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Sunday Old School: Alice In Chains

Usually at the end of every month, Sunday Old School examines a band from the glam metal genre, so we’re kicking off a new month of Sundays this week by taking a look at one of the bands that helped to kill off the era of men in lipstick, Alice In Chains. The band was formed in 1987 by guitarist Jerry Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bass player Mike Starr, and soon recruited a singer named Layne Staley, who joined in return for Cantrell participating in his funk project. The funk band broke up soon afterwards and the quartet performed under a number of different monikers, before eventually settling on Alice In Chains, which stemmed from Staley’s former band, Alice N’ Chainz. The group caught the attention of local promoter, Randy Hauser, who offered to pay for their demo recording, which was delayed when the studio they were set to record in was shut down a day before the recording was meant to take place, due to the biggest cannabis raid in the history of the state of Washington. The band eventually recorded a demo named, "The Treehouse Tapes," which was passed around the local scene until it reached Don Ienner, the president of Columbia Records, who decided to sign the band and make them a top priority.

In July 1990, Alice in Chains released their first EP, "We Die Young," and its title track became an instant hit on metal radio. Based on this positive response, the label rushed the band to release its full length debut, which surfaced only a month later in the form of, "Facelift." The album sold modestly at first, until the music video for, "Man in the Box" found its way into regular airplay on MTV and became a top twenty single. Six weeks later, "Facelift" had sold over 400,000 copies and was certified Gold before the year was out, peaking on the Billboard Charts number 42. The album was also highly praised by critics and their peers alike, and soon the group were invited to open the Clash of the Titans tour in North America, which apart from themselves, featured a thrash metal lineup of Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. The band found themselves subject to some hostile audiences but Anthrax bassist Frank Bello recalls them earning the respect of others by standing up for themselves. "If there was a guy starting shit, Layne would jump into the audience and beat the FUCK outta that guy!" he recalls in the documentary, Get Thrashed.

They followed the success of, "Facelift" with an EP named, "Sap." The record featured guest appearances from Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Mark Arm of Mudhoney and perhaps most notably, Ann Wilson of Heart, who performed backing vocals on three songs. "Sap" was another success and earned Alice in Chains their second Gold Record, as well as being received warmly by critics. They soon contributed a song named, "Would?" to the soundtrack of the movie, Singles, in which they also made a cameo appearance. The song has since become one of their most famous and won them an MTV Award in 1993 for Best Song from a Film. The song also featured on their second album, "Dirt" which was released in September 1992 and became their biggest hit to date. "Dirt" peaked at number six on the Billboard Charts but has gone on to be certified Quadruple Platinum and hailed as a masterpiece. The record spawned five singles, all of which became top thirty hits, including the classics, "Rooster" and "Them Bones." They followed this success by touring with Ozzy Osbourne, who had announced his plans to retire and was embarking on his farewell tour, appropriately (but ultimately falsely) named, No More Tours. It was on this tour that the group befriended Mike Inez, Ozzy’s bass player, who soon joined Alice in Chains when Mike Starr left the band while on tour.

With their new bass player in tow, the group contributed a song named, "What The Hell Have I" to the soundtrack of the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy, Last Action Hero, before taking part in the 1993 Lollapalooza tour. Exhausted from a massive touring schedule, the band decided to enter the studio just to jam with their acoustic guitars. Also the sessions was something they did as a kind of therapy, the label heard the music and wanted to release it, which resulted in another EP entitled, "Jar of Flies." The record was written and recorded in the space of a week but topped the Billboard Charts and was adored by critics and fans alike. Both singles from the album entered the top ten of the Mainstream Rock Charts, with "No Excuses" topping it. Despite their commercial success, there were some internal struggles within the group, stemming mostly from the heroin addiction of Staley, whose habit forced the band to cancel a tour with Metallica and Suicidal Tendencies.

