Dirt (Alice in Chains album)

Dirt (Alice in Chains album)
Studio album by Alice in Chains
Released September 29, 1992 (1992-09-29)
Recorded March–May 1992 at Eldorado Recording Studios, Burbank, California; London Bridge Studio, Seattle, Washington; One on One Recording Studios, Los Angeles, California
Genre Grunge, heavy metal, alternative metal
Length 57:35
Label Columbia
Producer Alice in Chains, Dave Jerden
Alice in Chains chronology
Jar of Flies
Singles from Dirt
  1. "Would?"
    Released: 1992
  2. "Them Bones"
    Released: 1992
  3. "Angry Chair"
    Released: 1992
  4. "Rooster"
    Released: 1993
  5. "Down in a Hole"
    Released: 1993

Dirt is the second studio album by the American rock band Alice in Chains and was released on September 29, 1992, through Columbia Records. Peaking at number six on the Billboard 200, the album was well received by music critics and has since been certified four-times platinum by the RIAA, making Dirt the band's highest selling album to date.[1][2]

The album spawned five singles: "Would?", "Them Bones", "Angry Chair", "Rooster", and "Down in a Hole". The songs on the album focused on depression, anger, anti-social behavior, drug use, war, death, and other emotionally heavy topics.


Background and recording

The recording of Dirt began in the spring of 1992. Producer Dave Jerden, who had previously worked with the band on their debut, Facelift, wanted to work with them again. He admired vocalist Layne Staley's lyrics and voice, and lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell's guitar riffs. For the songs "Them Bones", "Rain When I Die," "Down in a Hole", "Dirt," and "Would?", Cantrell brought in his black Gibson Les Paul and an amplifier he had bought when he was seventeen which had much heavier distortion than any amplifier he had used in the past. Dirt was recorded at Eldorado Recording Studio in Burbank, California, London Bridge Studio in Seattle, and One on One Studios in Los Angeles from March to May 1992.

When recording the album, Staley had previously checked out of rehab in Portland, Oregon and quickly went back to using heroin. Drummer Sean Kinney claimed in a 2005 interview that Staley had told Kinney that he was extremely high on heroin and marijuana during the recordings of "Down in a Hole" and "Angry Chair" as well as taking Oxycodone for back pain. Cantrell had also agreed with Kinney's report, saying that Staley, Jerden and the rest of the band would smoke marijuana in the studio room, even saying that Staley would shoot heroin in front of everyone. Jerden later said that he was told Staley felt animosity toward him dating back to the Dirt sessions due to Jerden repeatedly recommending to Staley that he get sober at the time. Jerden said, "Apparently he got all mad at me [during the Dirt sessions]...And what's my job as a producer? To produce a record. I'm not getting paid to be Layne's friend."[3]

Staley was not the only one who went through heavy drug use; Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr were also struggling with alcohol addiction. Cantrell was also going through severe clinical depression from the deaths of his mother and his friend, Andrew Wood, and used Xanax, an anxiety medication prescribed by his doctor to ease his depression as well as his heavy drinking on tour... "I was going through a tough time, everyone was, but that's what made the album stronger and more intense, I look back on that period of time as the longest four years of sex, drugs and alcohol we all went through," Cantrell said in a 2007 interview with The Seattle Times.

Music and lyrics

With songs written primarily on the road, the material has an overall darker feel than Facelift.[4] "We did a lot of soul searching on this album. There's a lot of intense feelings."[4] Cantrell said, "We deal with our daily demons through music. All of the poison that builds up during the day we cleanse when we play".[5] Themes on the record integrated topics of depression, anti-social behaviour, drug use, war, death, entrapment, deep relationships and various other heavy topics. Cantrell stated that the album was the band's best and most intense work, and that they all intentionally for years wanted to make a "brutal" record.

