Posts Tagged ‘jerry cantrell’

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Halloween Albums

October 24, 2008

Halloween is near, and I have started to pick out some spooky favorites from the music library. I figured it might be appropriate to acknowledge some of the more genuinely scary or creepy albums I have come in contact with over the years. Six might seem like a rather arbitrary number, but these releases are of a rare breed and I find each one to be essential to the list. Of course there’s nothing wrong with traditional Halloween music (the Monster Mash, sure), or some other fun retro music that might be appropriate for the holiday (The Cramps!), but if you want something that might really creep you out, this list might be able to help.

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Alice in Chains – Dirt

Alice in Chains’ second album Dirt arrived just in time for the Halloween season in 1992, and took over the grunge scene with its spooky hard rocking style. The album is almost unbelievably advanced past the band’s debut album Facelift, every song taking on its own texturally rich identity. In terms of technical skill, every member of the band is in prime form despite their drug addictions which are reflected heavily in the album’s lyrical themes. The late and great Layne Staley spits “what the hell am I/thousand eyes a fly/lucky then I’d be/if one day deceased” on one of the album’s underhand knockouts Sickman. We can hear both the anger and anguish associated with personal breakdowns and drug abuse. The consistency of the album alone makes it one of the finest albums that grunge had to offer, with a killer lineup of singles, the hammering Them Bones, Vietnam reminiscent Rooster, and possibly the greatest grunge single ever, Would?. But the highlights don’t stop there; the album also has a slew of brooding, slow moving, moody masterpieces (Dirt, Rain When I Die, Down In A Hole), as well as many other sleeper highlights (God Smack is the origin of the name of AiC knockoffs Godsmack, to exemplify the album’s influence). Although Alice in Chains’ best work may be scattered throughout their albums and EPs, Dirt is easily their most representative and possibly most accomplished work, a scary, fun, and emotional masterpiece of its genre.

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Slint – Spiderland

Considered the premier post rock album, Slint’s second and final album Spiderland is made by a band with absolutely nothing to lose. Perhaps it is this that makes it so startlingly affecting. How out of no where the album must have seen at the time is also probably a reason that it was as vastly influential as it is. But legacy aside, Spiderland is quite a scary album by all accounts, softly building damaged melodies out of nothing and then disassembling them again. As soon as the opening arpeggiated harmonics of Breadcrumb Trail start, it sounds like the beginning of the end. This mysterious, slow urgency pulls the listener through the albums six unsettling songs with great anxiousness. All of Slint’s weaponry is fully formed here; their percussive anger, David Pajo’s atmospheric guitars and sense of instrumental tension, and Brian McMahan’s oft whispered creepy poetry. These elements make for six completely perfect songs, the rocking Nosferatu Man, the quiet, brooding Don Amon, the sadly beautiful Washer, and the extremely quiet instrumental For Dinner… It all seems to lead to something, and when it does, we get one of the single scariest and most beautiful songs of the nineties, Good Morning Captain, which evades all explanation. It may disappoint fans that the subsequent two song Slint EP was as far as the band would ever go, but Slint’s three releases, and particularly Spiderland were all they needed to be one of the most important bands of their genre.

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Boards of Canada – Geogaddi

With Board’s of Canda’s second major full length release Geogaddi, brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin make certain that their love of degradation and psychosis plays itself out on more than just their own production values. In fact, one might be given the false impression of their own mental degradation while listening to the album, it is so elaborately and eerily constructed. Although its format is essentially the same as its championing predecessor Music Has The Right To Children (long pieces dispersed with very short pieces, beat driven IDM), their style is distinctly advanced over their previous works. The album is almost extravagantly detailed with myriad fascinating jigsaw pieces of sound; reversed beats, distorted vocal samples, dissonant chords, and heavy aural contrasts provide the album’s basic groundwork. Although some pieces here are vaguely reminiscent of previous fan favorites (Sunshine Recorder, 1969, Dawn Chorus), every song is highly advanced and vaguely unsettling. Throughout the album Boards of Canada paint as they call it a vast, winding, labyrinthine “journey” through a beautiful and horribly warped dreamland. Once you follow the white rabbit down the hole, something immediately seems very, horribly wrong, and this feeling is played with, turned upside down and inside out at every turn of the album. The more you think about it, the more it scares you, and the more one recognizes its intricacies such as mathematical structures, biblical references, and distorted fascination with the occult, the more one wants to dismiss Geogaddi as pretentious and supersaturated. However, it is a genuinely creepy album, and its ominous atmosphere cannot be denied. And yet the brothers state the ultimate innocuousness of the album in interviews. “…If we’re spiritual at all, it’s purely in the sense of caring about art and inspiring people with ideas.” (interview “Play Twice Before LIstening” by Koen Poolman). Despite what its message is, Geogaddi is an album that genuinely brings you to the brink of your own mind and refuses to let you forget the experience.

