Sound — 9
This is Alice In Chains' first album and the sound is great for a debut, production is top notch and the band brought their A-game. If someone asked me to explain what this album sounded like I would say a mix between Black Sabbath and Guns N' Roses with AiC's original style. The guitar work is pretty good, some really heavily Pantera-ish riffs with bluesy solos with a lot of feeling. The drums are pounding, clear and on some songs really complex. The bass is really prominent on this album and really give the tracks some backbone. The album has a wide variety of sounds from pure metal songs like "We Die Young" to almost '80s glam songs like "I Know Something (Bout You)" and some that sound completely original like "Love, Hate, Love" overall, the sound is really good but not as good as it would be on later albums.
Lyrics — 9
Jerry Cantrell (guitarist) has the most writing credits. The lyrics deal with drug addiction, death, love and obsession which is pretty standard stuff for AiC and it works. The vocals of the late great Layne Staley really add to the songs he gives them so much emotion you can't help but respect him for that. He's got an incredibly unique and powerful voice that shines through on tracks like "Man in the Box", "Sunshine", "Love, Hate, Love" and "Confusion". The Lyrics and singing are great just great.
Overall Impression — 9
This album really gives you a glimpse of what's to come from the band, even though they've taken elements from other bands they do it in a way that isn't ripping them of and they infuse it with their own sound. Let's take a minute to do a track by track review. 1. "We Die Young": Short track, starts out with a powerful riff pounding drums and a thumping bass then the vocals come in and that's where things come together in the middle there are a few shredding solos and then a great climax. Excellent opening track. 2. "Man in the Box": Oh boy, even if you haven't heard of Alice In Chains chances are you've heard this song it was their first big hit but it most certainly wasn't their last. Great riff and beautiful chorus with the infamous "Jesus Christ, deny your maker" and then that wah-full solo. Amazing track. 3. "Sea of Sorrow": This song has a good opening and it really shows off Layne and Jerry's vocal harmonies the chorus has some really great drum solos/fills and a pretty good bass line followed by a beautiful solo. 4. "Bleed the Freak": Acoustic guitar intro followed by haunting vocals by Layne then a heavy Sabbath-esque riff a great solo and powerful ending. One of my favorites. 5. "I Can't Remember": Really ironic how this song is called "I Can't Remember" because it's one of the most memorable songs on the album a great chorus and decent solo and a tight ending with the bass and drums. 6. "Love, Hate, Love": This song in my honest opinion is the best on the album possibly the best Alice In Chains song ever. Great vocals by Layne, heavy bass and drums oh man, those drums. Excellent just excellent. 7. "It Ain't Like That": Starts off when a Bluesy riff and Layne delivering some great vocals then when the chorus hits you with those harmonies it'll blow your speakers out with pure power. 8. "Sunshine": One of my favorites, great bass line and guitar in the verses then once again the harmonies in the chorus are just awesome followed by one of Cantrell's best solos. 9. "Put You Down": One of my least favorite from the album, not bad but nothing stands out it has no solos and nothing that really stands out. 10. "Confusion": Powerful song, great rhythm section and haunting chorus featuring bassist Mike Starr singing "Love, Hate, Sex, Pain" in the background. 11. "I Know Somethin' (Bout You)": An almost glam metal song but still pretty good strong bass/drum opening followed by Layne making some odd throat noise that gets you moving and some great vocals in the verses and chorus. 12. "Real Thing": Another one of my least favorites, it doesn't sound like AiC here it sounds more like a Guns N' Roses wannabee band, this songs real strength is in the lyrics showing off a humorous side of the band and a great ending line. Overall, this is a great debut and the only tracks I don't like are "Put You Down" and "Real Thing" but even those are pretty good. If I ever lost this I'd buy it right away.