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Alice In Chains

UPDATE: It appears the remaining Alice In Chains members will be reuniting to play some gigs this coming spring & summer. It is as yet unclear who will take the lead singer role. Also a possibility is that the band may be continuing to record & release music, though not necessarily under the name Alice In Chains. - webmaster.

Alice In Chains, a heavy metal band formed in 1987, shot to fame in the early 90s, when they were swept up with the rest of the Seattle grunge scene. Though Layne Staley was the band's lead singer, guitarist Jerry Cantrell joined in providing vocal harmonies on most songs (and in later years sometimes took the lead), giving Alice In Chains a distinctive dual-vocal sound (akin to Thin Lizzy's dual-guitar sound) that has been imitated by many bands since.

Their first album, Facelift, contained elements of funk, evident in songs like "Put You Down" and "I know somethin' ('bout you)", but perhaps the most memorable tracks were the straight-forward heavy rockers, "We Die Young", "Man In The Box", and "Sea Of Sorrow". The album showcased Staley's ability to portray raw emotion in his singing and lyrics and Cantrell's distinctive skill on the guitar, both when riffing and churning out wild solos that flipped between melodic and noisy phrases. On Facelift and all subsequent albums, the guitars were tuned down half a step (low E becoming E flat), contributing to the large and meaty guitar sound.

The group then recorded an EP named Sap (after a dream drummer Sean Kinney had about making a "sappy" album), which showed that Alice In Chains could also play acoustic, low key songs, though their characteristic dreariness was kept vey much intact.

Their second LP, Dirt, offered a bleak outlook on life, influenced by the personal stories of the band members ("Rooster" is about the Vietnam War experiences of Cantrell's father, and "Junkhead" candidly revealed Staley's relationship with drugs). It was the last track on this album, "Would?", that really brought Alice In Chains into the mainstream. The band appeared playing in a club in the movie Singles, and contributed "Would?" to the movie's soundtrack (which also featured tracks by Pearl Jam and Mudhoney).

The band released another EP, Jar Of Flies, in 1994, which became the first EP to top the US album charts. In a similar vein to Sap, Jar Of Flies was low key, featuring as many acoustic tracks as electric ones. Jerry Cantrell contributed "Whale And Wasp", a beautiful instrumental composition.

By 1995 rumours of the band's demise were rife, but Alice In Chains managed to release their third full length album, Alice In Chains. Though heavy in its own right, the highlights of this album were the more pop-sounding tracks, "Heaven Beside You" and "Over Now", featuring Jerry Cantrell on lead vocals. Layne Staley's singing on this album sounded more strained than usual, but strangely compelling nonetheless.

In 1996 Alice In Chains gave a memorable unplugged performance, which went on to become a popular album release too. Though rumours of Layne Staley's ill health abounded, he appeared well on this occasion, with his hair newly-dyed pink.

Tragically, Layne Staley died of a cocaine and heroin overdose in April 2002, almost exactly 8 years after the suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

The remainder of Alice In Chains recently played a couple of sets where they invited guest vocalists (among them Tool's frontman Maynard James Keenan) to join them on stage.

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Discography

Facelift 1990
We Die Young (EP) 1990
Dirt 1992
Sap (EP) 1992
Jar Of Flies (EP) 1994
Alice In Chains 1995
Black Gives Way to Blue 2009

Band members

Jerry Cantrell guitar, vocals
Layne Staley guitar
Sean Kinney drums
Mike Starr bassist on early albums
Mike Inez bassist on later albums
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User comments

Mike Starr
Posted by JD from Edmonds, Washington (19th May 2017)
What ever happened to Mike Starr? I was good friends with his Mom for many years. Mike was the sweetest little kid. I haven't seen his mom in 30 some years.


Alice in Chains
Posted by Jordan L. from Mobile, AL, USA (3rd March 2013)
They are by far one of my favorites and continue to please me except for the one song Rooster. That song me made me so lost.


concert
Posted by Jon from UK (9th September 2010)
I saw Alice In Chains last year (2009) in London. They were awesome, these guys still have it. The new singer does a good job without imitating Layne Staley.


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