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Coil – The Ape of Naples

If any album has ever been literally haunted, or at least come close, The Ape of Naples is the culprit. Created posthumously after Coil frontman John Balance tragically fell to his death over the banisters of his Mansfield home in a drunken stupor, The Ape of Naples is actually a collection of the industrial/electronic band’s leftover material. This makes the overall cohesion of the album nothing short of a small miracle of planning. In fact, it makes little to no sense that this album is more than a rarities compilation, and it is more, much more. Through it’s lengthy textural songs it develops many stories with real life reference points, perhaps outlining both the experiences of the unsettling said ape on the cover art as well as John Balance’s descent into alcohol addiction. The haunting opening chords of Fire of The Mind (the original title of the album) set the stage for an album loaded with treasures, all uniquely disturbing and affecting. Songs call on an eclectic selection of instruments such as accordions, marimbas, horns and pipes, and as always carefully synthesized melodies, beats, and atmospherics. Songs range from gentle to violent, and the album’s transformation is downright scary. The Ape of Naples is an all around great performance from all those involved, but John Balance remains the album’s key player. His voice touches every song in different ways, and his emotion is fluid, sometimes gracing songs with subtle melancholy and other times with spitting anger. The album comes to a close with a cover of the British sitcom Are You Being Served?’‘s theme song Going Up, featuring vocals from Balance’s final onstage performance at the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival in 2004. And with John Balance’s final vocals, locations of bedding materials, tea, and travel products as well as the final direction of an elevator, it isn’t hard to hear him simultaneously falling down and going up.

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Merzbow – 1930

Many non-noise fans may turn on Japanese noise godfather’s quintessential album, 1930, and be disgusted. It is, to put it one way, a deliberately disgusting album, barely music in any traditional sense, and more of a terrifying sound assault. Perhaps best at home in a torture chamber (just how the bondage obsessed Merzbow would like it), listening to 1930 at loud volumes is a potentially terrifying experience that can push one’s sanity to the limit. Once again, it is barely even music, but more an aural representation of a mile high battleship with cannons filling every square inch, all firing at the listener at the same time. Reach for the off switch and the terror goes away temporarily, but curiosity will make you turn it on again at some point, and when you get curious enough to listen to the entire thing, you probably won’t be able to turn it off as much as you want to. There is something almost inhuman and unearthly about 1930 that manages to consistently fascinate here, and even if you can’t bear to turn the volume up higher than a whisper, it is unspeakably overbearing. Everything from the fiery title track to the dizzying cacophony of Degradation of Tape to the final explosive, twenty two minute, ever changing Iron, Glass, Blocks and White, everything here is sheer chaos. For how brutal and unpredictable it is, it is no surprise that this horrifying album is considered a cornerstone of noise music. To say it is good or bad is irrelevant, because it definitely shouldn’t be judged by the same standards as any other album on this list, let alone any form of “art” on this planet.

