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ALICE IN CHAINS - Dirt cover
4.39 | 131 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1992


1. Them Bones (2:30)
2. Dam That River (3:09)
3. Rain When I Die (6:01)
4. Down In A Hole (5:38)
5. Sickman (5:29)
6. Rooster (6:15)
7. Junkhead (5:09)
8. Dirt (5:16)
9. God Smack (3:50)
10. [Iron Gland] (0:43)
11. Hate To Feel (5:16)
12. Angry Chair (4:47)
13. Would? (3:27)

Total Time 57:35


- Layne Staley / lead vocals, rhythm guitar
- Jerry Cantrell / lead guitar, backing vocals
- Mike Starr / bass
- Sean Kinney / drums

Additional musicians:
- Tom Araya / vocals (track 10)

About this release

Label: Columbia
Release Date: September 29, 1992

David Coleman: Logo
Layne Staley: Sun logo, Icons
Dave Jerden: Producer, Mixing
Bryan Carlstrom: Engineering
Annette Cisneros: Engineering (assistant)
Ulrich Wild: Engineering (assistant)
Steve Hall: Mastering
Eddy Schreyer: Mastering
Mary Maurer: Art direction
Rocky Schenck: Photography
Doug Erb: Design

Produced at One On One & Eldorado, 1992.
Mixed at Eldorado. Mastered at Future Disc, Hollywood, CA.

Some versions place Down in a Hole before Would?.

Thanks to m@x, Pekka, progshine, Lynx33, Unitron, adg211288 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Last month, I published one of the hardest poems I’ve ever had to pen. For me, writing a new piece always starts with one difficult question: “how much do I want to reveal to the reader and how much do I want to leave up to interpretation?” From the time my alcoholism started to the time it (thankfully) ended, I always left a few breadcrumbs here and there about the subject in my poetry. It’s as if I wanted to address the problem while skirting around it at the same time; perhaps it was a mechanism to maintain some subtlety in my writing, or perhaps I was unwilling to confront the issue directly. Yet it was always there, and no amount of avoiding it would have changed the fact that I’d need to confront it directly someday. As it turns out, 2022 was that someday; I wrote everything that needed to be spelled out to the letter, and it was gut wrenching. What finally inspired me to face the whole ordeal head-on? Dirt. Alice in Chains’ masterpiece served - and still serves - as proof that being open and revealing about personal conflict can be the best form of therapy in one’s darkest moments.

It seems as though Layne Staley never had a problem expressing such frankness with his lyrics and vocals. One listen to Dirt reveals a man constantly spilling his guts and bleeding out on record, as if he had nothing to lose any time he approached the mic. Very few albums are less open to interpretation than this one, and that’s what makes it one of the best records of its era; Nevermind might have been the flagship album of the grunge movement, but nothing expressed the subculture’s dark pathos or downcast nature quite like Dirt. Even the songs that aren’t directly related to Staley’s drug abuse, such as Jerry’s Cantrell’s war-themed “Rooster” or the tribute to early grunge icon Andrew Wood that is “Would?”, are delivered with the same brutal honesty and manage to stay consistent with the album’s overall theme: personal demons. Dirt has nothing to celebrate and no one to congratulate, instead focusing on how horrifying our real-life hells can be if we let them consume us. In the case of some of these songs, the outcome of these ordeals is even more harrowing - especially on “Junkhead”, in which our narrator finally succumbs to his addiction altogether and says “it ain’t so bad”.

Of course, a big part of Dirt’s twisted magic is that the music matches the subject matter so well. Any of the 80s influence that was found on Facelift has been completely wiped away in favor of a sludgy metallic murk, perfectly conveying the desert burial on the album cover. While there are a few songs that run at a quicker pace - the off-kilter groove of “Them Bones”, the punkish tempo of “Dam That River”, etc. - their chunky riffs and oppressive atmosphere ensure that they aren’t out of place with the rest of the tracklist. As for the slower tunes, many of them approach straight-up doom metal territory: “Junkhead”, “Hate to Feel” and the title track trudge along at a snail’s pace as they leave the listener enveloped in a thick haze of despair and dread. All of this perfectly supplements the messages Alice in Chains wanted to deliver on Dirt, as well as making them one of the only grunge bands to have crossover appeal with the metal crowd. More importantly, Dirt saw the full mastery of one of Alice in Chains’ biggest trademarks: the incredible vocal harmonies between Cantrell and Staley. These were on Facelift as well, but Dirt is where they really started to shine; songs like “Down in a Hole”, “Sickman”, and “Hate to Feel” simply wouldn’t have the same impact without them, especially the former and its soft, sorrowful verses.

