-loathing, death, and war are the biggies here and they don’t try to cover any of it up. There are no euphemisms, no suggestions in Layne Staley & Jerry Cantrell’s lyrics. They lay it on the line in the same fashion as their heroes Metallica and Black Sabbath did before them. The band had a sort of fear, yet obsession with death– Layne screaming at the beginning of the album “I believe them bones are me!!” in horror. Jerry pays tribute to his dead uncle, a war casualty in Vietnam, nicknamed “Rooster” by his squad. The fear follows the band into the deepest depths of drug addiction (“Down in a Hole,” “Junkhead”) through most of the album. And the guitar, bass, and drums are just as desperate and pleading as the subjects they encase (Layne’s apocalyptic harmonies on tunes like “Sickman” and “Angry Chair” are especially intreging). The broading “Rain When I Die” has become all the more poignant with Staley gone (RIP Layne). And finally, Alice in Chains give us a last minute gift; perhaps the greatest album closer in all of rock music… “Would?”So many bands made such a fuss about hiding what their music was; “Seattle sound,” “Grunge,” “alternative rock,” etc etc. No one took the bull by the horns like AIC, and they are missed. We must never forget our metal heritage. Overall: 10 out of 10.

    Posted on December 3, 2009