Dirt (Redux) by Various Artists

I simply cannot believe that Dirt was released 28 years ago on September 29, 1992.

What the hell am I? Old. That’s for sure.

I was already a fan of the band, thanks mostly to unrelenting radio play of “Man in the Box.” I had already seen them live a couple of times in support of their superb 1990 debut, Facelift. Remember the Clash of the Titans tour? The US leg was tri-headlined by Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and featured support from Alice in Chains. While there was a lot of booing, and items being thrown at Layne Staley, AIC delivered a flawless set.

Fast forward one year. After a lot of soul searching due to the Los Angeles riots, Alice in Chains released Dirt, the album that would launch their career into super stardom. I imagine the shoe throwing stopped during their live show. Comparisons between grunge and the development of sludgy stoner metal can be traced most clearly to this album, a milestone that cemented the cultural shift from vapid early 90s hair metal into something more raw, grimy, and real as the preeminent style of popular heavy music.

The album kicks off with Thou’s version of “Them Bones.” With the exception of vocalist Bryan Funck’s throaty vocals in the background, I was fairly surprised to hear Thou go with a mostly unwavering rendition of the lead track. I’m not complaining as it definitely works.

Low Flying Hawks are next with “Dam That River.” This cover sounds absolutely nothing like the original. The near absence of drumming, especially since this song is drum driven, will do that. This band features Melvins drummer Dale Crover. I wonder if he just sat there thinking about his next gig with Conan Neutron.

Chicago’s High Priest nail the bassline intro, with a little added grit, to “Rain When I Die.” This cover is by far the most part spot on, vocals included. Even the fade out/fade in outro. Not surprising though as the band have been called a doomier version of Alice in Chains.

Khemmis do a great job on “Down In A Hole.” This cover is pretty much like the original, with the exception of a vocal harmony here and there. There is also a really quick picked guitar riff towards the end. Cool.

Another Chicago band, These Beasts, add a little touch of doom to “Sickman.” While the rhythms are mostly there, their cover slows and calms things down a bit. It feels much less disordered than the original. It’s good though.

“Rooster” is absolutely outstanding. Howling Giant have turned up the bass and changed up some of the riffs. The vocals are also a little higher at some points and lower at others. Musically speaking, each verse of the song is different. The second verse and subsequently the rest of the song is exceptional. This is my favorite track on Dirt (Redux). You can stream this song at the end of this review.

Dirt cemented the cultural shift from vapid early 90s hair metal into something more raw, grimy, and real.

Forming The Void’s interpretation of “Junkhead” is pretty straightforward, much like Khemmis‘ “Down In A Hole.” I like it. I guess that’s it.

This version of “Dirt” doesn’t really fall far from the original. Big shoes to fill in my opinion, after all it is the title track. Somnuri go through the motions and record a worthy tribute. Nothing else to say about this.

I’ll be honest. I’m not really fond of the vocals on this cover of “God Smack.” Maybe because they don’t match the intensity of the original? 100% of the time, it’s the vocals that ruin a song for me. These are all re-imagined interpretations, so to each their own. I really don’t know much about Backwoods Payback anyway, so yeah.

The story behind the original forty-three second “Intro (Dream Sequence)/Iron Gland” is such. It was developed out of a guitar riff that Jerry Cantrell would play that annoyed the other band members, so he created the song (adding in a reference to Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”) and promised to never play the guitar riff again, although the track was played as intro music in concert. It featured Tom Araya (Slayer) and Layne Staley on vocals. Oh yeah, Black Electric are behind this version.

California sludge band –(16)- almost put me to sleep with “Hate to Feel.” I couldn’t get into it. Too slow for this song for my liking; and the vocals…all I kept hearing were the adults in Peanuts cartoons going “Wah wah, wa wa wa wa, wah wah.”

Vokonis’ version of “Angry Chair” is very different. That’s why it’s so good. They take a pretty guileless song, fuck it up a bit and make it their own.

Before becoming the closing track on Dirt, “Would?” was the opening track on the Singles movie soundtrack three months prior. This cover from The Otolith takes that song and makes it twice as long, and twice as good. Seriously though, nothing touches Alice in Chains, but this dark and haunting interpretation is pretty stellar.

With the exception of a couple songs, this compilation will appease the likes of any Alice in Chains fan, and you definitely should check it out.

Dirt (Redux) by Various Artists was released Sept. 18th, 2020, by Magnetic Eye Records as part of their Redux series. It is currently available on CD and download and two different vinyl variants.

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