Hit Parader 96;
The members of Alice in Chains were determined to make a definitive statement when they released their latest album last November. Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez and Sean Kinney knew that the eyes of the rock world were focused squarely on them, peering intently to see if they could spot any still-existing cracks in this tempestuous unit's delicate superstructure. The world wanted to know if the oft-troubled Staley had managed to put his myriad personal difficulties behind him and if Cantrell had been able to bury his hostilities long enough to again successfully work with his talented but quirk-riddled singer.
The group wondered how they could best convince the skeptics that surrounded them that indeed the Chains had turned an important career corner. AIC wanted to proclaim that they had rediscovered their need to be together and make their distinctive brand of hard rocking music. They wanted everyone to know that they had put their dangerous predilections behind them, and were now prepared to focus exclusively on their creative pursuits. Finally, they came to the conclusion that there was only one clear-cut way to make that statement for the ages - the one destined to let everyone know loudly and clearly that this time they really meant business. Their decision was to call their latest album Alice in Chains - no fancy word play, no hidden meanings, and no secret messages this time around, just a straight - in - your - face statement of rock and roll purpose. "What could be simpler than just naming the album after ourselves?" Inez stated. "There were some other titles considered, but when we got down to it, just calling it Alice in Chains was perfect. After going through the tough period we have over the last two years, where there was so much speculation about whether or not we'd even be together, we thought a simple approach where our name was very prominent would just let everyone know that we were back."
Back, indeed! From the opening notes of Grind through the last plaintive restrains of Over Now, Alice in Chains is a powerful, unrelenting journey into this band's dark, often foreboding musical universe. If one didn't know better, the disc would represent a relatively smooth transition from AIC's last full-length studio effort, their 1992 release Dirt. But the fact is that the rock world does know better; they know of the drug problems and personal headaches these Seattle rockers suffered through merely to release their latest magnum opus. Such knowledge, however, has only served to add greater depth and meaning to such tracks as Sludge Factory and God Am, each of which seems to open a small window into the Chains' troubled world, and allows the listener a voyeur's peak inside.
"Each song we do is something that comes from inside," Staley explained. "I'm not sure exactly where inside that is - but it's there, I don't know if I even want to know where the ideas come from. I just sit down with my guitar and hope that an idea hits me - usually it does."
Surprisingly, it seems as if Alice in Chains oft-discussed personal problems, and last year's hotly rumored band breakup, has only added fuel to their commercial fire. Rather than turning off their legion of fans, the band's problems have served to draw their following back to the band like moths to a flame. Alice in Chains burst out of the starting block last November as a near-record sales rate, entering the charts at Number One, and proceeding to sell over a million copies in the month leading up to Christmas. But it didn't stop there; during the first month of 1996, the disc proceeded to sell another million copies, making it the fastest selling effort in the Chains' history.
While the new disc still has a ways to go before topping the triple platinum sales levels attained by both Dirt and Jar of Flies, it seems a virtual certainty that by the time summer rolls around, AIC will be the top-selling effort of the band's meteoric career. "It's sold amazingly well so far," stated a spokesperson at the group's record label. "We sold out the original shipment of the album within three weeks, which is truly amazing. That's especially true when you realize that our initial pressing was for more than a million discs. That gives you just some idea of the commercial power this band has - usually even a major act doesn't ship that many albums. We had retailers all around the country recording the disc within days of receiving their initial shipment. It was literally flying off of the shelves."
Of course, the question for Alice in Chains now becomes whether or not they can keep the good times rollin' along. With their track record for self-destruction, especially when they're on the road (where both Staley's career-and-life-threatening drug problems have continually blossomed) the band must now worry about how to best protect themselves from such dangerous diversions while on the tour trail. Many plans have been offered - from 24-hour security guards protecting Staley from his own self-abuse, to contracts prohibiting even alcohol from appearing in the band's backstage dressing room. So far, no easy answers have been reached, but according to the band members themselves, they're ready to take whatever steps are necessary in order to ensure that Alice in Chains represents their next major step forward and not their swan song.