Weeks of Quarantine
This week has been rather eventful for me. I will be going to get an injection in my spine for my herniated disks. What I have been told is to avoid eating for a few hours beforehand, they will give me a sedative and then inject a steroid into my back and neck while I am unconscious. I admit that I am slightly nervous over the ordeal, but if it means my back pain will be alleviated at least a little bit, then I’m willing to do it. Besides this, nothing else of real note has happened in my life this week. Something minor was that I listened to the entirety of the Alice in Chains album discography since I had the time, and I consider them to be my favorite band. However, I wasn’t very familiar with their most recent material. My opinion is that the music that they released in the 90s is the best of their catalog, although the most recent stuff is also excellent, just not up to par with the older material. Their two most recent releases, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here and Rainier Fog, are slightly two slow and monotonous for my tastes, although the singles and a few album cuts are still good. Of these two, I feel that The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the worst, as it feels so much slower and sludgier than any other Alice in Chains album and, at least in my opinion, most of the songs are too long for their good, not one of the songs in under four minutes. This can be shown with the title track, which is six minutes long when it should only be three or four minutes long. Not only that, I feel as though it is the least memorable Alice in Chains record. Rainier Fog, on the other hand, is a little better; it is far more memorable although it has the same issues with length, the songs are a little faster paced, so it helps mitigate the effect at least somewhat.
Alice in Chains fourth album, Black Gives Way to Blue, their first in nearly 14 years and the first album with current lead singer William DuVall is the best of the current era of Alice in Chains and has the most resemblance to the old Alice in Chains. However, there are new elements that are welcomed. The length problem is not nearly as pronounced as the subsequent albums. A big part of why I like the collection is that much of it feels like a tribute to Layne Staley, the original lead singer of Alice in Chains who passed from a heroin overdose in 2002, who was a big part of why so many people enjoyed Alice in Chain’s music, myself included. The only real complaint I have of the album is the fact that it was a casualty of the Loudness War, a time when more and more releases were getting louder and louder to the point that much of the fidelity is lost. It becomes somewhat grating to listen to, which is made worse when metal music is already roaring, to begin with. The three albums released in the 1990s: Facelift, Dirt, and the self-titled album are the best the band has released. The worst of the three is Facelift, which I blame on the group being in a transitional period. Although it is their debut album, the band had already changed drastically. Alice in Chains originally started as a glam metal band as can be heard on their early demos. By the end of the eighties, the group began to transition to more of an alternative metal band with some aspects of doom metal. The transition can be heard on Facelift with the first half sounding more like the rest of the band’s output and the second half sounding much more like a glam metal band and even going to funk-rock at specific points. This causes some whiplash, and although I think that the second half still has some good songs, it is not as good as the first half and arguably brings the entire album down. The high point of the record is arguably Love, Hate, Love, which shows the best of Staley’s vocals and Jerry Cantrell’s guitar playing in a doom metal track that is on par with the best of Black Sabbath’s music. Both Dirt and the self-titled record are masterpieces, in my opinion, and for different reasons. Dirt is Alice in Chains’ most famous album, and for a good reason, the musicianship and lyrics are some of the best the band has ever displayed. Songs like Them Bones or Dam That River showcase the band’s heavier side while Rooster and Down in a Hole showcases the band’s more melodic sound.
Along with Hate to Feel and Angry Chair, which is sludge metal classics, and despite how slow they keep the listener interested. The self-titled record sounds different from Dirt; it sounds rawer, and in many places seems like the band is falling apart, which it was. Despite this, it is some of the best material they released with some of the darkest imagery and sound that I enjoy more than any other music. The metallic Grind and Again are fantastic along with the country sounding Heaven Beside You and Over Now are among the most experimental the band has gotten, and I welcome it.