After a break, the band entered the studio to record their third full length album, which was eventually released eponymously in October 1995. The self-titled effort debuted at the top of the charts, helped along by the release of the single, "Grind," which was a big hit on rock radio. The album was notable for Cantrell taking over the lead vocal position on many songs, including three out of the four singles from the record and for its strange album cover, which comprised solely of a picture of a dog with three legs. An unexpected chart appearance also came in 1995, when their song, "Got Me Wrong," from the "Sap" EP entered the singles chart, thanks to its inclusion in the movie, Clerks. The band performed their first concert in three years in April 1996 for the MTV Unplugged programme, where they performed a new song, "The Killer Is Me," in addition to acoustic renditions of hits such as "Down In a Hole" and "Heaven Beside You." They then supported the reunited, KISS, with the final show taking place on July 3rd 1996 in Kansas City, and would tragically turn out to be the last performance of Layne Staley.

Staley became a recluse after the tour and Cantrell released his first solo record, "Boggy Depot" in 1998, which also featured Inez and Kinney. A reunion of sorts did take place the next year, when Staley joined Cantrell, Kinney and Inez to record two new tracks, "Died" and "Get Born Again," which were released as part of the "Music Box" compilation. Cantrell released a second solo album, "Degradation Trip" in 2002, which lyrically focused on the demise of Alice in Chains, although the band had never officially broken up and Cantrell was open to the possibility that they would record and perform together again in the future. Sadly, on April 19th 2002, Staley was found dead in his condominium from an overdose of heroin and cocaine. "Degradation Trip" was dedicated to the memory of Staley.

Three years after the death of their frontman, Cantrell, Kinney and Inez reunited to perform a benefit concert for the victims of the horrific tsunami that had struck South Asia. They featured Pat Lachman of Damageplan on vocals, and were joined by guests Maynard James Keenan of Tool and Heart singer, Ann Wilson. They performed again a year later at the VH1 Rock Honours, this time with Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagen and former Pantera frontman, Phil Anselmo, who sang the classic, "Would?" with them, in addition to the band performing "Rooster" with Comes With The Fall singer, William DuVall. DuVall then joined Alice in Chains on their reunion tour, filling the spot left empty by Staley, for which he received the blessing of Staley’s parents.

The shows were a success and in September 2008, the band got to work on their fourth full length album, which surfaced a year later in the form of, "Black Gives Way To Blue." The album was a success, peaking at number two on the Billboard Charts and controversially winning the award for Album of the Year on this very website. The record spawned four singles, including the Mainstream Rock Chart topper, "Check My Brain" and also featured Elton John performing piano on the title track. Although the new incarnation of the group has found success once again, another former member, Mike Starr, tragically passed away in March of last year, after overdosing on prescribed medication. Despite the setbacks, addictions and deaths that have haunted the band, they have carved their name in the history books by releasing four fantastic albums, a slew of stunning EPs and numerous classic songs, which look set to be added to soon, as the group are expected to finish recording their fifth studio album shortly, which will most likely be released early next year.

Alice In Chains - "Man In The Box"

Alice In Chains - "Them Bones"

Alice In Chains - "No Excuses"

Alice In Chains - "Grind"

Alice In Chains - "Got Me Wrong"

Alice In Chains featuring Phil Anselmo - "Would?"

Alice In Chains - "Check My Brain"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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34 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Alice In Chains"

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Matt_Tuck's avatar

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1. Matt_Tuck writes:

I love modern metal bands like Black Veil Brides, Escape the Fate, ETC. but nothing will ever beat the pure awesomeness of Man in the Box by Alice in Chains. Slash can suck it because Jerry Cantrell is F****** awesome. I'm so happy somebody finally brought up an excellent band that came out in the 80's.

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 10:18 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
2. I'm not Jesus Christ writes:

As always, nice article, Oz. I've been worshiping Alice in Chains since I saw them on the Clash of the Titans tour with Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer back in '91, it was awesome show and this was actually the first time I've ever heard of Alice in Chains. I was also glad I had the opportunity to see those guys before Layne even died.

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 10:22 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrunoHockalugie's avatar

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3. BrunoHockalugie writes:

Great article Oz, AIC is one of the best bands ever and my favorite from the "grunge' secene. Good timing too, last night I ended my day with the Jar of Flies ep. Just sucks I never got the opportunity to see them live.

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 11:05 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

4. Diamond Oz writes:

Cheers for the feedback lads! I'd have loved to have seen them back in the nineties but I was only a nipper then so no such luck for me. I'd love to catch them soon though since I think DuVall is an excellent replacement.

