Out of all of the grunge acts that exploded into the mainstream in the early '90s, Alice In Chains were always the most metal of the bunch. On one hand they effortlessly dish out jackhammer riffs, crawling rhythms and pained vocals – but far from a one-trick ponies, the Seattle legends are equally at home with writing emotional acoustic numbers of hope and somber.
Riding the alternative music wave of popularity in the 90s, Alice In Chains had a string of chart topping releases and platinum and gold albums. Sadly their success was ultimately hampered by addiction issues and untimely passings. However, the resurgence of the group in the mid 2000s surely will go down as one of the best comebacks in rock history.
Songs like "Man In The Box," "Would?" and "Roster" are amongst the biggest hard rock anthems of the 90s… but what about the lesser known tunes people rarely mention? The Music Bank boxset released in 1999 is a treasure trove of hard to find Alice In Chains material, but it's not always the obscure stuff that makes for deep cuts. Sometimes album tracks tucked away at the back end of LPs also get forgotten. With six full lengths, two classic EPs and lots of one-offs to choose from, there's plenty of deep cuts that deserve more love. On that note, let's go diggin' and see if we can find more than just them bones.
"All I Am"
For our first song we're going to lift a track from Alice In Chains' most recent record, 2018's Rainier Fog. Final number "All I Am" is a great epic, with the seven minute run time amongst the longest material the band has penned to date. It's a slow burning tune with lots of melodic guitar and vocal work, and hearkens back to the classic rock era when the big lengthy cut was saved to round off the LP. It was never played on the album's subsequent tour, which is a shame as it would slotted in nicely as the main-set closer before the encore.
The darkly, and somewhat unfortunately, titled "Died" holds the grim distinction of being the last Alice In Chains song recorded with their original vocalist, the late, great Layne Staley. Held together with a thick chugging riff, it also has a strong, classic Alice In Chains chorus. It was originally composed by guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell for his solo release Degradation Trip, but on a whim he ended up bringing to the band, where the lyrics were completed by Staley. It never appeared on an album proper, rather being included on the previously mentioned Music Box compilation.
"Hung On A Hook"
The penultimate track from 2013's The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, Alice In Chains second full length with "new" frontman William DuVall. That album packs some great underrated material, and the never-played-live "Hung On A Hook" might be the most under-appreciated of the bunch. The Jerry Cantrell composition lumbers at a crawling pace, with lots of moody instrumentation across the sonic spectrum. DuVall and Cantrell link up perfectly on the vocal front, with the massive outro passage of mountains of guitars and dark lyrics ("Not gonna save ya/Perform euthanasia") a major record highlight.
"I Can't Have You Blues"
A demo that never made it's way onto an album, this song highlights the undeniable fact that Alice In Chains were initially a byproduct of the late 80s rock scene, meaning that they had a little bit of glam metal in them. They even opened for Poison in 1990! "I Can't Have You Blues" is basically a sleazy hard rock number, probably not worlds away from the likes of Ugly Kid Joe. Is it a great track? Well, that's up to the individual, but it's an important stepping stone in their career. Of course the band's sound morphed into a much darker prospect before long.
"I Can't Remember"
The previous track might have had a stronger (whisper it) hair metal vibe, but by the time Alice In Chains' debut album Facelift arrived, a big chunk of that was stripped away. Sure the booming snare sound was totally late 80s production in a nutshell, but "I Can't Remember" is lightyears away from the happy-go-lucky sound of the Sunset Strip. An eerie clean guitar hook introduces the song, before it's crushing verse and massive chorus hammers it home. Classic early days Alice In Chains, and if the rest of Facelift's material wasn't so great, "I Can't Remember" would be heralded far more frequently.
An outtake from the Dirt sessions, "Lying Season" was a demo song that never made the finished album. It laid in the archives for many years before being released on the, you guessed it, Music Bank box set at the very end of the '90s. The sound "Lying Season" sits somewhere between their first two LPs; the pulsing, uptempo verses gives it Facelift vibes, while the excellent chorus definitely belongs more on Dirt side of the band. It's a really cool, underrated track, and speaks volumes on the quality of Dirt that this killer number was left on the editing room floor.
"Shame In You"
The self-titled 1995 Alice In Chains album was a dark and often depressing affair. It featured some all time classic singles for the band, but also some of their most challenging and loose material. The underrated "Shame In You" is a track almost stuck between two separate moods; it's somber, but with a major-key feel throughout the restrained piece – yet still with plenty of electric guitars and loud drums around. As the tour for the self-titled LP was cut short, "Shame In You" was never played in live setting, and has yet to make their setlist.
"Take Her Out"
From Alice In Chains' fantastic comeback album, 2009's Black Gives Way To Blue, "Take Her Out" is a hook-driven melodic track, showing that Cantrell and the boys can write a straight ahead rocker as well as anyone. A creeping lead part adds drama and flair to the driving tempo, and it packs an immediately memorable chorus. For a more to-the-point song you think the band and record company alike would have pegged it for being a single/music video candidate, but it wasn't to be. It has never been performed live either, leaving it to be a bit forgotten.
"The Killer Is Me"
"The Killer Is Me" is song that debuted on Alice In Chains legendary Unplugged concert, closing the show, and subsequently serving as one of Layne Staley's last live performances. It's only apt that the track opened their reunion show nearly 10 years later for the Seattle Tsunami Benefit show in 2005. The piece itself is a strong acoustic workout, with an unsettling guitar motif and some of Cantrell's lowest vocals, not to mention the fantastic passage of the bridge leading back into the verses. Whether the band were intending on ever recording a studio take of "The Killer Is Me" is unknown, but we fortunately are left with this great live take instead.
"Whale And Wasp"
Rounding off our list of Alice In Chains deep cuts is this beautifully haunting instrumental piece from the brilliant Jar of Flies EP. The primal yet emotional guitar lead that sits on top of the acoustic guitars is to die for, and maybe not world's away from The Smith's "How Soon Is Now" main hook. It's the perfect example of how a song without any lyrics or words can still be emotionally moving. Jar of Flies features some of the band's best material, and the vocal-free "Whale and Wasp" is on par with "Nutshell" and "No Excuses".
How'd we do? Alice In Chains are a big act that has touched a lot of people's lives from over 30 years now, so there's definitely going to be a few tracks that the uber-fans will call us out on missing. So what were they? Let us know below!