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Pop/Rock - Released July 29, 1996 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released January 1, 1992 | Columbia

Dirt is Alice in Chains' major artistic statement and the closest they ever came to recording a flat-out masterpiece. It's a primal, sickening howl from the depths of Layne Staley's heroin addiction, and one of the most harrowing concept albums ever recorded. Not every song on Dirt is explicitly about heroin, but Jerry Cantrell's solo-written contributions (nearly half the album) effectively maintain the thematic coherence -- nearly every song is imbued with the morbidity, self-disgust, and/or resignation of a self-aware yet powerless addict. Cantrell's technically limited but inventive guitar work is by turns explosive, textured, and queasily disorienting, keeping the listener off balance with atonal riffs and off-kilter time signatures. Staley's stark confessional lyrics are similarly effective, and consistently miserable. Sometimes he's just numb and apathetic, totally desensitized to the outside world; sometimes his self-justifications betray a shockingly casual amorality; his moments of self-recognition are permeated by despair and suicidal self-loathing. Even given its subject matter, Dirt is monstrously bleak, closely resembling the cracked, haunted landscape of its cover art. The album holds out little hope for its protagonists (aside from the much-needed survival story of "Rooster," a tribute to Cantrell's Vietnam-vet father), but in the end, it's redeemed by the honesty of its self-revelation and the sharp focus of its music. [Some versions of Dirt feature "Down in a Hole" as the next-to-last track rather than the fourth.] © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 1, 1990 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released November 2, 1993 | Columbia

Written and recorded in about a week, Jar of Flies solidified Alice in Chains' somewhat bizarre pattern of alternating full-length hard rock albums with mostly acoustic, ballad-oriented EPs. That quirk aside, Jar of Flies is a low-key stunner, achingly gorgeous and harrowingly sorrowful all at once. In a way, it's a logical sequel to Dirt -- despite the veneer of calm, the songs' voices still blame only themselves. But where Dirt found catharsis in its unrelenting darkness and depravity, Jar of Flies is about living with the consequences, full of deeply felt reflections on loneliness, self-imposed isolation, and lost human connections. The mood is still hopelessly bleak, but the poignant, introspective tone produces a sense of acceptance that's actually soothing, in a funereal sort of way. Jerry Cantrell's arrangements keep growing more detailed and layered; while there are a few noisy moments, most of Jar of Flies is bathed in a clean, shimmering ambience whose source is difficult to pin down, but is well served by Cantrell's varied guitar tones and even occasional string arrangements. And coming on the heels of Dirt, the restraint and subtlety of Jar of Flies are nothing short of revelatory -- though it was written and recorded in about a week, it feels much more crafted and textured than Sap. Perhaps Jar of Flies would have gotten more credit if it had been a full-length album; as it stands, the EP is a leap forward and a major work in the Alice in Chains catalog. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 1995 | Columbia

Dispelling rumors of their demise due to Layne Staley's heroin addiction, Alice in Chains is a sonically detailed effort that ranks as their best-produced record, and its best moments are easily some of their most mature music. Alice in Chains relies less on metallic riffs and more on melody and texturally varied arrangements than the group's previous full-length albums, finally integrating some of the more delicate acoustic moods of their EPs. The lyrics deal with familiar AIC subject matter -- despair, misery, loneliness, and disappointment -- but in a more understated fashion, and the lyrics take on more uplifting qualities of toughness and endurance, which were missing from much of their previous work. The consistent visceral impact Alice in Chains lacks in comparison to that previous work is partially made up for by the skilled production and songs like "Grind," "Brush Away," "Over Now," and the hit ballad "Heaven Beside You," which are among the band's best work. Still, in spite of its many virtues, it's hard not to feel a little frustrated with the record, as though, given those qualities, it should have turned out better than it did -- there are some slow spots where the songs are undercrafted and not especially memorable, and those moments can make the band sound uncommitted and distracted. That, in turn, can make the defiance of songs like "Grind" ("you'd be well advised/not to plan my funeral 'fore the body dies") sound more like denial; just when Alice in Chains' music was finally beginning to emerge from the dark side, the intra-band problems became too much to bear and made Alice in Chains the last collection of new material the Staley-fronted AIC would release. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 24, 2018 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

Although Alice In Chains wasn’t spared by the hecatomb that decimated the current to which it was somewhat hastily affiliated, they’re back − against all odds − with a sixth album that worthily celebrates their thirty-first anniversary. Way heavier than most of their peers, Jerry Cantrell’s band wasn’t necessarily delighted to be associated with Nirvana or Pearl Jam. To Soundgarden, why not… But they felt compelled to record their most grunge album to date, Rainier Fog being a heartfelt tribute to the Seattle scene. The musicians even went back to the “scene of the crime”, the former studio Bad Animals where they had recorded their last album (Alice In Chains) with the late Layne Staley in 1995 − putting aside the live Unplugged and the subsequent live and compilation albums. Without going as far as asserting that William DuVall, “guitarist and co-singer” (with Cantrell) merely imitates his predecessor – whose longevity in the band he now matches with this album −, one cannot but recognize that he’s been able to adapt and add a strong dose of emotion in often severe and heavy compositions. The vocal harmonies, wonderfully packaged by the faithful Nick Rasculinecz (Rush, Food Fighters), work wonders throughout the album. That being said, Cantrell’s role is more obvious than ever. On multiple occasions, Rainier Fog starts resembling his solo albums Degradation Trip Vol. 1&2.Probably distressed by Chris Cornell’s passing, like he was for Staley’s, Cantrell has embarked his band in a sort of remembrance ceremony, with a shade of Soundgarden (The One You Know, All I Am), echoes of Nirvana (Rainier Fog), fragrances of Temple Of The Dog (Drone), and even a slight mention of the cursed Stone Temple Pilots (Fly)… A few lighter or seventies rock titles, like Maybe or the effective Never Fade (whose chorus will certainly remind Skunk Anansie’s I Can Dream to some) are much welcomed to compensate for the somewhat gloomy and painful aspect of the whole. © Jean-Pierre Sabouret/Qobuz
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Rock - Released January 1, 2009 | Virgin Records

