This is undoubtedly a classic album. Like every aspect of Alice in Chains' music it blurs the line between pain and beauty. Here, Layne Staley's vocals are ever impressive, Jerry Cantrell's lyrics are poetic and heart-felt, and his remarkable riffs prove that grunge was not the death of the guitarist. Alice in Chains stood above the rest of their fellow genre where guitarists were concerned; Cantrell's guitar is relentless, shifting from beautifully crafted melodies to heavy, chugging riffs and some effective soloing. He always delivered the perfect accompaniment to Layne's painfully distressed voice.
The vocals, for me, are the greatest aspect of all Alice in Chains' music. Layne's voice brimmed with so much emotion and was always so beautiful; a beauty that somehow weathered the despair of the words he sang. This album is the perfect example of how colourful and contradictory his voice really was; at once it is angelic and pained, pure and raw, and thoroughly soaked in sorrow. He captured the essence of the songs so perfectly in his vocals that you can't help but appreciate how personal they were to him. The lyrics are also a great accomplishment; ever brooding and meaningful, they paint a very honest and very revealing portrait of the band's collective troubles.
Practically every track on Dirt is a classic but a few standouts worth mentioning are 'Rooster', 'Down in a hole', and 'Rain when I die.' The song 'Would?' is arguably the greatest song on the album. It finishes off the record with a sudden, seemingly misplaced, burst of energy and though every part of the four-piece is on top form throughout the song, the bulk of the credit has to go to Mike Starr and his unforgettable bass riff which gives it one of the most powerful and recognisable intro's ever created. It is an emotional song about the Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood, who we tragically lost in 1990, and it is simply brilliance.
Of course it's hard to rank the exceptional 'grunge' albums of the early 90s, with the likes of Pearl Jam's 'Ten' and Mother Love Bone's 'Apple' as well as Alice in Chains' own 'Facelift', but this is definately up there with the best. The loss of this band and its enigmatic frontman Layne Staley has left a gaping hole in the music scene; one it might never recover from!