Staley later expressed regret about the lyrical content of some songs on Dirt, explaining, "I wrote about drugs, and I didn't think I was being unsafe or careless by writing about them...I didn't want my fans to think that heroin was cool. But then I've had fans come up to me and give me the thumbs up, telling me they're high. That's exactly what I didn't want to happen."[6]

Cantrell said he wrote "Them Bones" about "mortality, that one of these days we'll end up a pile of bones."[7] Cantrell was inspired to write "Dam That River" after a fight he had with Kinney in which Kinney broke a coffee table over his head.[7] "Down in a Hole" was written by Cantrell to his "long-time love" and commented that "it's hard for us to both understand...that this life is not conducive to much success with long-term relationships."[7] "Sickman" came together after Staley asked Cantrell to "write him the sickest tune, the sickest, darkest, most fucked up and heaviest thing [Cantrell] could write."[7] "Rooster" was written by Cantrell for his father, who served in the Vietnam War. His nickname was "Rooster".[7] Cantrell described the song as "the start of the healing process between my Dad and I from all that damage that Vietnam caused."[7] Discussing the title track "Dirt", Cantrell stated that "the words Layne put to it were so heavy, I've never given him something and not thought it was gonna be the most bad-assed thing I was going to hear."[7] Cantrell cited "Junkhead" and "God Smack" as "the most openly honest" songs about drug use.[7] "Iron Gland" was developed out of a guitar riff that Cantrell would play that annoyed the other band members, so he created the song (adding in a reference to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man") and promised to never play the guitar riff again.[7] It features Tom Araya of Slayer on vocals. "Hate to Feel" and "Angry Chair" were both composed solely by Staley, and Cantrell has expressed his pride in seeing Staley grow as a songwriter and guitarist.[7] The album's final track, "Would?", was written by Cantrell and concerns the late lead singer of Mother Love Bone, Andrew Wood.[7] Cantrell said the song is also "directed towards people who pass judgments."[7]

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Entertainment Weekly (A)[8]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[9]
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[10]
Q 4.5/5 stars[11]
Alternative Press (favorable)[12]
Robert Christgau (B)[13]
Sputnikmusic 5/5 stars[14]
Kerrang! 5/5 stars[15]

Dirt was the band's breakthrough album. Upon its release in September 1992, Dirt peaked at number six on the Billboard 200.[16] Dirt was released on the same day as another important album of the grunge era, Core by Stone Temple Pilots. Dirt granted Alice in Chains international recognition. Dirt was certified four times platinum status in the United States,[17] platinum status in Canada and gold status in the UK.[18][19] The album had sold 3,358,000 copies in the United States as of 2008.[20]

The album was a critical success and is often considered to be one of the best rock records of the 1990s, with Steve Huey of Allmusic saying "Dirt is Alice in Chains' major artistic statement and the closest they ever came to recording a flat-out masterpiece. It's a primal, sickening howl from the depths of Layne Staley's heroin addiction, and one of the most harrowing concept albums ever recorded. Not every song on Dirt is explicitly about heroin, but Jerry Cantrell's solo-written contributions (nearly half the album) effectively maintain the thematic coherence—nearly every song is imbued with the morbidity, self-disgust, and/or resignation of a self-aware yet powerless addict." Michael Christopher of PopMatters praised the album saying "the record wasn't celebratory by any means -- but you'll be hard pressed to find a more brutally truthful work laid down -- and that's why it will always be one of the greatest records ever made."[21] Chris Gill of Guitar World called Dirt "huge and foreboding, yet eerie and intimate," and "sublimely dark and brutally honest."[22] Don Kaye of Kerrang! described Dirt as "brutally thruthful and a fiercely rocking testimonial to human endurance".[15] It was voted "Kerrang! Critic's Choice Album of the Year" for 1992.[23]

Dirt included the singles "Would?", "Them Bones", "Angry Chair", "Rooster", and "Down in a Hole", all of which had accompanying music videos. Dirt spawned five top 30 singles, including "Rooster", "Them Bones", and "Down in a Hole", and remained on the charts for nearly a year.[24][25] At the 1993 Grammy Awards, Dirt received a nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.[26] The band also contributed the song "Would?" to the soundtrack for the 1992 Cameron Crowe film, Singles, whose video received an award for Best Video from a Film at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards.[27] Dirt was named 5th best album in the last two decades by Close-Up magazine.[28] Dirt was also included in the 2005 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In October 2011, the album was ranked number one on Guitar World magazine's top ten list of guitar albums of 1992, with The Offspring's Ignition in second place and Bad Religion's Generator in third place.[29]


Staley playing with Alice in Chains in Boston in 1992.

