Sound — 10
Was there life after Dirt? The epic album spanning Layne Staley's eventually fatal drug addiction was a hard act to follow: it was heavy, it was somber, and it was good. So what better way to show their mettle than to go in the opposite direction? Jar of Flies shows the music that Jerry Cantrell had always been capable of writing, but just didn't have the artistic license to until that point. The subtle, filtered guitar that Jerry uses on tracks like Rotten Apple mixes so well with the dirge-like bass that you'd swear it was a single instrument. Combined with Staley's powerful vocals, it becomes the sonic equivalent of sheer anguish. Not that at some points it doesn't pick up the pace a tad. No Excuses is an uptempo foray into full-song harmonization that will have you humming the tune for years to come.
Lyrics — 8
This album and Dirt have arguably the band's strongest lyrics. Actually, that's not too arguable after all. The record is completely devoid of cliched subject matter and nonsensical verse, like so many of today's artists.
Overall Impression — 10
Get this album. There's really nothing I can recommend more. The songs are all incredibly well-written, and the musical talent of Jerry and company cannot be denied. On such an impressive album, it's hard to select the most impressive song, but for sheer scope and musicianship, I Stay Away is the standout track. Even if you're too cheap to buy the EP, download that song.