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 1:30 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
silvermountains's avatar

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5. silvermountains writes:

Layne Staley is a truly one of my favorite vocalists of all time. AIC has been a band I always listen to and love them. I wish I could of caught them on the blackdiamondskye tour last year but I didn't. Great article Oz, cheers!

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 1:50 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

6. Diamond Oz writes:

No worries Silvermountains, glad you liked it!

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 1:54 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrunoHockalugie's avatar

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7. BrunoHockalugie writes:

Oz from what I hear Duvall does a really good job in concert, and is worth seeing. He has gotten a lot of respect for not trying to be Layne but rather honor the man's legacy and at the same time belt his lungs out.

Another great Sunday old school article oz!

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 5:13 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

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8. R10 writes:

As always,a great tribute to a great band! Probably my favorite of the grungers,i was fortunate to have seen them open for Anthrax,Megadeth and Slayer 20 years ago. And man,did they get heckled! Thrash fans were'nt really ready to hear the whole grunge thing,and they let poor AiC know it. Loved Staleys vox,but it's really Cantrell thats responsible for thier sound. Actually liked the latest AiC with new vocalist,wouldnt mind seeing them live at some point.

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 5:23 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
heavy1's avatar

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9. heavy1 writes:

I feel ya bruno, they are an a.t.f. i never got to see live. Glad to see that their musical legacy isn't overshadowed by their tragic past.

# Sep 2, 2012 @ 10:13 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
10. jbstoke writes:

Back when they first started playing with Duvall, I was obviously skeptical at first. When BGWTB came out, I gained a whole lot more respect for him. I've also seen them quite a few times in concert and he really is an amazing singer/guitarist. Finally, a few months ago, I stumbled upon his old band Comes With the Fall. Now I can say with absolute confidence that he is probably a far better singer/songwriter/guitarist than anyone will ever give him credit for. He really is just a phenomenal musician. I actually really hope we get to see a little more of his presence on the next album.

# Sep 3, 2012 @ 3:57 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
charest's avatar

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11. charest writes:

Alice in Chains will always be a great f***ing band in my book! Nirvana got all the credit they should have!

# Sep 3, 2012 @ 10:52 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
charest's avatar

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12. charest writes:

just have to add AIC is a far heavier band than Nirvana, i just feel AIC was a far superior band at the time while Nirvana got all the credibility... also not saying Nirvana was bad... just not metal

# Sep 3, 2012 @ 10:55 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrianMN's avatar

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13. BrianMN writes:

I was also lucky enough to see them on Clash of the Titans tour.
No one heckled them but no one was really paying any attention either.
Still, awesome group and that tour was a huge reason why they gained so much metal cred to begin with.
Not many groups could have opened for those three but Alice pulled it off.

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 9:17 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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14. hellrat writes:

\m/ Fvckin Awesome \m/

Another one here that was introduced to 'Chains at Clash of the (former) Titans at Tingley in turkey town....I have to admit, being the rather narrow minded/hard headed Slayer kooks we were, our reaction was more along the lines of 'who the fvck are these guys??'...but without realizing it, their performance had made quite an impression on me, and they eventually became one of my favorite bands of all time...

Much agreed that Alice was the most METAL of the flannel shirts...and I think they hose the fvck outta Nirvana as far as consistent quality is concerned

oh, and by the way...Oz Rulez \m/

NP---Down in a Hole

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 12:03 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
KREDD's avatar

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15. KREDD writes:

I actually hung out with Duvall backstage in Nashville a number of years ago and he told me he was either going to be or already was the new singer for AIC. I didn't really believe him...sounded rather far-fetched at the time but he def proved me wrong. He was a really nice down-to-earth guy....except for that "crazy" story he was telling :) haha

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 12:59 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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16. hellrat writes:

fergot to mention, I have full respect for Willie D...dude kicks a$$ \m/

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 1:16 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
cbella's avatar

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17. cbella writes:

Great article! Love this band. RIP Layne & Mike

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 2:22 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Leviathan999's avatar

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18. Leviathan999 writes:

@hellrat Actually Alice never really wore flannel shirts mate,they mostly dressed up in t-shirts,leather jackets and torn denims(half/full) & they got lumped into the 'grunge' scene ironically just because they were from Seattle,actually they played a style of heavy metal with a bit of stoner/sludge,punk & blues thrown in.