In hindsight, however, the most depressing aspect of Dirt - much like the self-titled followup - was how prophetic it was. Staley knew he was digging his grave prematurely with every needle, and the lyrics of Alice in Chains’ 90s output make this distressingly clear. Yet it can’t be denied that he had one of the most unique and incredible voices of that entire era of rock; the way he juggled technical ability, emotion, and - as stated before - brutal honesty was only matched by a small handful of other artists at the time. Just watch the live performance of “Love Hate Love” at The Moore and it becomes clear just how much of a loss the rock world endured in 2002 with Staley’s passing. I like to see Dirt as the American grunge equivalent of Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible, in the sense that the album is every bit as much a tortured character portrait as it is a record. Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Starr might have been involved in the writing of Dirt (though the latter two only contributed to one song), but this really feels like Staley’s record first and foremost. It also remains his finest hour, serving as a foreboding message to those with personal demons: don’t let them drag you down and destroy you, or else you’ll find yourself in the grave before you can pull yourself back out.

~R.I.P. Layne Staley 1967-2002~
If you remember the 1990s and the alternative music scene of the time, putting on Dirt will instantly take you back there. The production style, performance aesthetic, and general approach of the album is absolutely rooted in the grunge era, and in the hands of a less talented crew this would put the album at risk of becoming seriously dated.

What saves it is that, as well as capturing a zeitgeist perfectly, Alice In Chains also completely burn the house down on Dirt. Mashing up a grunge aesthetic and well-honed alternative metal chops with a doomy approach which ensures the album has plenty to offer more traditional metal fans, the band wheel out classic tune after classic tune. making this perhaps one of the best grunge-metal crossover albums to ever emerge from that brief Seattle-spawned scene.

That said, the album's arguably frontloaded with the best material - Them Bones is an absolute banger - and that classic 1990s grunge production style is laid on thick here. For some, that will make this feel instantly familiar and comfortable, but for other listeners - either those who didn't live through the 1990s when this stuff was everywhere, or those who did and either bounced off it or got sick of it - that'll get old quick.
While Facelift had glam roots, and Dirt is considered to be a "grunge" classic, Dirt is really neither of these. Alice in Chains created a Doomy masterpiece with Dirt, and influenced many a band to come with it.

The riffs are either slow and ominous or menacingly groovy. They are a perfect match for Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell's harmonizing vocals that give a mystical aura to the work. While it does have some standard alternative elements that it's called, Dirt is plainly ominous doom heavy metal, and masterfully crafted metal at that.

The single and opener, "Them Bones" starts off with rough aggressive riffage and a killer solo a la Jerry Cantrell. The track stands out, though, since it is one of the quicker tempoed ones and the heaviest ones. After that, slower doom riffs come in such as "Rain When I Die", "Down in a Hole", and "Rooster". These are interspersed with the energetic tom-heavy "Sickman" and the groovy bass-ridden "God Smack". However, the haunting ones are probably the best, such as the title track, which features an evil melancholy Phrygian styled riff and croaking vocals to match. "Angry Chair" is just as haunting as the previous but more biting. The closer, "Would?" is a mix of the haunting parts and the energetic tempos found on the album. To be honest, almost all the tracks on the album are standouts, and the rest are merely good.

Overall, this is a highly recommended album for anyone into metal. For a collector it is a definite must. The atmosphere is haunting, the vocals are biting, the drums give off an uncomfortable feel, and the album is overall a killer journey. As for the grunge fans, they should like it too.
What a classic! Having shed pretty much all evidence of their hair metal past, Alice In Chains fully embrace their grunge-tinged metal sound with their landmark album, Dirt.

This album has been talked about to death, and for good reason, so I won’t go into great detail. In fact, I’ll make a rather unusual comparison of this album to another major event of 1992: The USA Men’s Olympic Basketball “Dream Team”. I won’t blame you if you want to stop reading.

