Sound — 8
This album sounds drastically different than all of their previous work, but of course this should be expected from a band that practically re-invented itself in everything it released. Layne Staley had one of the most phenomenal singing voices in rock history, and most were surprised at the treatment his vocals were given on this album. At times, his natural howls are masked slightly in the whiny, layering treatment they are given. At first, most wondered why would they fix something what wasn't broken on Jar Of Flies? Layne's amazing vocals on those tracks were what practically made that album the masterpiece it was. We also don't get as much of the trademark AiC open 5th voice layering, (used most heavily on Jar Of Flies). Aside from this, Jerry's guitar has a brand new sound, this time around it's much more sludgy, and at certain points has a bit of a crumbly effect. All of these changes ultimately can lead to a frustrating first listen, but more on that later. Before I forget, hats off to Sean Kinney. His drumming reached its creative peak in Jar of Flies, and kudos on translating that back into heavier music.
Lyrics — 7
AiC lyrics have always been considered dark and depressing, as most drug addiction songs typically are. But on this album, they once again take a strange turn. We don't get much drug depression, or signs of hope as in Jar Of Flies. This time, the lyrics are more bitter, strange, and suprisingly random. This is the only AiC album where at times I really don't know what the hell they're talking about. None the less, even in not knowing exactly what they are trying to say, the diction is so moody that it really adds more to the music that way.
Overall Impression — 10
If you've gotten this far reading, you might ask why is this guy trashing AiC? What the hell is his problem? Well the answer is that I'm not at all trashing them. This album is one of the most mis-understood and mis-interpreted ever. Critics didn't like it, and while most fans probably liked "Grind," "Again" and maybe "Heaven Beside You," the rest of the album left a bitter taste in their mouths. This description is suprisingly similiar to Nirvana's swan song, In Utero. While at first it was bizarre and alienated all but their most dedicated fans, it is now appreciated as a classic. And a classic "Alice In Chains" is. The new sound is really a turn back to their heavy roots, but have you really listened to Dirt or Facelift lately? They sound dated, especially the latter. This album sounds completely fresh ten years after the fact. As many great albums are, it is a much acquired taste. If you truly understand this album tracks such as "Sludge Factory," "Head Creeps," and "Frogs" that are bashed by casual AiC fans truly stand out as some of their best work. They are intensely strange, and almost transe inducing, but a pretty orgasmic transe they are. This album is really creative genius, and I can only hope that millions of AiC fans who kind of initially ignored most of this album (as I admittedly did) can rediscover it for the masterpiece it truly is.