Yesterday was not only the anniversary of the day that we lost Kurt Cobain, but also the anniversary of the day we lost legendary grunge icon Layne Staley, singer and co-founder of Alice in Chains. He was found in his apartment after dying of a drug overdose eight years to the day after Kurt Cobain killed himself. They even both died in the same town — Seattle.
The self-destructive Alice in Chains frontman had struggled with depression and drug addiction his whole life, and it showed in his songs. He used most of Alice in Chains’ songs to describe the demons in his own life — most of them being about drug abuse, depression, and self harm. This set Alice in Chains apart from the other grunge metal bands in the ’90s, and made them one of the “Big Four” of grunge, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. Layne Staley knew the end was near for him. In his last known interview, he said, “I know I’m near death. I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way. I know I have no chance. It’s too late.”
Alice in Chains has sold around 25 million worldwide, released two #1 albums and 21 top 40 singles, and has received eight Grammy nominations. Their album Dirt is one of my all-time favourites, and I was lucky enough to hear them play my favourite songs when they played Rexall last July with new lead singer, William DuVall (who’s pretty much the coolest-looking guy ever).
William DuVall joined Alice in Chains in 2006, four years after Layne Staley’s death. And holy hell, he’s a perfect fit. I know that no one can replace Layne, but he sure does his work justice. Layne Staley’s parents went to the first live show that the band played with William DuVall, and they met him after their set, crying, hugging him, and telling him what an amazing job he did. The band released two new records with William DuVall: Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009 and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here in 2013. Both albums still have the signature dark, troubled, grungy-metal sound that made the band as successfully as they became.
The show at Rexall was phenomenal. They did a tribute to Layne Staley, and it sounded amazing. It was eerie how well DuVall nailed the vocals, and I’m so glad that the band decided to keep their name and keep recording and touring, even though they initially didn’t think there was any chance they were going to.
Yesterday was the day in history we lost both Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, and it’s famously said that one burned out while the other faded away. Both were extremely troubled and even more talented. After Staley’s death, tons of songs were dedicated to him, not to mention Metallica’s Death Magnetic album, which was a tribute to him and everyone who destroyed themselves in the name of rock n’ roll. Layne Staley may be gone, but his signature disturbing sound lives on with Alice in Chains and new singer, William DuVall.
“Would?”, from Dirt, released in 1992.
“Stone”, from The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, released in 2013.
All Images Courtesy of Google Images.