“Would?” you listen to Alice In Chains? You just might after reading this.


Garrett Jaffe

A personal review of the 1990s Grunge band Alice in Chains unique music and influence on their respective genre of music.

The band Alice In Chains is undeniably a quintessential “player” amongst the ranks of bands making up the 1990s grunge scene. Not only did they manifest and define the zeitgeist of 90s grunge through their transcendent and uncharacteristically unique sound, they also aided in the emphasis of their birthing place-Seattle, Washington as a Mecca for Grunge.

When saying “ranks” in regards to the blossoming rot occurring from within Seattle’s music scene, it is not meant to imply that the plethora of magnificent audible incarnations of raw human emotion emitted from the many grunge bands within Seattle were any kind of competition, but that all of the Seattle grunge bands and their individual tones, including Alice in Chains gloomy brass knuckle-bearing riffs and euphonious cacophonies all worked together to build each other up rather than seeking to become the most well-known.

In doing so, Alice In Chains and all the other Grunge bands of the Seattle scene made tangible emotions that all of us, Taylor Swift-worshipping conformists to Venom loving psychos, feel ineffably. Such bands create a sound that today and forevermore may serve to make that which is amorphous, as tangible as it may ever be, during the fleeting minutes of a song or album.

Alice in Chains’ individual sound will forever go down in history despite the untimely and drug-driven deaths of singer Layne Staley and bassist Mike Starr. Despite such talents’ deaths at such young ages, what they felt, what they played and what so many of us wish we could express, may live on in the woefully wan and relatable emotions of doom.

Despite the bands disillusionment, departure, and their newer albums, the band’s original albums with lead singer Layne Staley remain their most emotionally irrevocable and musically epic.

Ventura High School junior Sage Kirkpatrick said what “separates them from others” is their unique “hybrid of hair metal and grunge” and “harmonies that you’ll never hear in other bands” engineered by “Layne Staley’s unmistakable and impeccable voice.” Sage said one of his favorite songs from Alice in Chains is “Sludge Factory,” the reason being “because it’s so heavy and it makes you feel something you have never felt before.”

When asked how he felt after listening to an Alice in Chains song, Sage said, “After I listen to a song by them, I feel a mix of emotions–it depends what song it is. The songs can bring sadness, hype, and whatever the f*&$ else.”

Overall, lead singer Layne Staley’s amorphous voice and his ability to mold it into any form of ineffable expression of human emotion, whether it be a snarling sonic scream that combusts with contempt or a passively pensive and doping digression into all that is slow and somber.

With Staley’s great restraint yet range in emitting salubrious often sardonic snarls and swoons for help, paired with co-vocalist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Starr’s bleak, marrow mealding, temple tremor riffs, and Sean Kinney’s intrusive and explosive rises and falls of rhythm and rapture, one may feel as if they are being swept away “into the flood again” (to quote their song “Would?”).

Alice in Chains truly captures and quantifies aspects of human existence that we often wish to sweep under the rug, and presents to the listener a pensive platter of catharsis and lucidity that rivals the epic, expansive heights of Seattle’s magnificent “Mount Rainier.”