10 Heaviest Alice in Chains Songs | Revolver

10 Heaviest Alice in Chains Songs

The hardest-hitting cuts in the grunge-metal band's entire catalog
Alice in Chains 1993 Getty 1600x900, Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images
Alice in Chains' Layne Staley (left) and Jerry Cantrell, San Jose, California, April 11, 1993
photograph by Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

Though initially lumped in with the grunge movement due to their Seattle roots, Alice In Chains have always been a tough band to pin down. Whether in their first, Layne Staley-fronted incarnation, or their current, William DuVall-abetted one, AIC have woven a wide variety of influences through their darkly compelling brand of hard rock. There's no question, however, that AIC can get seriously heavy when they feel like it — but should you require further proof, crank up these 10 career-spanning tracks and see what, if anything, is left standing when you're done.

10. "We Die Young"

Originally released in July 1990 on a promo-only EP of the same name, "We Die Young" was the perfect vehicle for introducing the world to Alice In Chains, packing a ton of swagger, menace and in-your-face guitar crunch into a mere two and a half minutes. Though their songs would get longer and heavier, "We Die Young" remains a powerful object lesson in hitting it and quitting it.

9. "Hollow"

It was a ballsy move to open 2013's The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here with nearly six minutes of hard-heaving sludge metal, but "Hollow" was so damn mighty that nobody minded. With Jerry Cantrell's doomy guitar riff setting the song's ominous tone and tempo, and his and William DuVall's seamlessly harmonized vocals lending additional sonic allure, "Hollow" grabs the listener by the collar and drags them mercilessly through the darkness.

8. "Grind"

The opening track from 1995's Alice In Chains (a.k.a. "Tripod" for the three-legged dog on its cover), "Grind" lives up to its name thanks to a relentless mid-tempo groove and Jerry Cantrell's abrasive wah-wah work. Intended at the time as a riposte to the dark rumors surrounding the band, Layne Staley's delivery of Cantrell-penned lyrics like, "In the darkest hole, you'd be well advised/Not to plan my funeral before the body dies," now casts a premonitory chill over the track.

7. "Last of My Kind"

Few bands have ever successfully rebounded from the loss of a legendary frontman, but Alice In Chains' 2009 comeback album, Black Gives Way to Blue, was a truly worthy addition to the band's legacy, in part because William DuVall's snarling vocals fit the music so well. Co-written by DuVall, "Last of My Kind" takes the gritty lurch of classic AIC and pairs it with the kind of pugnacious pre-chorus that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Metallica's "Black Album".

6. "Dam That River"

Inspired by an argument between Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney that turned into a full-fledged physical altercation, "Dam That River" — from AIC's 1992 masterpiece, Dirt — is all bad vibes and badass riffage. Cantrell and Kinney attack their instruments like they're still thinking about killing each other, and Layne Staley leans gleefully into the ensuing blizzard of negativity, even though he knows dam(n) well it's gonna leave a mark.

5. "Acid Bubble"

Another standout track from Black Gives Way to Blue, "Acid Bubble" sways in a decidedly spaced-out fashion until around the 2:45 mark, whereupon the song kicks into headbanging mode and Jerry Cantrell whips out a jackhammer guitar riff so hard it could bust concrete. One of the heaviest highlights of the William DuVall era, "Acid Bubble" is right up there with anything AIC did with Layne Staley.

4. "Them Bones"

Following in the tradition of "We Die Young," which opened their 1990 debut album, Facelift, with a compact burst of death-haunted bile, the leadoff track of 1992's Dirt is another lean and mean musing on mortality. "Them Bones" hits even harder, though, thanks to the dark humor of its lyrics ("Gonna end up a big ol' pile of them bones!"), its bracing shift from a 7/8 verse to a 4/4 chorus, and Jerry Cantrell's earth-churning riffs.

3. "Sludge Factory"

Another aptly-titled track from the "Tripod" LP, "Sludge Factory" is a dark and bluesy meditation on juggling record company expectations (the lines, "There's no pressure besides brilliance/Let's say by Day Nine," refer to Columbia's threats to pull the plug on the recording sessions if the album wasn't completed in nine days) with the pitiless demands of addiction. The song's woozy stumble backs up Cantrell's subsequent assertion that their self-titled 1995 album was "the sound of a band falling apart."

2. "Died"

"Died" was the last song AIC ever recorded with Layne Staley before the singer's untimely death in 2002 — a fact which would lend the song (originally released on the 1999 collection, Music Bank) some serious existential weight even without Staley's grim lyrics, which were most likely inspired by the fatal 1996 overdose of his former fiancée Demri Parrott. But it's Jerry Cantrell's guitar riff, which coils and uncoils throughout the song with the single-minded intensity of a hungry boa, that really seals "Died"'s profound heaviness.

1. "Rain When I Die"

1992's Dirt is so loaded with classic tracks and killer riffs that it's hard to pick a favorite, but "Rain When I Die" may well be the heaviest thing on there — and in the entire AIC catalog. Cantrell, bassist Mike Starr and drummer Sean Kinney lock in together on a groove that crunches like Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" on opiates, building to ever greater intensity over the course of the song's six, bleakly blistering minutes.