Alice in Chains “The Dog Album”

Alice_in_Chains_(album)(7 November 1995, Columbia)

Much like Ozzmosis, Alice in Chains’ self titled album holds a special place in my heart for being the album that really introduced me to the band. I had heard a lot of them on radio before I bought it, but this was my first full album of Alice. I can’t even remember why I bought this one first instead of Dirt or Facelift. I would assume it was because of the wicked cool neon green jewel case and the awesome artwork as much as for the strength of the song “Again.”

A few months ago I read a great post at Play it Loud Forever reviewing Facelift that talked about this album quite a bit. I can’t help but agree with a lot of what he says. I love the symbolism of three legged dog representing a quartet that was functioning as a trio. I’ve always been a big fan of processed and distorted vocals (Ministry, NIN, Butthole Surfers), but coming from the guy who sang “Man in the Box” it is a little bit of a disappointment.

The interesting thing about Layne Staley taking a step back on this album was that it let Jerry Cantrell take the reigns and showed everyone that AIC could continue without Staley. I know it’s hard for some people to stomach William DuVall, but I think without the strength of songs like “Grind” and “Heaven Beside You” I would also have trouble believing that anyone else could be the lead singer for AIC. The Dog Album showed Jerry Cantrell as more of a bandleader than on Sap or Dirt.

The Cantrell songs are the best part of the album. “Grind” kicks thing off with a simple repeated riff and some awesome wah drenched leads. “Heaven Beside You” was always a favorite for that great guitar and vocal melodies. The closer “Over Now” always blew my mind for it’s use of an open tuning and that crazy descending riff.

And really Staley contributed to this album (9/12) more than in the past. He only wrote lyrics to 5/12 on Facelift and 7/13 on Dirt. And his contributions here are just as great.  “Again” was always a favorite for the scratchy vocal part. According to the AIC biography, Toby Wright asked Staley if he was really going to leave those “doot doots” in the chorus. I can’t imagine the song without them. I really like Staley’s solo contribution “Head Creeps” but I think the star of that song is probably drummer Sean Kinney. “God Am” is a pretty cool tune. I love the stabs in that guitar riff and the bong hit that starts off the song.

I’m pretty sure my favorite is “Shame in You.” I love the mellow note bends and soulful singing. I can’t believe that tune wasn’t a single or didn’t at least make an appearance on Unplugged.


“Sludge Factory” lives up to it’s name with a sludgy guitar riff. “Frogs” is a pretty cool track, but it goes on for too long for my taste. Both songs suffer from long rambling endings. “Brush Away” and “So Close” aren’t very strong and the “Nothin’ Song” does indeed stick in your head like peanut butter on the brain, but it’s not one of AIC’s best.

While this is probably AIC’s weakest album, it still rocks harder than anything Candlebox ever put out. You could do worse than adding this to your collection.


Book Review- Alice in Chains: The Untold Story by David de Sola

Alice in Chains: The Untold StoryWhen I was 15 I took a vacation to stay with my Uncle and his family. They lived about 30 minutes south of Seattle. Because I didn’t know my uncle, aunt or cousin very well (and because I’m a rather bookish fellow anyway) I spent most of the first in their vast library getting to know John Steinbeck. I remember that very well because Of Mice and Men is still the only book to ever bring tears to my eyes.

That’s not to say David de Sola’s biography of Alice in Chains didn’t come really damn close.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book. I knew it would probably be a downer. It’s like the movie Titanic, you know how it’s going to end. It’s not like I thought it would be a laugh-a-minute page turner like Paul Beatty’s The Sellout or a thought provoking satire a la Chuck Pahalniuk, but sometimes you’re just not prepared. Hats off to Mr. de Sola, somebody had to write this book and I’m glad it wasn’t me. I guess I was hoping more of that joyful humor that characterized their interviews and TV appearances would be at the forefront. It’s definitely present, but not enough to offset the darkness.

