May 19, 2024

New Fury Media

Music. Gaming. Nostalgia. Culture.

Down In A Hole: The legacy of Alice In Chains’ harrowing album, ‘Dirt’

Some say terrifying experiences are what makes classic art, and music in general. This certainly holds true for many pioneering metal and alternative bands of the ’90s – especially Alice In Chains. One of grunge’s most iconic and distinct vanguards, Alice In Chains always touched on the darkest aspects of addiction and mental health in a way that was unique to them.

The Legacy Of “Dirt”

The grunge explosion of the late ’80s // early ’90s was certainly something to behold. The likes of Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana helped put the final nails in the coffin of hair metal (bands like Motley Crue went from having private jets, to playing clubs again), and teenagers were throwing out their Winger and Warrant shirts, replacing them with Screaming Trees and Alice In Chains tees.

Speaking of Alice In Chains, they’re arguably the best of the bunch, if not accomplished. Sure, Nirvana became an anthem to all of Generation X, and Soundgarden/Mother Love Bone had enigmatic frontmen in Chris Cornell & Andrew Wood, but was any band better at combining a heavy metal attack with grunge than Alice In Chains? Doubtful, since most of their peers were more rooted in punk and/or glam, not heavy metal.

It’s hard to imagine a more effective way to depict the horrors of heroin and drug addiction than Dirt, Alice In Chains’ 1992 album, which put them at the forefront of the music world. The perils of drug addiction are specifically referenced in detail in 3 of the best non-single tracks, “Junkhead”, “God Smack”, and “Sickman” – consequently, three of the darkest songs AIC ever put to tape.

And we haven’t even gotten to the singles yet. The final track, “Would” (which references fallen Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood) was released before the album, appearing on the soundtrack to the movie “Singles”. You couldn’t go a few hours in the early ’90s without hearing it on the radio – same went for “Rooster”, “Down In A Hole”, and “Them Bones”. 5 singles from the same album eventually propelled Alice In Chains to headline Lollapalooza 1993, arguably the height of their popularity.

Dirt is also important in the development of the creation of the sludge metal genre. The slow, heavy sound on the longer tracks (“Rooster”, “Sickman”) no doubt influenced many bands to tune lower and explore some very dark places.

Dirt is not an album for the faint of heart. It’s a foreboding album that would see Layne Staley eventually pass away from a drug overdose in 2002. But if there’s something everyone can glean from it, it’s that addiction can be a very powerful thing. The album, even almost 30 years later, holds up incredibly well, like all timeless albums should. It’s arguably the most important band out of Seattle playing arguably the most important album. What’s not to appreciate?

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