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Brian Eno – Ambient 4

Brian Eno’s final installment in his Ambient series is possibly the most emotionally startling ambient album of all time, and may be considered to be the first dark ambient album. In that sense it is hard to imagine the entire genre of demonic dark ambient texture without this album as a precursor, although Ambient 4 is anything but paganistic or demonic. In fact, there is little to nothing subversive about Ambient 4 in the slightest, except perhaps its one odd song out, the deliberately creepy Shadow featuring Jon Hassell on trumpet, although if we are talking about scare factor the song is the album’s clear winner. Beyond this song, the album makes its goals known almost instantaneously and follows through with its goals systematically, like the other members of the beautiful ambient family. Moreso than any other album on this list, Ambient 4 carries a wide range of emotions with it, of which horror is only one. The collection of soundtracks to geographic locations here range from touchingly calm (A Clearing) to impendingly scary (The Lost Day). The distant chains of Lantern Marsh, the distorted miasma of Tal Coat, the birds and frogs of Leeks Hills…The album is startlingly emotional in ways that can be simultaneously relaxing and unsettling. On one hand, you get the feeling that at any point during the album someone could appear behind you and cause your heart to skip a beat, and yet at the same time the soundscapes are warm and completely safe sounding. The wide range of emotion here is mostly due to simple skill in production and crafting of music. The soundscapes sound so deftly realistic that the emotion comes quite naturally and makes the overall product quite moving. This may be the one to play on the boombox outside when the trick-or-treaters come by.

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Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies

September 19, 2008

While Alice In Chains made a great deal of angry metallic hard rock, they also made two EPs worth of equally emotive music. Both Sap and Jar of Flies are melancholy EPs that find Alice in Chains at their most vulnerable. While Sap was a fun outing, it was also a little unsure of itself. Jar of Flies, however, perfectly articulates what it is trying to say without missing a step. What makes it so appreciable at first listen is how different it is from any other Alice in Chains release, in that none of the songs have the heavy crunch that the full albums do, and instead rely on texture and simple melodies to do their work.

Launching with Rotten Apple and Nutshell was a dangerous move. These are two of the band’s most well put together songs, and one would think that putting them back to back would make for too difficult of a beginning. But their juxtaposition only does them good. Rotten Apple is the albums foremost statement. Everyone is at their instrumental prime here. Layne Staley works layered vocals like no one else can in wispy flourishes, Jerry Cantrell presents an almost funky sounding guitar solo while alternatively strumming complex but warm chords, Mike Enez’s bassline is the strong supporting undercurrent of the song, and Sean Kinney delivers a knockout drum performance. All of this comes together to make quite a start…sad and affecting, yet somehow fun and digestible, as Cantrell’s fun riffing at the end suggests.

If Kurt Cobain ever wanted to heal the fully realized articulation of what it means for “comfort in being sad,” we can only wonder if he heard Nutshell before his suicide later in 1994. This is likely the saddest song committed to recording, mostly due to Layne Staley’s vocals. His delivery is completely earnest and believable, and when he says that he would be better off dead, we know he means it. Kinney’s steady rhythm sounds almost like the crackling of a campfire. Enez’s bassline is once again the core of the song. Cantrell takes the cake with a memorable chord progression and a muscular solo.

From here the album hits its emotional extreme with the second single from the EP, I Stay Away. This is about the hardest and softest the EP gets, all within the same song. After a short delicate string intro, the song starts its light, emotional verse. Each verse is interrupted what feels like halfway before it should to make way for an angry alternate second verse, which sounds like a slowed down Dirt outtake. The song teeters in this schizophrenic style until it finally reaches its chorus only to be once again interrupted by the angry second verse. When the song finally does hit the entirety of its chorus, the full force of the violin melody does its emotional damage. This song is the blends the sadness that precedes it with the recovery that proceeds it.

And that recovery comes with No Excuses, the disks first single, which pulls the listener up by their collars into something more happy. Instead of settling for despair like the songs before it do, No Excuses, much like Got Me Wrong from the Sap EP, seems to offer a constructive solution to the problem, and therefore lyrically feels very accomplished. It also helps that the song might just be the catchiest single in Alice in Chains’ library. Once again, the performances all around the board are perfect, and by this point we can trust the band. Also notable here is Jerry Cantrell’s excellent backup vocal performance. It is hard to not think of Staley and Cantrell as being one of the best vocal duos in rock history.

