During the grunge era of music, there were several groups that sprung forth and started to sing the angst-ridden anthems of a new generation, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. Each of the three had their own distinct style, however, Alice in Chains created a rich and haunting sound that lasted beyond the era, using their background in rock to their advantage, implementing elements of metal into their work, causing their music to sound even heavier than the other two bands. In addition to this, although Layne Staley was considered their lead singer during this time, a lot of the band’s music featured harmonies between Jerry Cantrell and Staley, giving their music additional texture and depth. While many of the grunge bands experienced overnight success, Alice in Chains’s 1990 album, Facelift, had only sold 40,000 copies until MTV introduced their Grammy nominated single “Man in the Box” to their daytime rotation. By the end of 1990, Facelift had earned gold status and it was then when they started to build their audience by touring with different artists including Slayer, Iggy Pop, Anthrax, and Poison. The next album from Alice in Chains came in the form of an EP, titled Sap, released five months after Nirvana burst onto the scene, which increased grunge’s popularity. Sap managed to become a gold album within two weeks of its release. Dirt released in 1992 featured 13 songs about addiction and was loved by critics and fans alike for its brutal no-holds-barred approach to the subject as well as the musical composition of the album itself. Five singles "Would?", "Rooster", "Them Bones", "Angry Chair", and "Down in a Hole" remained on the charts for almost two years, earning quadruple platinum status, making it Alice in Chains’s best-selling album to date. That summer, the band participated in the first Lollapalooza, tour. Little did they know that this would be Staley’s last major tour. In 1993, the band departed from their darker sounds by releasing Jar of Flies, an acoustic album. It debuted in the number one slot on the Billboard 200 chart, making it the band’s first and the first EP to do so.
After the release of Jar of Flies, Stanley entered rehab for heroin addiction; however, when rehearsing for an upcoming tour with Metallica and a few other bands, it was discovered that he had relapsed, causing the band to drop out of the tour and go on hiatus. In 1995, Alice in Chains released their self-titled album, debuting in the number one slot, eventually going double platinum. In 1996, the band performed their first concert in three years on MTV’s Unplugged, playing many of their hits with acoustic instruments. Their live recording was released and debuted in the number three spot on the Billboard 200. Around the same time, the band performed with Kiss, marking the last live performances from Staley. On July 3, 1996, Layne Staley was found unconscious from an overdose of heroin, causing the band to go on hiatus. Eventually, it was the heroin that caused Layne Staley’s death; he was found dead in 2002. In 2005, Alice in Chains performed several reunion concerts with several included several guest appearances by various performers, including William Duvall, who would become their new lead. In September 2009, Black Gives Way to Blue was released and sold 500,000 copies, making it a gold album. Just as Alice in Chains was starting to build up steam, tragedy struck the band once again: bassist Mike Starr was found dead in his home. Similarly to Staley, a drug overdose was the cause. In May of 2013, The Devil Put the Dinosaurs Here was released, debuting at number three on the Billboard 200 charts.
Alice in Chains Tours: What to Expect
If Alice in Chains was good at one thing, it was audience building. The audience is as diverse as their music, from rock and metal fans to people wanting to relive their high school years. Although their music would be considered aggressive by today’s standards, the fans are one of the warmest audiences around.