As guitarist, co-lead vocalist and songwriter for the once so important and highly influential Alice In Chains, Jerry Cantrell helped change the face of mainstream music in the early ’90s, dragging depression metal to the charts and making it matter. And while the complex, trademark Alice In Chains sound was eagerly imitated by confused teens all over, there was never really anyone who was able to recreate that at once eerie and beautiful noise.
Cantrell’s first solo album, Boggy Depot, was a furious but ultimately pretty disappointing affair that saw him trying to broaden his scope, ironically by limiting himself to a more basic sound. As such, it’s probably a good thing that Degradation Trip is a return to the more intricately layered world of Alice In Chains. Cantrell certainly knows how to go about recreating former sonic glories, and even though he’ll never admit to it himself, he is generally acknowledged as the visionary behind AIC’s accomplishments.
But while he does a great job of sounding like himself, this is also the album’s problem. It simply has nothing new to offer, and Cantrell’s songwriting suffers from repetition, as if every turn of phrase, every hook, every overwrought metaphor (there’s quite a few of those) are nothing but mere shadows of something better. One is constantly reminded of how good Dirt is, and the intensity of Jar Of Flies, and in the light of those, Degradation Trip doesn’t really hold up. Intensely personal, one senses, but it seems to be more of an internal confrontation than anything that particularly should involve those of us who belong on the outside.
Degradation Trip was conceived and written a couple of years back by Cantrell during an assumed nervous breakdown and is the first installment of what is intended to be a two-part set, with the companion album planned for release sometimes next year. And so we will probably have to wait until Cantrell has finished exorcising his inner demons before we can expect to hear anything truly new coming from him.
Roadrunner Records: http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com