Formed in 1987, and originally a heavy metal band, Alice In Chains was one of the first Seattle bands to sign with a major label, which they did in 1990.
They tempered their sound with a dark, brooding quality emblematic of the developing grunge scene which instantly broadened their appeal and earned them a Grammy nomination for Man In The Box (from the 1990 album Face Lift).
In the wake of Nirvana‘s success with Nevermind, 1992’s Dirt hit the US Top 10 and sold over three million copies.
But by then Vocalist Layne Staley’s spiralling heroin addiction was derailing the band even if it did gift them high-quality tracks like God Smack, Junkhead, Angry Chair and the powerful Would? all of which referenced drug use.
Their Jar Of Flies (1994) became the first EP to top the Billboard album chart, and their self-titled 1995 LP also reached #1.
Staley entered rehab programs many times but his drug problems continued, curtailing the band’s touring. Their final performance was in July 1996 in Missouri.
In 1998 the band recorded two tracks for the 1999 box set, Music bank, then Staley went into seclusion.
On 19 April 2002, police found Staley’s body in his Seattle home. He had died approximately two weeks earlier after overdosing on a “speedball” – a mix of heroin and cocaine. He was 34 years old.
The band was reborn in 2004 when drummer Sean Kinney suggested the surviving members reform for a benefit show for victims of the Indonesian tsunami. They did this with guest vocalists such as Metallica’s James Hetfield, and with the intention that it would stop there.
But buoyed by the response and the thrill of playing their songs once again, the trio began taking baby steps toward a full-blown return, recruiting Cantrell’s friend William DuVall – the frontman for Atlanta band Comes With The Fall – and hitting the road.