Alice In Chains is one of my all-time favorites. To the point of being almost sacred. So when Layne Staley tragically passed away, I like so many others believed that Alice In Chains was done. They weren’t and today continue to honor the legacy of Staley while cementing their status as living legends in the upper echelons of Hard Rawk and Metal. Speaking of that legacy, it was 1992’s Dirt that helped to catapult the Seattle quartet into those hallowed halls and almost twenty years later Magnetic Eye Records is paying tribute to the iconic record with their latest [Redux] release.
Dirt [Redux] follows up similar volumes that featured albums by Helmet, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd (With a new Black Sabbath one coming on October 30th which you can pre-order here) and collects an eclectic group of artists to recreate the album track-by-track and deliver wholly new takes on the songs.
Baton Rouge’s Thou starts us off with a rousing rendition of “Them Bones” which is delightfully diabolical. Not even attempting to ape on Staley’s legendary pipes, vocalist Bryan Funck’s monstrous growl is like the polar opposite of the soulful late singer’s sound. Then there’s “Dam That River” as deconstructed by Low Flying Hawks into something almost unrecognizable (Think Type O Negative’s versions of “Paranoid” and “Black Sabbath” as a template here) and stripped to the bare, ahem, bones and stripped for parts.
High Priest tackles “Rain When I Die” and turns it even more anthemic and fuzzy while Khemmis similarly get their Grunge on with a sprawling rendition of “Down In A Hole” before These Beasts make “Sickman” sound even more claustrophobic and chaotic through Todd Fabian’s vocal performance throughout.
Two of my current faves, Ghastly Sound and Forming The Void, get back-to back tracks here taking on “Rooster” and “Junkhead” respectively. The former is probably one of the coolest versions of “Rooster” out there, turning a somber funeral dirge into a celebration even with a refreshing take that sounds like it’d fit on any release by Ghastly Sound.
“Junkhead”, on the other hand, was my first taste of Dirt beyond “Would?” having stayed up to watch AIC perform on MTV at the Singles Release Party back when it originally aired. This was pre-internet and I always got excited when a band debuted something I hadn’t heard before and “Junkhead” was no different being something on another plane compared to the hit song that was the lead single for the flick/soundtrack and tearing up the airwaves preceding the imminent release of Dirt.
But I digress. Because “Junkhead”, as a music fan, obviously holds some significance for me.
Forming The Void makes the track their own, finding beauty in the musical and lyrical brutality while injecting a fair amount of Blues and Soul into all the doom and gloom (Although FTV still bring the Doom!), backed by a monolithic wall of sound. Following that, Somnuri’s “Dirt” is just as mystical and magical as the original with vocalist Justin Sherrell coming the closest to matching Staley’s uncanny pipes on this album.
“God Smack” by Backwoods Payback is electric and later, just as in the original, this Dirt gets a special cameo in the form of Magnetic Eye’s founder Mike Vitali whose Black Electric jump on the short, sweet, and slaytanic “Iron Gland” (Originally featuring a cameo by Slayer’s Tom Araya). -(16)- offer up a proggy/desert rawk version of “Hate To Feel” which is crushingly heavy and then Vokonis get all evil with screaming guitars on a crunchier, aggressive take on “Angry Chair”.
We can agree that everyone knows “Would?”, yeah? I mean, we already talked about it a bunch as well in this piece. Well, nothing can prepare you for a truly transcendent experiment with The Otolith’s version. Mechanical, precise, rumbling, and unholy, these former members of SubRosa stretch the dark Hard Rawker to almost six and a half minutes, slow it down and turn it into an otherworldly dirge which throbs and thumps like an Industrial stomper at times. Keeping the spirit of the original alive, The Otolith manage to elevate the track and perfectly close an album full of memorable tributes.
Various Artists: Dirt [Redux] lands on September 18th with pre-orders up now and conveniently all here for you to peruse and purchase. For the latest Magnetic Eye releases, follow them on the socials here, here, and here or head to the source by clicking here or here.