In 1995, Alice In Chains had been feeling good on the success of their first #1 album on the charts, 1994’s Jar of Flies EP, the first EP to ever debut at #1. At the same time, they were in peril as a band, with issues stemming from Layne Staley’s addiction to heroin and other band turmoil. The band did not tour to support Jar of Flies as Layne was in rehab and they took part of 1995 off. The lost opportunities from this period, including a massive Metallica/Danzig/Suicidal Tendencies tour and a near-top-of-the bill split at Woodstock 1994 (which I am still mad about) almost killed the band. They broke up briefly too, according to Sean Kinney. Little did we know they were crafting a great album, Alice in Chains (Columbia), to wash all that pain and disappointment away for a brief moment in time.
Tony Reed has certainly kept busy in 2020. In addition to putting out new releases with Big Scenic Nowhere and Mos Generator and unearthing old material with Constance Tomb, he’s also found the time to issue the first proper album under his own name. The second release in Ripple Music’s Blood And Strings series, Funeral Suit is a decidedly stripped-down affair with often minimalist instrumentation and a Folk backdrop. It’s already a well-worn set up with so many musicians trying their hand at it these days, but Reed always finds a way to apply his signature stamp to a given style.
The third and final day of SOS is more of a classic rock day, although it features fewer bands for me that I was aware of than yesterday. Today is more of an adventure day, and I’m hoping for some discoveries. Continue reading
Alice In Chains was on top of the world in 1993, or so they thought. Behind the success of 1992’s Rock chart-topping Dirt (Columbia) album, the band toured the world, played Lollapalooza, had songs on major movie soundtracks and more. But there were some issues arising in their camp that would shape their immediate future. The bands came off a raucous summer of touring in 1993 to find themselves evicted from their communal house in Seattle. The band had recently fired bassist Mike Starr (RIP)who co-founded the band. After recruiting bassist Mike Inez (Ozzy Osbourne) the band had toured some with him, and recorded a few of those soundtrack pieces with him, but nothing more/ The band moved into London Bridge Studios, where countless huge rock and metal albums were made, and AIC had created all of their albums at that point. The band was going to spend a few days just jamming with acoustic guitars and see what stuck. What they came up with was so much more. When they finished writing, they had the bones of their epic EP Jar of Flies (Columbia) in the can. Continue reading
A band like Novembers Doom could only come from a cold place, where nights are long and bleak and depression stalks you like some winged, fork-tongued creature straight from a Clive Barker novel. And if you’ve ever felt the wind blowing off of Lake Michigan in winter, you’ll know the cold, bleak Chicago from which Novembers Doom hails. Continue reading
The eponymous debut album from London-based quartet Elephant Tree (Magnetic Eye Records) is graced by a sitar, no less, and is a bewitching amalgam of crushing weight and heartfelt melody. Its riffs akin to having both an elephant and a tree dropped upon you simultaneously, it nevertheless possesses a light dexterity which allows them to sashay gracefully through your ears.
‘Wither’ sees said riff growl, moan and howl along a wicked, lazy groove. The beauty here is in the decoration, the Low-end melancholy garnished with wistful, dreamy overlays: a solo oscillating through the mind, the Psychedelic vocals and atmosphere introducing Jar of Flies-era Alice in Chains to San Francisco trippers Sleepy Sun. Lead release ‘Dawn’, meanwhile, allies a filthy Stoner element to a Jon Davis-like scream.
The variety of the early stages is an absolute joy to behold: the hippy acoustic whimsy of ‘Circles’ sends those of us who grew up cocooned in Americana right back to the late 60s we yearn for. The riff of the ensuing ‘Aphotic Blues’ is so encompassing, pulverising, that this pleasant reverie is squashed like a bug: the crushing Sabbath-esque stomp still possessing enough cosmic, acid-drenched languor to keep the remains floating on air toward a vicious, pulsating close. ‘Echoes’, meanwhile, lends a 10CC mellowness to the bluesy notes and warm production before exploding in an Uncle Acid-like fuzz, its gentle mid-section bubbling beautifully.
It’s the juxtaposition between power and dreamy insouciance which is the real hallmark of this enthralling set. The titanic, warbling riff of ‘Fracture’ growls and crawls along like a sated behemoth while indolent, sleepy vocals caress its wounds. It’s a glorious feel, a heady atmosphere reeking of both patchouli oil and Kula:Shaker’s eastern melodies and rhythms, yet full of an easy vitality. This is all wonderfully brought together in the monolithic, drifting closer ‘Surma’, its moving, driving solos riding a trammelling riff toward a delicate coda of piano.
Fresh as a breeze, heavy as a mountain troll, and bloody addictive, even at this early stage Elephant Tree will sit atop a few weighty lists come the end of the year.