I admit this without shame: for me, Alice in Chains is — like a disturbing number of things in my life, come to think of it — forever tied to my experience with Doom.
Everything comes back to Doom. It is the great wellspring from which all nerdlove flows. When it comes to Alice in Chains specifically, Doom was that pushy matchmaker friend, pestering both parties despite all protestations, dragging them closer even against their will — until Alice in Chains and I came to realize we’d loved each other all along.
That was sort of a weird metaphor. Okay, let me ‘splain.
Both Doom the game and Doom the fandom are soaked in the runoff of the heavy metal scene. Doom fans tend to be metalheads. Its creators were metalheads. Half the soundtrack of the game is… let’s say “inspired” by actual metal tunes from the early ’90s and before.
Unlike much of the Doom community at large, I’m… not. A heavy metal fan, that is. It’s not that we have any animosity; rather, we just don’t enjoy one another’s company. Which isn’t to say I didn’t try to reach out. I may have been born too late for my formative years to be shaped by the classic metal of the ’70s and ’80s, and I may have been a little too young to care about Alice in Chains, even, during their prime, but my relationship with Doom was constantly pushing me and metal together.
When I discovered the Doom community in mid-2002, Layne Staley had just died — though I wouldn’t know it for years. And while I had found somewhere I felt at home — among all these other people who loved the same game I did — I still felt I was missing something. Some part of the vital connection they all had was missing. This heavy metal thing that seemed so core to the game and the community that had sprung up around it — I just didn’t get it.
I literally went down the list of bands I knew guys like John Romero were into in the id days. Bands I knew had inspired Doom. Mostly those defining metal bands of the ’80s: Pantera, Megadeth, Metallica. As much as I wanted to make that connection, none of them did anything for me. Still, over the years I returned time and again — because Doom just wouldn’t stop giving me that kind-hearted but annoying shove back into the party. “No, I know there’s someone here for you. Trust me.”
And then I finally listened to more of Alice in Chains than just “Them Bones” — a song that I’d basically already heard in the form of a Doom II midi — and I finally found something I could fall for. As much as I dig “Them Bones” now, it took the acoustic stuff on Sap and Jar of Flies for me to get Alice in Chains.
I mean, seriously. If “Nutshell” doesn’t give you chills, you are even more of a roboty-robot than I am.
I think what Alice in Chains does is bring some real emotion — at least, emotions other than BEING MAD — to the table. I suppose I’m just a sucker for sad songs, but that’s what it took for me to start taking metal seriously, and once I’d gotten into Alice in Chains, I found they gave me something I didn’t get anywhere else. I still haven’t come across a band that makes me feel quite the way they do.
So… uh… why was I bringing this up? OH. I was going to talk about their latest album (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here), but that brief tangent about Doom turned into, like… the subject of the post. Okay, let me sum up.
(Kind of long and a bit samey toward the middle, though, so it’s probably one of those albums that works better if you take a little drink-refill/potty break in the middle of it.)
There’s my review!
And the moral of the story is… it’s all about Doom in the end, I guess?