With a distinct shift in style from the likes of Dirt and Facelift, American Grunge and Metal outfit Alice In Chains throw a lot at the wall but little sticks. This self titled release has a clear artistic intention to not repeat themselves, however most of the differing ideas still feel experimental and without cohesion. Most of the music slips into a sludgier, gritty tone with a slow Doom Metal like tempo and atmosphere dominating the vibe. Its on these tracks like the opening Grind we hear a stylistic template that would stay with them to this day. The other half of songs unfortunately fall folly to this lack of glue in the experimentation as some ideas don't gel well.
Its Staley's last studio album with the band and he is somewhat subdued with a lack of those roaring hooks that would soar and sink into you like an infection. His voice is strong and capable but mostly matches the tone of these droning tracks. There are some clear experiments to reach new avenues with his singing, trying different inflections, Nothin' Song being a clear example of both lyric and execution feeling far from the grain. This also extends to Cantrell's riffing style too, mostly its temperate, slowed and washed out grooves creating slow sludgy grooves but these inflections of Country tang and Blues Rock feel off beat when they cut in suddenly.
There is a lot of good, slow moving and moody music here but the chemistry isn't ripe. If this were by another band I may have enjoyed it more however the bar had been set so high. There is also this linger feeling in the music that the band later nailed these sludgy concepts after finding DuVall. Its context given the year may yield it more significance in terms of originality but as we reach the end of this little revivalist journey I am left a little disappointed. It has its moments but at sixty five minutes you have to wade through lengthy songs winding around the main theme to find them.
Favorite Tracks: Brush Away, Head Creeps, God Am