Whale and Wasp is the EP’s odd duck, in the sense that it is an instrumental. However, it is just as well constructed a song as any other piece on the disk. Like its title suggests, it also deals with extreme contrast, like I Stay Away, albeit somewhat more softspoken. The song alternates between a minor toned guitar strum that is complemented by sharp, haunting solo tones, and a more happy chord progression that is complemented by a cello solo part. By the end of the song, both parts meld to make a lush major toned melody that acts as a compromise to the conflict that came before it.

After this we have the most tender song on the album, Don’t Follow. The song is a lullaby, the basis of which is a lightly plucked melody on an acoustic guitar from Jerry Cantrell that develops into a gospel piece with Layne Staley’s finest vocal performance on the disk. And finally, the EP is capped off with the funky sounding Swing On This, probably the most positive song Alice in Chains ever made. In fact, Layne Staley does say “I’m okay,” halfway through the song, albeit in his signature haunting doubled vocals, but we believe him here as much as we believed him on Nutshell. The speaker finally gives up being alone and says that it is time to come home, which is a proper resolution to listlessness, confusion, and recovery present on the rest of the album. Jerry Cantrell ends the disk with a similar funky guitar solo to that which ended Rotten Apple at the beginning of the EP.

The magnitude of excellent songs on Jar of Flies would have been enough to make the EP be one of the best ever. These songs are completely confident of themselves and understanding of complex emotions. But its development is what makes it truly striking, and an easy pick-me-up for me when I feel sad. I used to think Sap and Jar of Flies should have been combined to make Alice in Chains’ finest full album, but I see now that this could not have worked. Jar of Flies is perfect on its own. It tests the limits of the artistic possibilities of the EP format and succeeds in revealing a wealth of conclusions of its strengths and boundaries, as well as being a perfectly formed album. And it ended up being one of the top selling EPs of all time, and also being the first to reach number one on the Billboard Top 200. Those numbers don’t lie. This is likely the greatest EP of all time and Alice in Chains’ definitive statement.

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Alice in Chains – Sap [EP]

August 7, 2006


With all due respect, Alice in Chains was a grunge powerhouse. They produced hit after hit and stayed on good terms with their fans, and not many other grunge bands could do that as sucessfully as they did. Maybe Soundgarden did it a little more sucessfully, but Pearl Jam turned fans off and Nirvana had an early end. In any case, Alice in Chains also fizzled out around the time Soundgarden did when Layne Staley went into drug enduced seclusion. But even then, the remaining members of Alice in Chains still produced a solo album with Jerry Cantrell. So at least three members know when they have something good going.

Which explains why Alice in Chains is touring again now. Granted, they are missing their star singer Layne Staley, who died in 2002. But I guess they aren’t letting that dampen their spirits too much, because they hired this guy named William DuVall to sing for them on the rest of their tour. And they are still acting like they are twenty somethings, albeit with a little more sophistication and expertise, but they are still getting all sweaty and riled up on stage, which is something that you would have expected them to do twenty years ago. Hell, they even called out Billy Corgan to sing Down in a Hole in Seattle, where they did a free show too. A free show? For Alice in Chains? Now that’s REALLY something they would have done twenty years ago. It’s interesting to hear the news, really. I haven’t and probably won’t be able to get to any of the shows myself, but I hear they are really cool arena rock gigs that are doing Layne justice instead of disrespecting him. That’s good.

But that really causes me to ask the question, will there be another Alice in Chains album? Yeah, solo albums are great and I’m still getting over Degredation Trip, but for as capable of a song writer as Jerry Cantrell is, I think the other band members bring out the best in him. Laynes gone, and I’m going to stop complaining about that. It’s too late to do anything, so bitching about how it’s really not Alice in Chains is stupid. OK, fine, then how about we have these four guys get together and call themselves Alice, or The Chains? That doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me. Hell, it just gives them something to do. And considering they are already screwing around on tour, why not just get them together and make them feel like they are twenty years younger even more? These guys were boozing and picking up chicks twenty years ago, and playing small clubs for chump change. I say make them do that for a few months and see what demos surface.

I was at Barnes and Noble again browsing the CD section (I don’t even know why I buy CDs at Barnes and Noble. It’s just stupid.) when I found this EP. I had been looking for it for some time. No libraries seem to have it at all unfortunately, which is understandable because it is an EP that was made fifteen years ago. Even at the steep price of ten dollars, I had to have this even if it only contains five songs. I think it was worth it.

