I probably have reviewed this album here before, but I've rediscovered the brilliance of this record in recent months, and it's just blew me away how much new stuff I keep finding upon going back to it. To many AIC fans, this is their least favorite album of the band's career, but as AIC's studio swan song, they created a masterpiece on par with "Dirt."
First off, one of the things that I really love about this album is how much between albums Jerry Cantrell had developed as a vocalist. On "Dirt," he did a lot of great low-key harmonizing with Layne Staley, but here he sings some great leads, and you can tell how much Layne had influenced Jerry, vocally and lyrically, as Jerry probably influenced Layne a great deal as far as his guitar playing went (see also, Mad Season's "Above".) Having one of the pre-eminent "guitar gods" of the 1990s in the band allowed Layne to concentrate primarily on his amazing voice and songwriting, but you can still tell his guitar sound on several of the tracks here. Another development with the band around this time was the collaborative songwriting by the group. Before bassist Mike Inez joined, most all of the songs were either written by Cantrell or Staley, with the former doing the bulk of the songwriting and the latter writing most of the lyrics, but here, most of the songs were written by all four members, except for Cantrell's "Grind" and Staley's "Head Creeps," and "Again," co-written by Layne and Jerry.
Overall, this album is on par with "Dirt." While it isn't quite as dark as that album, it's just as engaging.