Alice in Chains was formed in Seattle in 1987. They were part of the Grunge Era alongside groups like Nirvana and Candlebox. Layne Staley founded the group. Jerry Cantrell joined after he stayed with Staley for a while. During this time, both of their groups broke up. Cantrell began seeking out musicians for a new band finding Sean Kinney and Mike Starr. He wanted Staley to do lead vocals. They made a deal, Cantrell would play in the funk band Staley was playing with, and he would join Cantrell’s group. A short time later, the funk group ended, and Alice in Chains began to dominate the music scene. In the early days, Mother Love Bone’s opening act helped them grab Randy Hauser’s attention. Soon, he paid for them to record their first demo. Columbia Records signed the group a short time later. They released their first album, Facelift, in 1991, which hit the Billboard charts in April 1991. The same year, Van Halen asked them to open for him. Their second album, Sap, was the first acoustic album from an alt-rock band. This was the same time the Seattle scene became mainstream. Despite their success, there were constant issues, including several lineup changes. Later, Mike Starr was fired from the group for drug problems. This was only the start. There was a press that Staley was addicted to heroin. Throughout the 90s, the group remained busy, even landing on the cult classic Clerks soundtrack. Sadly, Staley was found dead from a drug OD in 2002, and the group disbanded. These are the 10 best Alice in Chains songs of all time.
This song has been covered by numerous bands, including Stained, Seether, and Shinedown. Alice in Chains always had a melancholy sound to their music. The opening bars of this song are an extended echoing guitar solo. It creates anticipation for the lyrics that will follow. Throughout the song, they explore the inner battle many people face in their daily lives and feeling isolated with no one to talk to about their feelings. Drums in the background add a haunting cadence to a full of emotiveness that stays out of the emo genre.
9. I Stay Away
The guitar riffs in this song sound more hopeful at the beginning. As the song progresses, we hear the grunge era front and center of the music. However, throughout, the listener hears some of the uptempo. The song is about finding a new place to go when you are not happy with where you are. According to Songfacts, it was written when Layne Staley was fresh out of rehab. Unfortunately, he relapsed a short time later.
8. We Die, Young
There are intense guitar chords and drum licks at the beginning of this song. The lyrics are about living fast and dying love, much like musicians in the 27 club. Jerry Cantrell wrote this song after seeing young children dealing drugs. It’s become something of a cliché to say life fast, die young, and leave a beautiful Corpse. However, this is one of Alice In Chain’s songs that is part of social commentary.
7. No Excuses
The opening of this song is drum-focused. As it progresses, there is a simple guitar overlay. Even though the instrumentation is less complex than other Alice and Chain songs, the lyrics are so unique it’s great to enjoy them to the fullest. It’s more a song of affirmation that even though it was a bad day, tomorrow is a fresh start, and it could be better than the last. When someone listens to the refrain, it gives hope and motivates you to stop trying to make excuses and work towards living life.
6. Down In A Hole
The opening bars of this song has an eclectic feel absent in other Alice in Chains song. The lyrics are about hitting rock bottom and other people throwing dirt on you so you feel like you can get out. As the song progresses, the instrumentation becomes heavier along with the lyrics. The analogy of down in a hole references how people can make us feel less than without their consent.
This song has a driving beat with an overall vulnerability. The drum licks are catchy and infectious. Staley’s voice echoes throughout the song, singing about the mistakes people make and those who tear them down for sport because it’s easy to devalue someone than look at yourself. Over time, you believe the voices, and it becomes easier to just stay stuck and leave success to other people you feel may be more qualified.
4. Them Bones
The opening few seconds of this song sound like social commentary. Much like other Alice and Chains songs, the lyrics focus on the horrible feeling alone. Throughout, it maintains heavy instrumentation with raucous electric guitar, all the while Staley’s voice stays smooth, lending itself to two crazy and manic inner turmoil can be.
According to genius.com, this song was written for Jerry Cantrell Sr., who adopted the nickname rooster while he was in the Vietnam war because his hair stood up much like a roosters comb. The lyrics are Cantrell’s feelings about what must have happened in the conflict since his father never talked about what happened and maintained a distance from the entire experience. The guitar in this song sounds sinister, much like the Vietnam war, steeped in controversy and social unrest.
2. Man in the Box
Staley spent much of his career battling addiction and trying to get sober with no luck. You can have inner thoughts when someone struggles to free themselves from the strong relationship they have with substance abuse. The line “deny the maker” is a haunting reminder that while in the throes of this disease, you feel like there is no guiding force to pull you back from the edge. Even if you think there may be, there is a point when it doesn’t matter because it’s easier to drink your feeling down and move on with life.
1. Heaven Beside You
Jerry Cantrell wrote most of this song. It’s about a relationship that turned ugly because one of the people couldn’t stay faithful. The song is a fusion of Alice in Chains’ grunge rock sound and a slower beat that threads throughout the song. Even though the group focuses on lyrics about isolating from society and wanting to be someone else, this song is a break because it’s about a relationship and the exterior of everything looking great. Inside, it’s pretty messed up. There’s a lot of responsibility in this song from the character’s point of view. Undoubtedly, it’s from a personal experience.