We do not really know how to start talking about this album, it's a sad story, it's the end of an era.
The album with the three-legged dog was released on November 7, 1995 !!
And we have no other way to open this than with a quote from Jerry Cantrell:
“There's a sadness to that record... it's the sound of a band falling apart. It was our last studio record.
It's a beautiful record, but it's sad, too. It's a little more exploratory, a little bit more meandering. It's not as crafted as the rest of our records were ”
After the release of the amazing EP "Jar Of Flies", "Alice" were supposed to go on a big world tour together with "Metallica", "Suicidal Tendencies", "Danzig" and "Fight". While preparing for the tour, Layne Staley's condition began to deteriorate significantly due to drug use, forcing the band to cancel their participation in the tour. The fact that it happened at the last minute and the fact that the band which replaced them was "Candlebox" created a big media noise that put tremendous pressure on the band. To impact Layne and motivate him to quit the drugs, the members decided to break up the band. Indeed, in July 1994 an official announcement was made about the temporary dissolution of"Alice In Chains".
The dramatic announcement did its job and Layne re-entered a rehab facility. Immediately after the process ended, he even joined a new, super-ensemble called "Mad Season", which was composed by guitarist Mike McCready from "Pearl Jam" with several other friends who had in common the fact that they also returned from rehab. McCready thought it would be good for Layne to be and create with people who share the feeling and experiences he went through. It was wonderful and an exemplary album came out, but it didn't really help...
(Photo: Chris Carroll)
In January 1995, the members of "Alice" invited Layne to record their next album, which is reviewed here. Layne was in good condition and it appeared that the drugs were already behind him. But the situation took a turn in April 1995, when they went in to record the album at the "Bad" Animals Studios in Seattle. Layne's condition was bad again, even worse than before. Cantrell said it was a nerve-wracking nightmare to hold the recordings. Layne was absent from the studio a lot and even when he was already there, his condition would change from end to end. It got to the point where he was asleep while recording or unable to communicate with the environment at all. The three used to make demo tapes and send them to Layne to write the lyrics, but they did not always get a response. The band's manager, Susan Silver, said it was heartbreaking to see Layne in this situation. When he was conscious he was charming, special, and talented but when he was drugged he was like a broken vessel, a ghost without presence. Everyone felt it was the end and it provoked severe emotional turmoil among the band members. On the one hand, they had a very hard time working with Layne due to his conduct, but on the other hand, they saw their friend crumble and fall to pieces in front of their eyes.
Despite all of this, and despite Layne's difficult condition, this is the only "Alice" album where the vast majority of the lyrics were written by Layne, who also composed one of the songs himself and played guitar on two more. His lyrics were very harsh and speaks of depression, drug addiction, death, loneliness, and anger. Although there were similar lyrics on the previous two albums, this time they had a much stronger echo. Feel it in music too. Cantrell adapted his sound to the lyrics. The guitars were tuned to a lower tone and gave a gloomy atmosphere that was even reminiscent of genres like Doom and Death Metal. Aside from the songs "Grind", "Heaven Beside You", and "Over Now", written by Cantrell who also sang them, all the other songs were written by Layne. Layne said the lyrics reflected what he was feeling at the time, to the point that he did not even remember what he had written the previous song about when he started writing a new song. He did not let the past or the future influence him, he simply wrote what came out of him at that moment.
(Photo: Marty Temme)
Prior to the release of the album, the record company asked the band to create a "kit" for the media in order to promote the album. This usually means interviews, stories behind the songs, recordings, and more. The request really pissed off the band members, so they took the money and created a collection of videos called "The Nona Tapes". A "commentary" film that is actually a comedy film in a documentary form. Cantrell played the character of a young reporter named Nona Weisbaum, who is looking for her breakout story in Seattle and is interested in catching rock stars and making a name for herself. The film consists of recordings that combine interviews that "Nona" allegedly holds with the band members and staged scenes, but also real excerpts from the lives of the four. The record company was furious at the band's "stunt", but the VHS tape quickly gained popularity and became a cult hit among the band's fans.
When you think about it, it's inconceivable that this is only the band's third album. True, they released two amazing EPs, but it still feels like this band is one of the most prolific to come out of the Seattle scene. This is the band's first album with bassist Mike Inez, but it's also the last album they recorded with Layne (if you don't consider the MTV Unplugged album). This album holds a special place in the hearts of the band members, and it will always remain their last memory of Layne, the last time they created together and recorded an album together. Although it was a very difficult album to make because of Layne's condition, they were all glad they did not give up and stuck to the end to complete it.
After the release of the album, Layne's condition did not improve but even worsened, which prevented the band members from going on tour to promote the album. They did not give up and waited for his condition to improve. They held one of the biggest unplugged shows in 1996 and even recorded two new songs in 1998 but that was the end.
The end of Layne Staley with his band "Alice In Chains".
The album of course reached number one on the US charts, but was not as successful as its previous masterpiece, "Dirt". Out of the album came three great singles, including the song "Heaven Beside You" which won an unforgettable version in the band's iconic unplugged performance.
And if you were wondering why there is a three-legged dog on the cover, then it's because of the band's drummer, Sean Kinney. When Kinney was young a three-legged dog was used to chase him around the block, he was afraid every day he would pass through the neighborhood and the dog was the inspiration for the album cover.