I will die on this hill; Alice in Chains is NOT a grunge band (unless you only count Layne Staley's YAAARRRLLS which so many bands ripped off, badly). They just got their popularity around the same time as the rest of the bands in that genre were picking up. And they have made 6 killer albums since 1990. So hard to believe that 30 years later, the band is still putting out amazing work and it's a true sight to behold. Today I am going to cover all the ground I can in making a list from number 6 to number 1, ranking every AIC album to date. If you want an introduction on this hard rock/heavy metal/sludge metal band? Well, here's my best shot at doing so for you.
1.) No EPs, cover albums, live albums, b-side albums, or best of/greatest hits collections. Just original studio LPs. Albums that have a cover or two on it are just fine.
2.) This is just my opinions on the albums in question. No outside influences other than my own and is far from a definitive world ranking. If you have a different ranking, AWESOME! Keep that up!
3.) The reason for doing this to help people get into a band/artist/etc and give ideas of what to expect if they decide to dive into the work.
4.) This is ranked from least favorite to favorite (countdown/TRL style). I will give a few words about every album as we go down the list.
5.) There will be a Spotify playlist (where applicable) to go along with the list with a song off each album so you can get another idea of what to expect. The songs will either be my favorite song off the album or one that represents the album the best in my eyes. (if you are reading this on social media, click the official link to get the playlist)
6.) Have fun and spread the word....SPREAD IT!
6.) Alice in Chains (1995)
Oh I'm sure I'll get crapped on for this, I can sense it already. But here's my reasoning. The last AIC album is where you really feel the cracks in the band...badly. Not at all to say the album is bad, but just listen to the lyrics. Granted, the lyrics have always had some darkness to them, and this isn't even their darkest album. But this album has the kind of lyrics and delivery that says that the band needed at least a break from each other and that sadly happened. The songs that we got during this time are actually some of the most experimental in the band's discography. After the success of the band's previous album and really experimenting with acoustics on their Jar of Flies EP (which may be their best release to date), this album sees the trademark sound left for doomier, symphonic, acoustic, and out there songs. This is also the first time in AIC's career path where the influences of sludge metal and doom metal would come into play on some of the band's lesser known songs off the album. This may actually be the perfect gateway album. If you like the slower, heavier side; keep going forward in their discography. If you like the faster and metallic sound; go backwards in the catalog.
5.) Black Gives Way to Blue (2009)
Talk about a water shed album in the band's career. Many people, to this day, still believe the band should not of carried on without Layne Staley. That he made the band with his vocal delivery. I'm just going to say it right here right now. William Duvall does Staley better than Staley! YOU HEARD ME! I'm not talking about how Layne had that style first and how that came from his tortured soul, that's putting personal matters into it. I'm talking about on ability. You put on any AIC song from the last three albums and tell a passive AIC song that Staley sang this song, 9 out of 10 people would believe you. He's that good. Plus, the band was always Jerry Cantrell's. He made the band what is to this day with his songwriting, tuning, style, and his on vocal delivery. Black Gives Way to Blue proves both of these points perfectly. The songs are just as catchy and as heavy and as emotional as you would hear on any previous album; just updated. This showed that the band was not doing this for the money, but because Alice in Chains still had life that needed to be lived. This is seriously a fantastic album.
4.) Facelift (1990)
It may be strange to see not only the band's most popular album, but also their most "metal" album not in the number 1 spot to a lot of people. There's every reason that it could be as it is filled to the brim with tasty metal riffs, catchy choruses and songs that live on to this day on top 40 rock radio. Of course Man in the Box is on this album, the band's biggest hit ever and while it may be overplayed by radio and cover bands alike (i know, I had to cover it myself a lot), overplaying of a song does not make it any less good. Of course songs like Love, Hate, Love and We Die Young show the speed differences and songwriting abilities of the band that would come later. Yeah, this album is worthy of all the love it gets to this day, without question.
3.) Rainier Fog (2018)
By far and away the band's heaviest album. This is not rock in the slightest. This is a sludge metal, doom metal album and it's exactly what it needed to be. This is probably the least known AIC album, which is weird to say as it's the band's latest album. I just see no one talk about it. Maybe it was because it was way too heavy for standard rock radio these days, maybe some people just wanted to hear Man in the Box part II; REGARDLESS, this album is for every fan of the band's heavy side and the lyrics, tones, songwriting, and delivery punctuate that to a T. This is amazing stuff that should be forgotten no longer. There is the argument that these are the best written songs of the band's career and I would not dismiss that claim...seriously!
2.) The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013)
The strangest title in the band's discography is also the band's best work in the new era (which is now longer than the original era in 2020). This was a perfected version of Black Gives Way to Blue, but also different enough. While there are some more metal songs and hard rock songs on here, the band continues on with their sludgier and doomier sounds. IN all honesty, the song, Phantom Limb may be their best song they've recorded. The title track even makes a lot more sense when you listen to the song and see how it works in context. This is a seriously underrated album but it is one of their best works. Go give this one a shot.
1.) Dirt (1992)
I mean, it is not only AIC's best album, but it's one of the best albums of the 20th century. This had everything you could want in an album of this nature. Heavy, dark, personal, catchy, different, twisted, and at the time a tonal shift from the bands more metallic sound and going into work just before things got doomy. It's not an album to be described with just words; listen to the album, front to back. You'll understand why so many people consider this the best album of the 90s, the best albums in alternative metal, wrongly the best album in grunge, and one of the best albums of all time. Just do it, trust me.
And there you go folks, all 6 albums ranked 6 to 1, showing off all the LPs of Alice in Chains. If you are only somewhat familiar with the band, I hope this gives you enough intrigue to check them out and see if they are you bag. Or just listen to the playlist below and see if you like what you hear.
Until next time, This is That Drummer Guy saying, SEE YA!