I don’t think calling it “The Untold Story” is accurate. It is the story that everyone knows, only it goes a little deeper and features credible sources. I was really interested in reading about time spent in the studio and what they did to get their sound. It’s amazing that “Angry Chair” has something like 19 different vocal tracks. I was also surprised to read that Layne didn’t start heroin until after Facelift. I always assumed “Real Thing” was about trying to kick that habit.

I did find it surprising that Mike Starr and Mike Inez usually wrote their own bass lines. I always assumed Jerry Cantrell had a big hand in that because of the similarities between “Rooster” and “No Excuses.” I was also surprised to read that Jerry and Sean Kinney claim to have never taken heroin. I always thought they were guilty by association. The book does talk about Kinney’s alcoholism and Cantrell’s addictions, though it never mentions a drug of choice for him.

Demri Parrott and Layne Staley

Demri Parrott and Layne Staley

My biggest bitch with the book is that it’s more of a biography of Layne Staley than of AIC. I suppose this makes sense because he was the face of the band and the one who put the whole thing together, but I would have liked to learn more about Jerry, Sean and the Mikes. There was a lot more detail on Layne’s longtime girlfriend Demri Parrott (pronounced Pear-o) and Mad Season bassist John Baker Saunders than of his AIC band mates. I understand that the deaths of these people affected Staley in a profound way, and thus affected AIC in a profound way, but I would have liked more info about what the band was doing.

I’m sure this is a must-read for any die hard Alice in Chains fans. And it is worth the time and money as it is greatly researched and nicely written. Casual fans may enjoy it too, but you might want to get a library copy.

Prières pour Paris

I think it’s because of my experience at the Alrosa Villa that my heart truly goes out to those who were at the Eagles of Death Metal show in Paris last Friday night. I feel bad that this terror attack has touched me more than other recent ones in Beirut, Ankara and Africa; but perhaps that’s because it happened in a place I consider sacred: a concert venue.

While my heart and prayers go out to everyone affected by terrorism there is a special spot on there for my fellow rockers (even though the few EoDM song’s I’ve heard are awful).

Here’s a harrowing account of what it was like in the Bataclan. From what I gather, it was quite a bit worst than the night Dimebag died.


God Bless


GWAR @ The Agora

GWAR Agora 11/8/20158 November 2015

The Agora Theater; Cleveland, OH

Demons Within, Solipsist, Battlecross, GWAR

There were two reasons I felt this show was a must-see: 1) I needed to see how the band had weathered the passing of longtime vocalist/front man, Oderus Urungus and 2) GWAR fucking rocks and I was sure it would take more of an effort for them to put on a shitty show than it would for them to give a great performance. I wasn’t sure what to expect without Oderus, he seemed to be the glue that held everyone together. All I really wanted was some blood, gore, celebrity dismemberment and fun. I did not leave disappointed.

The opening acts had several things working against them. For one, I’m not a huge fan of death/black/speed metal. I realize now that there may be a speed limit to my musical tastes. Anything faster than 120 BPM sounds like mush to my ears. As always there are exceptions to this rule, but speed isn’t really something that impresses me much. The other thing working against all of these talented, hardworking musicians is that they were opening for GWAR! I don’t want to see you wankers! Get off the stage so GWAR can come on!

Demons Within were a last minute addition to replace the cancelled Born of Osiris. I think they may have been the fastest band of the night. It wasn’t really music you could bang your head to, but more like music to have a seizure to. The did have the best lead guitar acrobatics of any local band I’ve ever seen.

I swear, Richard O'Brien is the bass player for Battlecross.

I swear, Richard O’Brien is the bass player for Battlecross.

Solipsist is another local band that is brutally metal as fuck. Listening to them was like getting hit in the head with a sack of rocks. Something strange about heavy-speed metal is that the more I listen to it, the more I understand and appreciate it; and their set closer was by far their best song.

