Before we embark on the journey of “Alice In Chains in Glam Metal”, we need to stress some important notes. This article is not written with the purpose of diminishing the role that Alice In Chains had in music history. The purpose is not to laugh about their glam metal past, nor is it to laugh at glam/hair metal for being what it was. This is simply a musical challenge where we are analyzing the traces of glam/hair metal in Alice In Chains’s music. You can agree or disagree with this; it is up to you.
Another important thing here is Alice In Chains’s early history. In this article, we are not going to talk about the bands Sleze, Alice N’ Chains, Diamond Lie, Gipsy Rose or Layne’s funk band. We are strictly focusing on the music made and released under the moniker Alice In Chains. However, we need to point out that the band was officially formed in 1987 and they did perform under the name Diamond Lie, which was Jerry Cantrell’s band name before he joined forces with Layne. The same goes for Alice N’ Chains, Layne’s band with Nick Pollock, Johnny Bacolas, and James Bergstrom. As we said, this history is complicated and long, and we are not going to delve into it. If you want to inform yourself more, well, Google it.
To conclude, we are focusing on the music that was released as a demo or officially by a group of guys: Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Starr, and Sean Kinney.
Glam metal, hair metal, sleaze metal, ’80s metal—call it what you want, but that’s what we are analyzing here. Big choruses, melodic lines, hard rock riffs, arena anthems—that is what we are looking for here, in opposition to the dark, doomy, sludgy, alternative grunge stuff that this band was famous for.
Social Parasite (1989 Demo, Music Bank 1999)
Let’s start with the officially released music. From their 1999 Music Bank collection, we have this song that is possibly one of the best AIC ‘glam metal’ tunes. This song could possibly be one of those big arena anthems. It is melodic, catchy, with sleazy rock riffs and solos. But it is also on the dirtier, better side of hair glam music. You can hear the traces of some Faster Pussycat or Skid Row in this one. The song was a part of AIC 1989 demo that they made after they were signed for Columbia Records.
I Can’t Have Your Blues (Threehouse Tapes 1988, Music Bank 1999)
This song goes even deeper into that ‘having fun’ glam metal territory with its mostly major-sounding chords. In other words, this is simply the Poison-type territory, strictly opposite of what AIC became in later years. Released for the first time on The Threehouse Tapes collection of demo songs and later included on the Music Bank compilation.
Watcha Gonna Do (The Threehouse Tapes 1988, Music Bank 1999)
Musically, this song goes all over the place. It is funky and sleazy with melodic riffs and choruses. It is evident that there are those pure ’80s metal influences here, and if we were to compare it with other bands, maybe Love/Hate and Bang Tango would be the closest hits.
Killing Yourself (The Threehouse Tapes 1988, Music Bank 1999)
Another tune from the early demos found its place on the 1999 Music Bank compilation. The heavy riffage in this song goes well into the street metal sleaze territory that was mostly reserved for bands such as Skid Row, Spread Eagle, and even Guns N’ Roses.
Speaking of Layne’s vocal performances on these four songs, we can agree that they were nothing like the later doomy, grungy, sinister harmonic sounding screams from the dirt that he delivered on the official albums.
Now to a bit more controversial part – 1990 ‘Facelift’, the triple platinum and the first grunge album that was certified gold. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of this album? Probably songs like ‘Man In The Box,’ ‘It Ain’t Like That,’ ‘Bleed The Freak‘… The sound that started to define Alice In Chains as one of the biggest bands in the world at that time. But are there any traces of the former heavy/rock glam metal flavor of music on this record? Well, let’s find out.
Well, we believe that there is!
Put You Down
Let’s start with this one. Just focus on that bouncy guitar that Jerry is delivering. That style of playing was present in a big part of the 80’s glam/hair metal bands, especially the sleazier, more edgy and street-oriented ones. There is none of that unique AIC sound that they developed in the future, present in this song. If Layne decided to sing a bit higher, it would be even more obvious.
There is a little bit more doom and darkness in this song that Cantrell wrote about his mother’s death. But if you listen closely, that opening riff sounds a bit like some Cinderella or even Ratt tune, while the pre-chorus transforms into a Skid Row, Slave to the Grind type thing. And if this album performance doesn’t convince you, then check out the demo version of the song.
I Know Somethin (Bout You)
Let’s be honest. Does this sound like a proper Alice In Chains song that first comes to everyone’s mind, or is it more like some Extreme meets Bang Tango type of funky rock riff? The melody and the harmonies too.
Real Thing and I Can’t Remember
It’s a bit of a stretch here, but if you listen closely, this song actually sounds a lot like the works of the glam/hair bands from the ’90s. Check out some Warrant past 1992 (yes they existed after that) or even Danger Danger’s album ‘Dawn’ from 1995. This is where it all intertwines. Songs like this one and ‘I Can’t Remember’ are pure examples of Alice In Chains trying to find that new sound. Even Jerry Cantrell said it. Demos also help in understanding it more.
Again, this was not done to diminish the role and significance of Alice In Chains as a band. We named all these glam bands trying to describe the particular parts of AIC songs, but if you would want, we could do it in a more straightforward way. We could say only one word. One band – Aerosmith. Aerosmith’s music from the ’70s was an integral part of every ’80s glam/hair/sleaze band, but also of almost every grunge band from the ’90s. They all said that the legendary band was their influence and incorporated it into their sound. And for the attentive listener, it is more than obvious.
How much glam metal actually intertwined with grunge music is well written about in this Bring Back Glam article. In other words, it was basically the industry’s decision to put an “Iron Curtain” between the two genres. Otherwise, they could coexist in a much more normal way.
Want some more?
Chemical Addiction and King Of The Kats (Demos)
If you want more glam metal-oriented Alice in Chains songs, then try ‘Chemical Addiction’ and ‘King Of The Kats.’ The first one sounds like some Faster Pussycat, while the latter, with its gritty production, sounds like Bang Bang Babies meets Pretty Boy Floyd meets Queeny Blast Pop meets Krayola Kids and all that ’90s Sunset Strip glam punk underground movement. Ok, that was too much maybe, but hey!
But before you go, we have a book recommendation. There is no better story told about Alice In Chains than in the Alice In Chains: The Untold Story book.
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