It's hard not to feel for Alice in Chains -- all the guys in the band were lifers, all except lead singer Layne Staley, who never managed to exorcise his demons, succumbing to drug addiction in 2002. Alice in Chains stopped being a going concern long before that, all due to Staley's addictions, and it took guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney a long time to decide to regroup, finally hiring William DuVall as Staley's replacement and delivering Black Gives Way to Blue a full 14 years after the band's last album. To everybody's credit, Black Gives Way to Blue sounds like it could have been delivered a year after Alice in Chains: it's unconcerned with fashion; it's true to their dark, churning gloom rock; and if you're not paying attention too closely, it's easy to mistake DuVall for his predecessor. There's a difference between desperately attempting to recapture past glories and reconnecting with their roots, and Alice in Chains fall into the latter category. While they'll never be mistaken for a feel-good band, there is a palpable sense of relief that they get to play together again as a band, and what's remarkable is that they still sound like themselves, capturing that weird murk halfway between '80s metal and '90s northwestern sludge, reminding us that we were missing something in their absence. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 13, 2013 | Capitol Records

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Rock - Released October 16, 2006 | Columbia - Legacy

Depending on how you keep count, The Essential Alice in Chains is the third or fourth attempt at an Alice in Chains compilation -- 1999 saw the box set Music Bank and Nothing Safe, a single disc of highlights from the three-disc retrospective, and 2001 brought the release of the slightly too skimpy Greatest Hits. At two discs and 28 tracks, The Essential falls somewhere between the fan-oriented excess of Music Bank and the just-the-basics Greatest Hits, offering all of the group's biggest songs -- not just singles like "Man in the Box," "Angry Chair," "Rooster," "No Excuses," and "Would?" but also album tracks like "Sea of Sorrow," "God Smack," "Hate to Feel," and "Dam That River" -- in a comprehensive overview of their career. While this may be a little bit too long for those listeners who only want AIC's grunge staples -- conversely, there are certainly a handful of songs that diehards might miss -- this is nevertheless the best-executed Alice in Chains compilation yet, functioning well as an effective summary and introduction to their too-brief, complicated career. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released October 26, 1999 | Columbia

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Rock - Released January 1, 2009 | Virgin Records

It's hard not to feel for Alice in Chains -- all the guys in the band were lifers, all except lead singer Layne Staley, who never managed to exorcise his demons, succumbing to drug addiction in 2002. Alice in Chains stopped being a going concern long before that, all due to Staley's addictions, and it took guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney a long time to decide to regroup, finally hiring William DuVall as Staley's replacement and delivering Black Gives Way to Blue a full 14 years after the band's last album. To everybody's credit, Black Gives Way to Blue sounds like it could have been delivered a year after Alice in Chains: it's unconcerned with fashion; it's true to their dark, churning gloom rock; and if you're not paying attention too closely, it's easy to mistake DuVall for his predecessor. There's a difference between desperately attempting to recapture past glories and reconnecting with their roots, and Alice in Chains fall into the latter category. While they'll never be mistaken for a feel-good band, there is a palpable sense of relief that they get to play together again as a band, and what's remarkable is that they still sound like themselves, capturing that weird murk halfway between '80s metal and '90s northwestern sludge, reminding us that we were missing something in their absence. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 28, 2001 | Columbia

Greatest Hits is not, alas, the antidote to the botched Nothing Safe: Best of the Box compilation, but rather a lower-priced, ten-track sampler of Alice in Chains' career. The songs are mostly excellent and well-chosen, but unfortunately, there are simply too few of them. Greatest Hits will serve the needs of casual fans who just want ten of Alice in Chains' best songs on one disc without shelling out too much money, but there are too many other good moments in the group's back catalog to make this a good buy for anyone else. © Steve Huey /TiVo

Rock - Released June 29, 1999 | Columbia

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Rock - Released December 5, 2000 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released May 13, 2013 | Virgin Catalog (V81)

The big task for Alice in Chains on their 2009 comeback Black Gives Way to Blue was to prove they could carry on battered and bruised, missing Layne Staley but still in touch with their core. They had to demonstrate the band had a reason to exist, and Black Gives Way to Blue achieved this goal, paving the way for another record just like it. Enter The Devil Put the Dinosaurs Here, a record that is pretty close to identical to Black Gives Way to Blue in its sound, attack, and feel. Where it differs is in the latter, as the overall album feels lighter and, at times, the individual songs do, too. "Scalpel" flirts with the acoustic bones of Jar of Flies and also has perhaps the richest melody here, working as a song, not a grind. That said, there is an appeal to that monochromatic churn, the kind AIC created on Dirt and haven't let go of since. The lightness comes not from the songs -- the tempos still drag their feet, the guitars mine a minor key, the harmonies are in fifths so they sound like power chords -- but rather from the precision of the band's attack and, especially, the production. This has a digital sheen that was missing even from Black Gives Way to Blue, and it gives the album an expansive feel, so the patented churn doesn't seem quite so claustrophobic as before. Then again, perhaps that expansiveness is just a sign of age: Alice in Chains are now firmly entrenched in their middle age and settling into what they do best: retaining their signature without pandering and, tellingly, without succumbing to the darkness that otherwise defines them. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 10, 2018 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 6, 1995 | Columbia

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Metal - Released July 31, 2019 | Cult Legends

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Rock - Released November 18, 2016 | Island Def Jam

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 21, 2014 | Columbia