JERRY CANTRELL — Degradation Trip (review)

JERRY CANTRELL — Degradation Trip album cover Album · 2002 · Alternative Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Pekka
Jerry Cantrell was at least to some extent working on the follow up to his solo debut Boggy Depot when Alice in Chains made a surprise return to studio to record two new tracks for the Music Bank box set. He may have had hopes for a proper return to action since the completion of that album took four more years, in which time he had written enough material for a double album. All the songs were recorded with the respectable backing of Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin, both playing in Ozzy Osbourne's touring band at the time - but due to the insistence of Roadrunner Records, the album was first released as a single disc edition, later to be expanded. This is a review of the first edition which was released just a couple of months after the death of Layne Staley, for whom the album is dedicated.

Whereas Boggy Depot was a mix of the familiar type hard rocking songs and strong ballads, Degradation Trip finds Cantrell striving for the heaviest sounds he's recorded yet. This is not a feelgood album. Backed by a slowly pounding rhythm section and haunting guitar Cantrell begins the album with the line "I feel the fear take hold..." in a patented AiC-like paranoid vocal harmony, setting the pace for things to come. Bargain Basement Howard Hughes is a brilliant piece of slow metal riffery and threatening vocal work. And the the band sounds fat and heavy, perfectly complimenting the music. Anger Rising retains most of the heaviness of the previous tracks while taking the music to a more melodic direction further explored on Angel Eyes, a lighter rocker on which Cantrell brings out the acoustic guitars. Some of the best Cantrell choruses on these two tracks. The slide to a lighter direction continues with Solitude, a mostly acoustic ballad containing the album title in its lyrics. I've never been a fan of this song, there's something in its melodies and the rather monotonous chorus that doesn't sit well with me. Album closing Gone takes the acoustic approach to much more enjoyable results.

If the first two tracks established the first cornerstone of the album in their crushing heaviness, the next two the second cornerstone in their melodic heavy rock and Solitude put down the third acoustic cornerstone, Mother's Spinning in Her Grave (Glass Dick Jones) builds up the fourth corner of the album with the upbeat palm-muted three chord riff and simple chorus. This kind of "ah f**k it, let's just rock" type songs I would've mostly preferred to leave out, but they do bring a different dimension to the album that I'd perhaps miss if it wasn't there. My favourites from the rest of the album are mostly among the first two groups or combining them, most of all Hellbound, Castaway, Spiderbite and Chemical Tribe, which at first, despite its good parts, may sound a bit disjointed but is crowned by an absolutely fantastic hard rock chorus. Give It a Name falls into the fourth group of tracks, but is saved by great vocal harmonies lacking the usual crooked element and instead creating a feeling of comfort.

This one disc edition contains a few tracks that could be called filler, and because of that I haven't dared to buy the double album yet. At times I think about it, perhaps one day I'll have the courage. At least this version of the album is very enjoyable despite the few lesser tracks here and there. Recommended for friends of Alice.
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