By embodying that small area of overlap between metal and the burgeoning 90s alt rock movement, Alice in Chains became one of the stand-outs of the grunge scene, building a legacy that continues today.
In a way, Alice in Chains were always a metal band – their existence predates the term ‘grunge’. But given their Seattle origin, the time period when they found recognition, and the fact their sound has always had some alternative elements, it was inevitable they were grouped in with the grunge bands. But this ‘between-two-worlds’ sound made Alice in Chains and incredibly important band at the time. They were the ‘new’ that could appeal to the ‘old’. In 1991, Alice in Chains landed the opening slot for the Slayer/Megadeth/Anthrax megatour, ‘The Clash of the Titans’. While they were not universally accepted (old thrashers can be notoriously set in their ways), this did present Alice in Chains and their unique sound to a much wider audience.
One central element of the Alice in Chains sound, setting them apart from other grunge bands, was the vocal style. Layne Staley remains on of the best voices to come from that scene, with his mournful croon, both gloomy and beautiful, and certainly iconic. With guitarist Jerry Cantrell also having an incredible voice, it was when the two harmonised and otherwised shaed vocal duties that Alice In Chains truly came into their own.
When Layne Staley passed away in 2002, there didn’t seem to even be a question of whether Alice in Chains would continue. Staley’s reclusiveness had see the band be mostly inactive for years, and it had been seven years since they’d relesed their last album. During this period of inactivity the other members had moved onto various other projects and solo efforts, so it seemed that the Alice in Chains story had finally ended.
However, after a few years, and a handful of benefit shows with various well known singers helping out on vocals, the surviving members realised they were not finished with Alice in Chains.
Eventually bringing on singer William DuVall, the band first embarked on a reunion tour, before eventually deciding to enter the studio. In 2009, 14 years after their last album, Alice in Chains released ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’. With DuVall bringing his own energy to the sound, and the band continuing to honour Layne’s legacy and what they’d built with him, Alice In Chains returned to considerable acclaim.
With their heavy, perhaps even doom-influenced, take on the grunge sound backing two incredible voices, Alice in Chains are one of the greatest bands Seattle ever produced.