“Dirt” By Alice in Chains: The Most Important Album of Grunge


In the early 90s, a sludgy, dirty and raw sound began brewing in Seattle, waiting to take the
world by storm. This sound that defined the early 90s, with its token flannel shirt, was named
“grunge.” Four bands in specific were the spearheads of this genre; known as the “big four of
grunge,” Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam completely changed what rock
music was by pioneering a dark genre that was the direct antithesis to the 80s metal scene. The
lyrics and sounds produced during this time period were simply unmatched. They were relatable
and grounded in reality. Although all bands of the Seattle grunge movement created
phenomenal albums, Alice In Chains will continue to remain not only the best grunge band, but
the best band of all time.

Alice In Chains is a band unlike any other I have ever heard. With Layne Staley’s soul
crushing powerful voice, Jerry Cantrell’s intricate rigid guitar and vocal work, Sean Kinney’s
heavy drums, and Mike Starr’s dark bass work, Alice In Chains cultivated an idiosyncratic sound
that cannot be imitated. Their second album, Dirt, is what introduced me to them, and I will
never forget the feeling I got when I was given the CD and heard the first nasty opening guitar
riff on Them Bones.

Dirt is a 13 track gloomy and emotional masterpiece that was released on September 29th,
1992. This album speaks to the intense, dark times dealing with addiction and mental health
issues. Layne Staley, the lead singer, contributed greatly to the band’s signature, devilish sound.
His harrowing, gut wrenching vocals in songs such as Rain When I Die and Angry Chair greatly
exemplified the wicked-like atmosphere that defines this album. Taking a look at the diverse
themes and ambience, there is no doubt in my mind that Dirt is the best album released by Alice
In Chains, and the most important album to come out of the grunge scene.

From start to finish this album explores themes that were alien in the music scene during the
80s. These universal themes such as mental health issues and drug addiction are something
that plays a major role in uniting people across the world for its relatability. During the 80s, the
rock/metal scene was immersed in the superficial indulgence of life that only a certain class of
people could truly relate to; it sent no message that was meaningful with its repetitive pop-ish
beats and pretentious lyrics relating to an overabundance of wealth, glamorization of drugs, and
excessive partying. Rock/metal fans began to tire of this cliché and unrealistic message that life
was strictly for partying; it pushed the masses away because it wasn’t something the average
citizen could identify with.

When Dirt and the grunge movement killed the 80s glam scene, there were finally songs that
represented the hideous sides of life that were ignored for a decade. Dirt incorporated
hypnotizing instruments from the likes of the bass on Would? and the malicious opening guitar
on Dam That River that hit like a freight train to artistically convey the albums somber themes.
This album realistically tackles mental health issues, with songs such as Down In A Hole and
Them Bones taking two different but very effective approaches at tackling the reality of
depression and the gruesome nature of loneliness, while the title song Dirt, Junkhead, and God
Smack exposes the venomous reality of dealing with a full fledged drug addiction.

Dirt is not for the hardcore pop fans; this album is truly down in the grit with its harrowing tone,
authentic dark lyricism, and heavy sound. Although this album is a masterpiece and I
wholeheartedly believe that anyone and everyone should listen to it, if you’re more into a
lighthearted pop sound with lyrics that are easier to digest, this album is not for you. That being
said, this album has transformed mine and many others lives. Dirt is and will continue to be the
most important album to come out of the Seattle grunge scene in the 90s, and Alice In Chains
will forever remain, in my opinion, one of the greatest bands to ever live.