November 7, 1995. Alice In Chains releases their self-titled third album. Little did they know, it would be their last with lead singer Layne Staley.
And it’s a miracle the album was made with Staley still in the fold. Staley’s heroin use had him in and out of rehab in 1994, forcing Alice In Chains to cancel tours, putting the future of the band in jeopardy. But with new bassist Mike Inez in the fold, guitarist Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney came together in early 1995 to start working on new material. Staley was invited to join them and did, but his heroin use created a slow-moving, tense environment for the recording of Alice In Chains.
That tension creeps throughout the album, especially on opening track and first single, “Grind.” But despite all of the dissonance with Staley, Alice In Chains ended up crafting a work that harmoniously brought together their two musical worlds: the metallic grunge of Facelift and Dirt and the dark acoustics of Sap and Jar of Flies.
I remember picking up the album (on cassette!) the moment it came out and spending weeks and weeks pouring over one side, flipping to the other, then back again, basking in Staley and Cantrell’s chilling harmonies. Alice In Chains will forever be a late-autumn-into-winter album for me. It’s the sound of frost, cold wind, and decay. And it’s still heartbreaking that it was also the sound of that iteration of the Alice In Chains decaying, with Staley soon to blowing away like a cold wind.