30 Years of Alice In Chains’ ‘Facelift’

Released on this day back in 1990, find out what made the band’s debut album quite so monumental.

Today marks three decades since the release of grunge pioneers, Alice In Chains’ debut album, Facelift. Taking a glance back at the album, find out what it was that made their breakthrough release so iconic.

Although now considered as one of the most famous Grunge bands of all time, there was a point where the Seattle group were struggling to gather recognition and were turned down by producers across the country.

For devoted fans of the band, Alice In Chains’ original demo tapes prior to the first album (available via YouTube) couldn’t be further from the band’s signature sound. The dissonant melancholy on songs such as “Love, Hate, Love” and “I Can’t Remember” were a world apart from the original Glam sound that the band began with. 

Seen as a mismatch of different genres and unable to fully settle on one distinctive sound, Alice In Chains were initially stuck at a dead end, until producer, Dave Jerden took them under his wing.

Approaching their debut album, Jerden pressured the band to venture into new routes. Experimenting with grittier riffs and more heart-wrenching vocals, the members instead abandoned their glam roots and rebelled against the trends of the time.

Having to find a new approach to their music was just the beginning of the setbacks that Alice In Chains faced. Drummer, Sean Kinney, was forced to record the drums with a broken hand due to strict deadlines and the late vocalist, Layne Staley, struggled with issues of self-confidence at the time.

Yet, a record inspired by both personal trauma and the issues in their hometown of Seattle, Facelift came to be regarded as one of the most important albums in the world of rock and metal. From “Sunshine”, written by Jerry Cantrell about the death of his mother, to “We Die Young”, a song about drug abuse amongst the youth of America, the album paved the way for the downtrodden, emotion-driven sound that defined their discography.

Their stripped back, less style-conscious image and the lower-pitched, roaring vocals of Layne Staley immediately established Facelift as going against the grain of all popular music at the time, which was largely dominated by glam. 

Now considered revolutionary in pioneering the Grunge genre, during its release, the decision to rebel against current trends backfired exponentially. Staley received hoards of criticism for his deviation away from the popular Axl Rose-esque vocals and the album was shunned by radio stations across the country.

It was only months after its release that the album began to gather momentum. After being featured on MTV’s Beavis and Butthead, the single, “Man In The Box” began to skyrocket up the charts, eventually leading to the album gaining recognition and the Grunge scene beginning to emerge.

Now, widely considered to be one of the most highly regarded albums in the metal scene, tracks including “Sea Of Sorrow”, “Bleed The Freak” and “Love, Hate, Love” are staple songs from the band’s extensive career and the album itself is considered by fans to be one of their best. 

Three decades since its release, Facelift has proceeded to carry more and more momentum over time. With the heart-rending lyrics resonating with fans even more so after the death of both the vocalist, Layne Staley and bassist, Mike Starr due to drugs, the album is seen as one of the most incredible debut releases of all time. 

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