Alice in Chains actually released two EPs in their career, and both of them are largely accoustic and relatively short. This is the first of the two EPs, and while it may not be quite as good as their second EP, Jar of Flies, it’s still a solid little collection of songs. It came out maybe a year or so after Facelift, which was quite the hit in the Seattle underground, and this is a pretty big contrast from the mixture of 80s sounding rock and alternative. The mood is melancholy, and it sort of points towards the rest of the bands career, almost signposting what is to come later on the Jar of Flies EP. There are actually five songs on the album, but only four can be taken seriously enough to be considered even on the EP. The fifth song is filler, an obnoxious little track known by some as “Love Song” that is actually not even refferenced on the back of the album or even named. It’s a bit of stupid Halloween goo, so it’s not really worth noting.

But the other four songs are very interesting. Brother is a sad tune that Nutshell would later be reminiscent of. The lyrics are beautiful and mysterious, and for the first time (I think, unless there is some backup vocal work on Facelift I’m forgetting), Jerry Cantrells voice is in the forefront while Layne Staley harmonizes an octave up. The two make a really good vocal team, and it’s a good thing that Layne was polite enough to move over when need be on AiCs more quiet tracks. This song along with the next one would appear later on with the bands accoustic Unplugged concert in 1996, which is where I first heard this song. It’s a pretty good live album, I would reccomend giving it a spin if you are an Alice in Chains fan.

Got Me Wrong is probably the most popular tune from the EP, and it has a shocking contrast from Brother. When I think about it, it might be the most positive song the band has ever made, and it almost makes a little sense considering it was made before the bands negative minor tonalities got set in stone with Dirt and s/t. It was actually featured in the movie Clerks which came out around this time. The song is classic positive grunge really, and it reflects the easygoing nature of the movies twenty somethings. Sometimes you just gotta be yourself and have a little fun, maybe play a little hocky on the roof. It’s a great song, and the accoustic version on Unplugged is equally as enjoyable and fun.

The next song, Right Turn, is another more melancholy tune, but it plays with a little more groove. This song actually features a myriad of vocalists, a few of which are special guests. First off Jerry Cantrell takes the wheel with some gentle words, then Chris Cornell of Soundgarden takes the reigns, then Layne Staley, then grunge hero Mark Arm of Mudhoney, followed by a grand combination of all four. I often wonder how each of the grunge bands in Seattle thought of one another, and when it all comes down to it, I think they all got along fairly well, in some kind of strange way. Yes, Nirvana and Pearl Jam were rivals, but Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder slowdanced, and you will often hear kind words come out of Eddies voice about Nirvana. Same with Soundgarden. While Kurt Cobain may have sworn not to like the band, he had a minor obcession with them in his earlier days, and Chris Cornells favorite album on Sub Pop was Bleach. Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder were both involved in Temple of the Dog, and Matt Cameron, a member of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Temple of the Dog was a Nirvana roadie for a little while. Mudhoney and Nirvana were tight, and then we hear both Mark Arm and Chris Cornell featured with Alice in Chains. In retrospect, for how much competition there was between the bands, there seems to be some kind of harmony.

The main body of the EP closes with Am I Inside, which exudes large amounts of paranoia and fear, and then some brief lazy happiness, and the cycle repeats itself. While this EP really only points towards Jar of Flies, it’s a good little collection of songs that the band got out, and it shows how diverse the bands tastes and songwriting ability is, even early on. 1992 was a big year for Alice in Chains, and while this is a good EP, it was far blown out of the water with the grand haunting symphony that was Dirt which had an October release, just in time for Halloween. It’s a good EP, and if you can pick it up, it’s well worth it. But make sure you eventually get the stronger EP, Jar of Flies. Both are good, and if you can get them packaged together, even better. Honestly, they could have been compiled onto one disk and it would be a near perfect but slightly rough flowing disk.