Alice in Chains was added as openers to Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tears tour. Mere days before the tour began, Layne Staley broke his foot in an ATV accident, forcing him to use crutches on stage.[22] While on tour, Starr was kicked out of the band and was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Mike Inez.[30] During the summer of 1993, Alice in Chains joined Primus, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and Babes in Toyland for the alternative music festival Lollapalooza, which was the last major tour Alice in Chains played with Staley.[31]

Track listing

All lyrics and music written by Jerry Cantrell, except where noted.

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Them Bones"       2:30
2. "Dam That River"       3:09
3. "Rain When I Die"   Layne Staley Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Mike Starr 6:01
4. "Down in a Hole" ([I])     5:38
5. "Sickman"   Staley   5:30
6. "Rooster"       6:15
7. "Junkhead"   Staley   5:09
8. "Dirt"   Staley   5:16
9. "God Smack"   Staley   3:50
10. "Intro (Dream Sequence)/Iron Gland (unlisted)" ([II])     0:43
11. "Hate to Feel"   Staley Staley 5:16
12. "Angry Chair"   Staley Staley 4:47
13. "Would?"       3:28
Total length:

^ I On the Australian, European, and early U.S. and Canadian versions of the CD, "Down in a Hole" is located between "Angry Chair" and "Would?"

^ II Track 10, "Iron Gland", appears as "Untitled" on Dirt (1992). The title appeared on Nothing Safe and Music Bank. The iTunes Store lists it incorrectly as "Iron Man". Before the finalized name "Iron Gland", there have also been albums of Dirt that lists the track as "Intro (Dream Sequence)".


The songs "Fear the Voices" and "Lying Season" were featured on Alice in Chains' 1991 demo tape that featured songs from Sap and Dirt.[7] Both of these songs were later included on the band's 1999 box set, Music Bank. "Fear the Voices" was released as a single in 1999 to promote Music Bank and became a radio hit that same year. Regarding the two songs, Cantrell said that they came from a time when the band was still developing its sound.[7]


Alice in Chains
Additional performance

Chart positions


Chart (1992) Position
Canada RPM 100 Albums[32] 25
US Billboard 200[16] 6
Chart (1993) Position
Australian ARIA Charts[33] 13
German Albums Chart[34] 37
Netherlands Albums Chart[35] 17
Norwegian Albums Chart[36] 15
Swedish Albums Chart[37] 11
UK Albums Chart[38] 42


Year Single Peak chart positions


1992 "Would?" 5 33 19
"Them Bones" 24 30 22 26
1993 "Angry Chair" 34 27 28 33
"Rooster" 7
"Down in a Hole" 10 29 36
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


