While detractors busily attempt to hammer the final nail into the coffin that is Alice in Chains, the band’s devoted following still hold out hope that their almost five year absence from the music scene will result in a reformation, and ultimately a new studio album. Though the band will neither confirm or deny their complete dissolution, their recent actions seem to hint in that direction.
Alice in Chains haven’t released a studio record since their self-titled release debuted at #1 in 1995, followed by their MTV live/acoustic set, Unplugged (1996). Since then, the band has released a “best-of” album, Nothing Safe: Best Of the Box and a career retrospective boxed set, Music Bank—not exactly the actions of a band alive and kicking. In addition, guitarist Jerry Cantrell released a solo album, Boggy Depot (1998), bassist Mike Inez jumped back on the Ozzy Osbourne float and vocalist Layne Staley’s whereabouts are as mysterious as that of D.B. Cooper.
In all fairness, the release of their latest disc, Alice in Chains - Live, has more to do with fan demand than it does swirling speculation that the band is history. Over the past decade, no less than 50 live bootleg recordings have circulated, leading to this, their first legitimate live collection.
Alice in Chains - Live is indeed a superb collection that spans the band’s career, beginning with a rare 1990 club performance from their first national tour and culminating with tracks recorded at their last shows in 1996, as an opening act for the mammoth KISS tour. Remarkably, the performances are seamless, as if they were recorded in one sweat-drenching evening. The disc is stacked with plenty of their powerful grunge/metal classics from haunting numbers like “Love, Hate, Love”, “Junkhead”, “Dirt”, “Would?” and “Rooster” to heart pounding, bone-jarring tunes such as “Them Bones”, “Man in the Box”, “Dam the River” “Again” and “Bleed the Freak”.
There is a downside, however. Alice in Chains - Live should have been a double disc set. There were far too many great songs sacrificed in narrowing it down to just one disc. Great performance numbers like “Got Me Wrong”, “Down in a Hole” and “Rain When I Die” should have been included. Regardless, this collection is more than strong enough to lure Alice in Chains devotees into their local record stores. However, it won’t keep fans from casting lots for more exhaustive bootlegs.