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Jerry Cantrell – Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2

May 13, 2006


Grunge seems to be something that a lot of music fans care to put behind them. Every once and a while I will hear a purist talk about how much the 80s rocked and how much the 90s sucked, and I want set their gonads on fire. But yeah, grunge did fizzle out maybe a little over ten years ago. And no one is going to pretend that the tragic death of Kurt Cobain didn’t have anything to do with it. Whether or not it actually did though is another story. But from late 1993 to 1995, alternative rock led by the grunge genre had it’s final, glorious stand. More good albums came out in that timeframe than I can count. Seriously, let me just try. Nirvana with In Utero and Unplugged, Alice in Chains with Jar of Flies and s/t, Soundgarden with Superunknown, Hole with Live Through This, Mudhoney with My Brother The Cow, Pearl Jam with Vs. and Vitalogy, Stone Temple Pilots with Purple, Radiohead with The Bends… I’m stopping there, but it really goes on. For a looooong time. It seems like every other week I find another great classic album that came out around then, no joke. I may have summarized some of the better ones, but don’t think that’s it.

Yeah, Kurts death led to the downfall of grunge, but it didn’t immediately cause it, because a lot of classic grunge and alternative albums came out after his death, actually. Anyway, by 1996, for all intents and purposes, grunge had done it’s damage, and it’s time was up. In the mid to late 90s, it just fizzled out. Which is okay, because it did do a buttload of damage over a timeframe spanning almost ten years, when you really think about how early it started. One of the most focal of the great alternative bands of the 90s was Alice in Chains. Today, only two members of the big four remain. Pearl Jam, and the newly reunited remaining members of Alice in Chains. At first, I asked myself, can they even do that? Can they even have Alice in Chains without Layne Staley?

Then I thought about it some more, and yes, I think they can. While Layne surely was the icing on the cake and what really made Alice special, Jerry Cantrell was the backbone. The substance. He wrote a majority of the bands better songs. Don’t get me wrong, Layne was very very important. He wrote some good songs himself, and most of the best Alice in Chains songs are a result of both Jerry and Laynes songwriting. But as far as songwriting goes, Jerry is clearly the most skilled and important. Just looking at his latest work, the collection of both volumes of Degradation Trip, shows that he really does have some great skills going for him. All of the lyrics on the album have Jerry singing, which is great, because he does have a great voice. It’s impossible to get the same kind of range and skill that Layne had in his singing. You just can’t do it. But Jerry still has his own thing going in his voice. It’s very smooth. And the best is when you hear Layne and Jerry singing together in a song. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, WOW. Anyway, Degradation Trip Volumes 1& 2 is a big collection spanning two disks of pain, anguish and rage. Which is great, because Jerry clearly works best when he focuses on the negative, as far as music goes.

Psychotic Break kicks it off, and is a swirling downward spiral into the rest of the album, and a great song to boot. Bargain Basement Howard Hughes is one of the weaker songs on the album actually, which is a shame considering how early on it comes. Owned is when you really see stuff start to materialize. You start to see how much that guitar plays in. It’s crunchy, it’s looming, it’s powerful. And then there is a pattern of aggressive crunching guitar in the verses, and beautiful tunes in the choruses. Owned does that too, and it shows that even a song about a prostitute can be great. Angel Eyes is a standout tune, because of it’s great layered structure, and also because it is quite obviously about Layne. A lot of these songs clearly are, and this is the best one. This is a perfect example of how grunge would not be dead if people tried to look a little harder. This should have been a staple of the radio when it came out maybe two years ago. Solitude is a nice quiet ballad. Mother’s Spinning in Her Grave (Glass Dick Jones) is a really interesting one. Clearly some kind of sequel of sorts to Godsmack, a song that Alice produced on Dirt back in ’92. The name of that song gave birth to a metal band of today named Godsmack. Yeah, they are supposed to suck, but whatever. Remember, this is not the grunge you may remember from back in the early 90s, and while it is in fact clearly grunge, it’s still harder to register. I had that problem at first too. Because this seems like it’s a half and halt type thing. Half homegrown grunge, and half metal. Given enough time, you start to understand the metal aspects more. You also have to get to know the songs individually well enough, and when you do, the album starts to open up more. Hellbound is a sprawling piece on, well, probably what’s in the name. It’s got a nice riff, but it’s hard to listen to for six minutes anyway. It’s companion song is Spiderbite. They are both good, but kind of difficult. Once you understand them, they get better. Pro False Idol is the single from the album, and the only one that made any significant radio play. It’s a good song, that much is true, but as far as material goes, you can do better on the album. It’s about Layne too, and the chorus is irresistible, so it’s understandable how it got it’s glory. Feel the void is strange. It’s very quiet, and does a lot of strange quiet sound effects throughout. It’s more of an experience track than the rest, as it really creates an atmosphere as opposed to making any riffs or metal guitars. Locked On is one of the better ones. It’s gnarled verses complement the great choruses once again. Might actually be about Layne too. Gone is a quiet acoustic piece to pull it all together.