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 2:35 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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19. hellrat writes:

Right on Leviathan, I'm sure you're the expert...

Nevermind (eh?) that I lived in the PNW in 91-2 and spent quite a bit of time in Seattle...seen some of that sh!t start up on the fvckin ground floor ya know? And I can guaran-fvckin-tee that all them guys in AIC owned a fuzzy plaid button-up or ten, regardless ;)

BTW, 'flannel shirts' is what we called ALL bands that got 'lumped into' the Grunge genre, despite the fact that all us honkey new mexico metallers had been wearing flannels and fatigues YEARS before 'grunge' was ever even an idea...but then, what the hell do I know eh? I ain't no goddamned fashion pro :)

Hey Oz man, my senile brain is failing me again...have ya done Soundgarden yet?

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 2:56 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

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20. R10 writes:

Yea Oz,get on doing a Soundgarden tribute,eh? Yea HR,one look at some of the promo pics of AiC in the late 80's will show all the flannel,doc martens,etc.... Loved most of the Seattle bands,but the whole "grunge image" thing was a bit much. Got bad when sh*t got signed like Silverchair and Candlebox because they wore flannel. Sad!

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 3:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

21. hellrat writes:

No kidding brother...we ended Candlesnatch's set after one or two of their sorry a$$ tunes when they were one of the openers for metallica in 94 at Lobo Stadium...the largest gathering of people in one place/time in the history of the state (at that time) booing and heckling was a bit too much for them cheesed!cks and they wisely bailed after a dude next to me tomahawked a Jack bottle at the lead squawker's head (he was quick and ducked it, i'll give him that)...famous last words: "FVCK ALBUQUERQUE!!"...our resounding fvcking LOUD and universal response: "METALLICA!!!"

Nobody fvcked with Suicidal or halford's Fight however...but the candlesnatchers? well, we just don't take straight up fvcking fabricated BULLSH!T lightly ya know? ;)

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 3:22 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Drum_Junkie's avatar

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22. Drum_Junkie writes:

Great SOS, Oz.

I got to see AIC on the No More Tours tour back in my junior year in high school 1992. I remember Blind Melon opening up the show. (They made it through about 4 songs before being booed off the stage.)

Then AIC took the stage and Layne wheeled himself out in a wheelchair with a cast on his leg. He politely informed the females that "My leg may be busted... but my c0ck still works!" He later got tired of sitting and finished the last few songs holding himself up with a crutch and the mic stand. They put on a great set!

Later in life, I got to witness AIC again in 2006(?) Will DuVall was on vocals, and I found myself very impressed. I thought he was able to convey that darkness that Layne had to compliment Jerry lightness. I closed my eyes during Rooster and it truly was like Layne was there. I think BGWTB is a great album with both the grit and polish that classic AIC had. Layne is still missed, but the AIC flame burns on. RIP Layne.

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 3:39 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

Member

23. R10 writes:

HR,i saw the same tour i think. It was Metallicas "Summer Sheds and sh**" tour in support of that monstocity box set they released,with like 10 hrs of live Metallica,cd and vhs. But by the time that tour came East,it was Suicidal,Danzig,and Metallica. Agreed,Candlebox were a god damned farce,probably a good thing those fruits didnt make the trek east. sh** could have gotten out of hand and real ugly for 'em . I wouldnt have minded seeing Fight though,pretty good stuff from Halford.

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 3:50 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

24. Diamond Oz writes:

As always, cheers for the feedback guys and girls, always appreciated!

Soundgarden hasn't been done yet, but it will be written by, and posted on November 4th, so mark it in your calendars! I was a little bit wary of covering them though since I didn't know how many people would fill up the comments section saying they're not metal.

Got two more coming this month. Both American bands. One prog, one hardcore. As Oscar Wilde once said, "Prepare your anuses!"