“Them Bones”, “Rooster”, “Angry Chair”, “Down In A Hole”, and “Would?”. Those five songs were all released as singles, and they form your starting lineup. They are a great mix of heaviness, sorrow, beauty, and groove. A diverse bunch of songs, all complimentary to one another, and all are locks for the Hall of Fame.

It doesn’t stop there. Those songs get most of the attention, but the supporting cast has plenty of all stars and personal favorites highlighted by the likes of “Damn That River”, “Rain When I Die”, and “Hate to Feel”. The only thing slightly odd with this album is the unlisted track “Iron Gland”. However, at a mere 43 seconds, it doesn’t get much playing time, and has no effect on the overall image or impact of the album. Sort of like the Christian Laetnerr of Dirt.

Not a good analogy? Well, just let the album do the talking. Any serious rock or metal fan would be wise to check it out.
Going down the steps on a white line straight to nowhere. Those words were repeated over and over in Real Thing, the closer of Facelift, and AIC's second album documents the repercussions. This is one of the heaviest albums I've heard, not necessarily because of the music but the subject matter which is mostly mortality and addiction.

But this is not just a lyrics album. The opener Them Bones comes in with a crushing 7/8 riff and a torching Layne Staley roar, Sickman has one of the most disturbing verse riffs I can think of, Rain When I Die has a great atmospheric build-up, great riffs in this song, great riffs in that song... not to mention such classics as Rooster, Down in a Hole and Would? with its iconic bass riff. And all of the album is crowned by the gloriously haunting vocal harmonies by Staley and Jerry Cantrell.

Almost all of the debut album Facelift was composed by Jerry Cantrell with Layne Staley contributing much of the lyrics, but on this album the composer in Staley really steps up. He's the driving force behind the five song drug saga from Junkhead to Angry Chair (including Cantrell's hidden interlude Iron Gland, featuring the howling of Slayer's Tom Araya), with the addiction escalating from Junkhead's "we are an elite race of our own, the stoners junkies and freaks" to Angry Chair's "saw my reflection and cried, so little hope that I died". Hugely powerful and tragic stuff, delivered with the authority of a genuine dope fiend.

A defining grunge and 90s heavy metal album, essential to say the least.
The grunge movement was unification of sorts between the metal and alternative camps. Some bands came from the punk / new wave camp, some were mixtures from the beginning, and a few definitely had their roots in metal. Alice in Chains were clearly metal. Their debut album wasn't even grouped in a new genre when it was released. It was a great start. But Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell's magnus opus was clearly 1992's DIRT.

This album has it all, the metallic riffs (Them Bones, Dirt) the amazing harmony vocals (Angry Chair, Down in a Hole) and grunge classics (Would?, Rooster). I count "Would?" as perhaps THE grunge song with its reference back to grunge forefather Andrew Wood. The bass rumble and perfect chorus give way to one of Cantrell's most economically effective solos and the grand crush of the coda.

Bottom Line: One of the defining albums of the 90's and the metallic side of grunge.

Members reviews

Primeval Scum
The crown jewel of the grunge movement

Facelift and Alice in Chains were pretty good and Black Gives Way to Blue and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here managed to be somewhat competent, but Dirt is in a league of its own. With this album, Alice In Chains achieved near-perfection of their sound. The album is stuffed to the brim with thick and gloomy, yet morbidly catchy rock songs. Make no mistake, this is no vanilla grunge a la Nirvana. Alice In Chains mix in lots of heavy metal and even doom metal influence to give their music a darker edge than most of their grunge contemporaries. The feelings of hopelessness and loneliness that these songs emit will grab you by the throat.

Of course, the songwriting of Jerry Cantrell and the vocals of Layne Staley are what make this album work so well. Cantrell and Staley's crooning vocal harmonies have made their permanent mark on rock history. Staley's wails on "Would" and "Down in a Hole" truly are the cries of a man who has lost hope and feels isolated from the world. Though it was a huge mainstream success, this album has something real and emotionally intense about it that few others do. Almost every song is a classic. A "Best Of" album for Alice In Chains should be about two-thirds of Dirt and a couple songs from their other two 90s albums. That's how great this thing is.

If you call yourself a fan of good rock music and you haven't given this thing a chance, you're doing yourself a real disservice.

Best songs: Sickman, Rooster, Junkhead, Dirt, God Smack, Hate to Feel, Angry Chair, Would?, Down in a Hole

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