But forget that, now we have the second disk. The album was originally released with just the first disk and was known as Degradation Trip because Jerry could only get signed on to a minor record company, which doesn’t make any sense to me. You would think anyone would sign Jerry on. I guess not… Anyway, the company didn’t want to release the double album right away for some reason. So they struck a deal that they would release just volume 1 first and then both at once the next year. The second disk isn’t just b-sides or second rate tracks. It’s part of the body of the entire album. Mr. Cantrells original intent was to release both at once anyway. The slow trudging of Castaway is very painful even to listen to. It makes you feel sad and lonely just to hear it. But that kind of power is good. Chemical Tribe is more great Cantrell riffing with the same kind of pattern you know by now, which is good. What It Takes a great one, for many reasons. The acoustic guitar and feeling of the drums is very organic. The second disk follows a lot of this pattern. I said before that it’s all one big body of music, which is true, but both disks still have their own personalities. While the first disk might have been anger and rage, the second is probably loneliness and alienation. Dying Inside once again breaks out the acoustic guitar. Nothing too special though. Keep in mind that I haven’t listened to each track a thousand times. Some I have gotten to know better than others. It’s possible, I guess, that I’m missing the best ones by not understanding each one really well. But this is another one about Layne, and it’s not more than mediocre. It’s followed up by Siddhartha and it’s genuine creep. That ones great. Next is Hurts, Don’t it? which is more alienation. It’s good though. She Was My Girl really stands out as one of the best songs off of both disks. While the first disk still had traces of loneliness on it, this disk still has traces of anger on it. This song is also irresistible, and has a great angry chorus. The echo effect really works itself in here, and the aggressive nature does wonders. Which is strange, considering it’s probably the most harmless track on the entire album. It’s about a relationship, but as charged as it is, it almost doesn’t seem like it’s too negative. Pig Charmer is another highlight, and another tune about Layne, clearly. It’s slow, but it finds it’s power in the lyrics and also in slow moving guitars. Pretty much all the lyrics on the album are good. Jerry still knows how to make poetry without being too sappy or detaching himself from the music too much. Anger Rising also had a video, but I never saw it. It’s hard to listen to, because it’s about abuse, but it has probably the single most catchy and likeable music out of any song on the album. It’s immediately accessible and brings together the worlds of grunge and metal perfectly. S.O.S. is another meh one. It’s very quiet and acoustic, sort of creeping along progressively. But Give It A Name is absolutely fantastic. It reminds me of Over Now, because the verses are pretty happy and mellow, but then for the chorus, it transforms into something more dark and smooth and alienating. Very good. Thanks Anyway is yet another meh, but only because by this time, the listener has already heard everything it has to offer. The guitar part here is so crunchy and nondescript… It’s one of the few bad songs on this album. 31/32 is much like Gone, but better, in my opinion. It’s slow and acoustic, major but sad, also about Layne. It’s hard to listen to. There, I said it. But that is usually because when you think Jerry Cantrell, you don’t like to think about sad endings like this. But it’s still a classic song.

So this is where music doesn’t suck, and it’s hard to find releases like this in this day and age. It’s such a shame that the heroes of grunge are today labeled as post-grunge, as if the movement was just some kind of phase. I’ll have you know that this is a classic grunge album, even if it is ten years late. It’s still great stuff, and Jerry Cantrell is a genious.