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 4:15 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Westfallen's avatar

Member

25. Westfallen writes:

It's pretty incredible what Jerry and co. have pulled off over the years. After all the bs they've gone through, and then to find a new singer who gets accepted the way he does?

If any of you haven't checked out Jerry's solo stuff, you should. "In Between" from Boggy Depot, while not metal, is an incredible song. And the 2 disc Degradation Trip will always be a classic to me.

Jerry rules. Instantly recognizable guitar and vocal tone. He always was, and always will be AIC imo.

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 4:44 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

Member

26. R10 writes:

Yea westfallen,it's strange,but Cantrells solo stuff sounds exactly like AiC,imo. About 5 years ago,a bud whipped out one of his solo's,and i asked him,"is this a AiC album i havent heard?" Seriously,so similar. Anyways,looking for to the future installmaments Oz,SOS is my favorite write-ups on this site! Old farts like to reminiece,talk about how sh*t got done back in the day. Haha. Hardcore eh? Hmmmm... Black Flag,Minor Threat? I know you've hit on Bad Brains. And Nov.4th,the Soundgarden installment is two days before our election. Even the latter trippy SG liked Spoon Man and Black Hole Sun's good sh*t,still listen to it,whether or not its metal.

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 5:04 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

27. Diamond Oz writes:

Not saying whom, you'll have to wait ;)

I love doing the Sunday Old School articles because it was music from the 70s, 80s and 90s that I've mostly listened to for the past ten years (other than Thin Lizzy when I was five, the first rock music was the nu metal of the time, Limp Bizkit, Drowning Pool, P.O.D. and the like) so while I may not have been around for a number of the bands I write about, I love hearing stories from people who were there. And you guys aren't old, you're vintage ;)

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 5:18 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Blindgreed1's avatar

Member

28. Blindgreed1 writes:

Another home run from bruthah Oz. Was "Alice N' Chains" the band where everyone dressed in drag and they did Slayer covers?

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 5:25 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Westfallen's avatar

Member

29. Westfallen writes:

Does anyone remember an old interview with AIC, where they were dressed up as mimes or artists, and spoke with awful French accents? Been trying to find it to share.

# Sep 4, 2012 @ 7:06 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
WOLF7's avatar

Member

30. WOLF7 writes:

Brilliant article as always, Oz!

The amazing thing about AIC is how timeless their stuff is. Them Bones, Would, Grind, Again, Rooster, Heaven Beside You, Get Born Again... the list goes on, it all sounds fresh even now.

Like so many others here, I love the band.
Layne's fate absolutely horrifies me, but what can you do? Drugs will destroy your life. What else is new.

As for the new AIC, not interested in the slightest. Black gives way to blue is a good album, but it's not for me. Rather listen to Cantrell's solo stuff.

Btw, for those interested in Jerry Cantrell's stuff, GET the Degradation Trip double album. It pisses all over the original one disc release (which I also got. Well done, Roadrunner Records. Another AIC fan fooled.)

# Sep 5, 2012 @ 1:07 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Westfallen's avatar

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31. Westfallen writes:

I fell for it too Wolf. And yes, the 2 disc is that much better!

# Sep 5, 2012 @ 3:39 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
32. skippp writes:

All I can say is I respect Alice now more than I do Soundgarden.

Soundgarden's ploy to continue is clearing cashing in. They even admitted as much in interviews. If the new album is good then I'll shutup but the Avengers movie song is a clear step in the wrong direction.

# Sep 7, 2012 @ 12:53 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

33. hellrat writes:

^I saw some fairly recent footage from Donnington I believe, and it was just atrocious...cornell's voice is frikken tattered man, just hideous...

Everyone else in the band looked like they REALLY didn't want to be there

But in their prime, they were fvcking awesome...seen em play really early on at a dorm party at evergreen state, and the place was frikken annhililated :)

NP---Rusty Cage

# Sep 7, 2012 @ 4:08 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
34. Katana writes:

Absolutely love Alice in Chains, a huge influence for me and 'Man In The Box' NEVER gets old! It's always good to hear about bands from the 80's that I kill my neck headbanging to. :)

# Sep 9, 2012 @ 4:28 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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