Still taken from Alice in Chains Youtube video
A few weeks prior to this writing, we celebrated the immortal and precious voices’ birth. Layne Staley, the lead singer of the band Alice in Chains and Mad Season, has touched the lives of thousands throughout the world with his unique style in music.
We cannot fully describe the textual and emotional value of his voice, though we can observe its lack of purity. When most think of “beautiful” in music, they think pitch-perfect notes, held long and still. Staley’s singing was heavily accented; in one word, unmatchable. Despite the unavoidable truth in that, many have attempted to mimic the art.
Alice in Chains was Staley’s first commercially successful band, and a success it most certainly was. The period in which his music was at its peak was known as the “Grunge” era, a scene of underground, alternative rock and metal mixed with other influences such as jazz, blues, and even reggae. Kurt Cobain, one of the most well-known music legends rose to musical power with his band Nirvana, who also hailed from the state of Washington, along with Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Their music, Grunge, can be described as crunchy, with heavy guitars and “unnatural” chord combinations.
What sets Alice apart is Staley’s voice, although each band from the scene has a signature sound. To listen to Layne Staley sing, we need to have an open mind, and not be scared away by the difference from modern music. Only then can we see the true beauty of every note.
It seems in life the greatest things are taken away from us. The prodigious leaders in music have often been consumed by drugs. It is almost frightening how many artists have fallen, as the wonderful Staley did on April 5th 2002.
A deadly combination of heroin and cocaine took his life. He had lived three years in exile, hiding away in his apartment, conquered by depression. He regretted his addiction, although they were irreverent towards it in a song, possibly under the influence of the drugs.
In his later years, Staley said “Drugs worked for me for years, and now they’re turning against me, now I’m walking through hell” (Fischer). This, along with all other drug-related losses with musicians, is perhaps a message to the fans who feel like using; even the greatest can be fall.
Layne Staley has influenced many musicians today, including yours truly. Not one album is near unlikable in my eyes, and that’s a rare occasion for such an omnivorous, critical music-lover such as myself. Below are some of the shockingly amazing songs and links to their websites.
Fischer, Blaire. “Malice in Chains?” Rolling Stone Magazine. September 3, 1998. September 10, 2013.
Around the Web:
Man in the Box: An animalistic anthem from the early 90s.
Nutshell (Live): A soft, surreal cry to generations of pained listeners.
River of Deceit: A wonderful side project that mixes influences from several genres.