Home > Music > Alice in Chains – Dirt (1992)

Alice in Chains – Dirt (1992)

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Part of the grungewave, folks. It is however worth noting that Alice in Chains leans closer to heavy metal (of the blatantly Black Sabbath influenced side) than… let’s say Nirvana or Mudhoney.  They even structure their acoustic offerings in a similar fashion. Weird, innerit?

Whatever. Besides the heavy emphasis on dual vocals (performed here by hoarse Layne Staley and smooth Jerry Cantrell), Dirt probably isn’t going to win many awards for originality, but it can get by on the strength of its execution. Needless to say, this band played pretty frequently on radio stations when I was a child, but I didn’t pay much attention until I was significantly older – in fact, my college years, when I had a roommate who thought they were pretty cool. In return, he got dosed pretty heavily with Meshuggah, but that’s a story for an autobiography, not a blog. As a result, Dirt holds sentimental value for me, but not for the most obvious reasons.

Dirt, regardless, relies quite heavily on blues tropes to drive itself – pentatonic riffing, lots of solos, relatively simple song structures, and an overall atmosphere of suffering and drug abuse – remember that Layne Staley was a heroin addict and fully aware of it. Since these concepts got dragged through the traditional/doom metal blender, everything here ends up heavily amped, with a crunchy high-pitched guitar tone, cavernous drum reverb, and so forth. It’s an adequately aggressive production, but not one that particularly enhances the atmosphere created by the songwriting; if I were mastering this album with awareness of the band’s later works, I would probably try for something closer to their 1995 self-titled album, which is comparatively more mellow and depressive. The fact Dirt sounds the way it does may very well be Alice in Chains’ legacy popping up, at least at times; their early work (especially their demos) owes more to the poppy glam metal of the ’80s; an approach they abandoned in steps.

Let’s be honest – this album is pretty basic and predictable in its choice of rock and metal tropes. However, it does excel in its execution, particularly in its mastery of pop songwriting. My choice to talk about this album, if you ask me, means that one of the big themes of Invisible Blog this year is “Competence is more important than originality”, but even I can take issue with that – after all, someone has to come up with an idea before someone else can refine it. Digressions aside – inertia keeps a lot of albums from falling out of my playlists, but when I come back to Dirt, I understand why it got there in the first place.

Highlights: “Rain When I Die”, “Junkhead”, “Dirt”, “Angry Chair”

P.S: This album is not to be confused with Dirty by Aborym under any circumstances.

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