Battlecross are another group that break my BPM speed limit, but they manage to put some pretty awesome grooves into their music. It’s fast as hell, but it has a nice beat and you can dance to it. They get bonus points for having Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show playing bass for them. I wondered what happened to that guy.

Then is was time to put away the appetizers and move on to the main course. A brief intro introduced us to ‘The new and improved GWAR,’ two guys in costumes doing a dance version of ‘Sick of You.’ They only made it to the breakdown before the real GWAR entered and slaughtered them to “Crush, Kill, Destroy.”

Now, I had planned on staying toward the back of the theater and watching from a comfortable, dry spot. I’ve “seen” GWAR twice before on the Sounds of the Underground tours, but I was always so close to the stage that I was constantly getting sprayed in the face with spew and could barely hear any of the songs. This time I wanted to actually watch the performance. I even wore a new shirt and my leather jacket to dissuade me from traveling up front. This all went out the door when they started “Saddam A Go-Go.” I rushed up front and hopped in the pit. By the end of the show it looked like I had egg yolk all over my face and I was very, very pleased.


The best part was that the performance was like a play. They played a lot tunes from their catalog and also performed as actors. The set-up came when their manager tells them that the internet is saying bad things about them. He tells them that they need to kill the internet it they want more crack. So they visit several sites (SpewTube, Kinder (like tinder but for child molesters), and Instagram (where they buy several grams of crack instantly)) and then kill the people associated with these sites. After proclaiming their mastery and defeating their foe, Balsac gave a warm, moving speech about how we could now enjoy life and no longer had to serve our digital overlord that had been enslaving us. Or something like that, I was thinking about what I was going to write in this blog.

I've seen a lot of bands dedicate albums to the memories of fallen musicians, but these guys names a star after their friend. What a bunch of saps!

I’ve seen a lot of bands dedicate albums to fallen musicians, but these guys named a star after their friend. What a bunch of saps!

They very rarely broke the fourth wall. The only time I can remember them doing that was to lead us in a chant for “the best rock and roll singer to walk this or any other planet” O-DER-US. You know, for a bunch of intergalactic warriors who make their living slaughtering humans for entertainment, GWAR are some sentimental fucks.

There were quite a few song that I didn’t recognize. I’m sure some may have been new and others might have come from albums I’m not that familiar with, but the set was great. “Babyraper,” “Meat Sandwich” and “I, Bonesnapper” all made the cut. Hillary Clinton and Kanye West emerged only to be slaughtered during “Salamanizer” and they closed the set with “Sick of You.” My only complaint was the omission of anything from America Must Be Destroyed. I can understand they were focusing on songs that Blothar could sing well, (seeing as how he is very different from Oderus) and can understand excluding something like “Have You Seen Me?”, but I’ve really been digging on “The Road Behind” lately and loved the parts Blothar sang (as Beefcake) back in the day.

Photo by Jon Lichtenberg. Click image for more.

Photo by Jon Lichtenberg. Click image for more.

I’m still digesting everything I saw on Sunday, but I know I didn’t see the death throes of GWAR. Maybe I just say this because I’m such a huge fan and think they’re the best band in the world at what they do, but I’m pretty sure those who are writing them off are going to end up eating their words. Just like critics of AC/DC and Alice in Chains. The good news is that if you haven’t seen GWAR yet in your lifetime it’s still not too late.


Happy Monday

If you haven’t noticed already, I’m an American. Like most Americans I only speak one language (although I do speak enough Spanish to have some fun in Tijuana). Unlike most Americans I am interested in learning other languages. So whenever my Lebanese friend at work tries to teach me French or Arabic phrases I try very hard to remember them.

Last week I remembered a French phrase I know that I didn’t mention to him. When I asked him voulez-vous coucher avec moi? He didn’t say ‘good job’ or ‘way to go’ he just laughed and said ‘No avec moi!’

And then I had that damn song stuck in my head all morning.