Alice in Chains are a rock band which formed in 1987 in Seattle, Washington, United States. Drawing equally from the heavy riffing of metal and the gloomy strains of grunge, the band developed a bleak, nihilistic sound that balanced grinding metallic riffs with subtly textured acoustic numbers.
They were hard enough for metal fans, yet their dark subject matter and punky attack placed them among the front ranks of the Seattle-based grunge bands. While this dichotomy helped the group soar to multi-platinum status with their second album, 1992’s Dirt, it also divided them.
Guitarist / vocalist Jerry Cantrell always leaned toward the mainstream, while vocalist Layne Staley was fascinated with the seamy underground. Such tension drove the band toward stardom in their early years, but following Dirt, Alice in Chains suffered from near-crippling internal tensions that kept the band off the road for the remainder of the ’90s.
Formed in 1987 by Staley, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Starr, and drummer Sean Kinney, the band was first named “Alice N’ Chains”, and later changed to “Alice in Chains”.
Combining the unique voice and intense delivery of Staley with the evocative songwriting and vocal harmonies of Cantrell, Alice in Chains created an immediately identifiable sound that also proved to be quite versatile as their repertoire grew to include both driving, angry rock songs and mellow acoustic compositions.
The unique vocal harmonies of Staley and Cantrell included overlapping passages, and dual lead vocals. Alyssa Burrows said the band’s distinctive sound “came from Staley’s vocal style and his lyrics dealing with personal struggles and addiction”.