  1. ^ (1996) Album notes for Music Bank by Alice in Chains. Columbia Records (69580).
  2. ^ "Discography – Dirt". Aliceinchains.com. Archived from the original on 2006-07-03. http://web.archive.org/web/20060703145800/http://www.aliceinchains.com/discography/dirt.aspx. Retrieved 2008-02-09. 
  3. ^ Fischer, Blair R. "Malice in Chains". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/aliceinchains/articles/story/5925470/malice_in_chains. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  4. ^ a b Turman, Katherine (February 1993). Digging Dirt. RIP magazine. 
  5. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (1996-02-08). "To Hell and Back". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/aliceinchains/articles/story/5934699/to_hell_and_back. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999.
  7. ^ Garza, Janiss (October 16, 1992). "Dirt: Music Review:Entertainment Weekly". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20166125,00.html. Retrieved August 23, 2009. 
  8. ^ Brackett, Nathan. "Alice in Chains". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. November 2004. pg. 13, cited March 17, 2010
  9. ^ Huey, Steve. "Dirt > Overview". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/album/r70661. Retrieved 23 July 2009. 
  10. ^ Q: 120. February 2002. 
  11. ^ Alternative Press: 40. March 1993. 
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Review: Dirt". Robert Christgau. http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?name=Alice+in+Chains. Retrieved 23 July 2009. 
  13. ^ http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/12736/Alice-in-Chains-Dirt/
  14. ^ a b Kaye, Don (3 October 1992). "Alice in Chains 'Dirt'". Kerrang!. 412. London, UK: EMAP. 
  15. ^ a b "Artist Chart History - Alice in Chains: Albums". Billboard.com. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  16. ^ "Search Results". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  17. ^ "Search Certification Database". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved on December 11, 2008. NB: enter "alice in chains" in "artist name" and click "Search".
  18. ^ "Dirt British certification". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  19. ^ http://www.billboard.com/#/news/ask-billboard-alice-in-chains-anthony-hamilton-1003873147.story
  20. ^ http://www.popmatters.com/music/reviews/a/aliceinchains-dirt.shtml
  21. ^ a b Gill, Chris (September 1999). "Dirt". Guitar World.
  22. ^ "1992 Kerrang! Critic's Choice Albums of the Year". Kerrang! (423): 17-19. 19 December 1992. 
  23. ^ "Alice in Chains - Artist chart History". Billboard.com. http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/retrieve_chart_history.do?model.chartFormatGroupName=Albums&model.vnuArtistId=3943&model.vnuAlbumId=624727. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  24. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (2004-04-06). "Remembering Layne Staley: The Other Great Seattle Musician To Die On April 5". VH1. http://www.vh1.com/artists/news/1486206/20040406/alice_in_chains.jhtml. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  25. ^ "35th Grammy Awards - 1993". Rockonthenet.com. http://www.rockonthenet.com/archive/1993/grammys.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  26. ^ "1993 MTV Video Music Awards". Rockonthenet.com. http://www.rockonthenet.com/archive/1993/mtvvmas.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  27. ^ "Metallica, Pantera: Top Albums Of Last 17 Years". ultimate-guitar.com. April 30, 2008.
  28. ^ Grassi, Tony. "Photo Gallery: The Top 10 Guitar Albums of 1992". GuitarWorld.com. http://www.guitarworld.com/photo-gallery-top-10-guitar-albums-1992. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  29. ^ "2006 band bio - Aliceinchains.com". Aliceinchains.com. Archived from the original on 2006-07-19. http://web.archive.org/web/20060719150353/http://www.aliceinchains.com/biography/default.aspx. Retrieved 2007-12-14. 
  30. ^ D'Angelo, Joe (2002-04-20). "Layne Staley, Alice In Chains Singer, Dead At 34". VH1. http://www.vh1.com/artists/news/1453520/04202002/alice_in_chains.jhtml. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  31. ^ "RPM100 Albums". RPM:56(20). November 14, 1992. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  32. ^ "Alice in Chains - Dirt (Album)". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  33. ^ "Alice In Chains: Dirt". Musicline.de (in German). Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  34. ^ a b "Discografie Alice in Chains". Dutchcharts.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  35. ^ "Alice in Chains - Dirt (Album)". Norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  36. ^ "Alice in Chains - Dirt (Album)". Swedishcharts.com. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  37. ^ a b Roberts, David (ed.) (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums, 19th edition, HIT Entertainment. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  38. ^ a b "Artist Chart History - Alice in Chains: Singles". Billboard.com. Retrieved on December 11, 2008.
  39. ^ "Search the charts". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved on December 11, 2008. NB: enter "alice in chains" in "Search by Artist" and click "search".

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