Metallica’s James Hetfield Reveals His Favorite Grunge Band: Alice In Chains

James Hetfield Jerry Cantrell

In the world of heavy metal, Metallica has undeniably left an indelible mark. Formed in 1981 by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, the band became synonymous with the thrash metal genre. While the 1980s saw them release several impactful albums, it was their 1991 self-titled record, dubbed “The Black Album,” that catapulted them to unparalleled success.

Amidst the rise of grunge music in the early ’90s, Metallica stood out as a beacon of heaviness. While many metal musicians criticized the grunge movement, Hetfield found himself drawn to its unique sound. In fact, he even went as far as declaring one particular band from that era as “timeless.”

The Birthplace of Grunge and Hetfield’s Enduring Love

Seattle, Washington is widely recognized as the birthplace of grunge, a genre that emerged in the mid-1980s but gained international fame in the ’90s. Bands such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden originated from the region, releasing highly successful albums that resonated with a generation.

Among these bands, Hetfield holds a special admiration for Alice In Chains. In an interview with Revolver magazine, he expressed his love for their music, describing it as “awesome” and “ahead of its time.” Hetfield believed that Alice In Chains’ music possessed a timeless quality that warranted attention and recognition.

A Musical Connection and Acknowledging Layne Staley

The allure of Alice In Chains extended beyond their music. Hetfield’s appreciation for the band ran so deep that he broke tradition and joined them on stage—a rarity in his career. In 2006, during Germany’s “Rock Am Ring” festival, Hetfield sang and played guitar with Alice In Chains on their classic song, “Would?” Later that year, he performed with them again in San Francisco, California.

One of the defining elements of Alice In Chains was the hauntingly powerful vocals of the late Layne Staley. Hetfield held Staley’s vocal prowess in high regard and even ranked him as the second greatest singer of all time in a list he compiled for Rolling Stone magazine. Staley surpassed legendary vocalists like Freddie Mercury, Robert Plant, Steven Tyler, and Rob Halford but fell just short of Hetfield’s top choice: Ronnie James Dio.

While Hetfield admitted that he wasn’t particularly close with Staley, he fondly recalled attending many of Alice In Chains’ live performances in the ’90s. However, he also recognized the struggles that plagued Staley’s life, primarily his addiction to drugs. Tragically, Staley’s battle with addiction led to his untimely death in 2002 at the age of 34.

Preserving the Legacy

Despite the loss of Layne Staley, Alice In Chains persevered. In 2005, original members Jerry Cantrell (guitar, vocals) and Sean Kinney (drums), alongside longtime member Mike Inez (bass) and singer William DuVall, reformed the band. They continued to release albums and embarked on worldwide tours, keeping the legacy of Alice In Chains alive.

As James Hetfield’s endorsement attests, Alice In Chains’ impact on the grunge movement and the wider rock genre remains timeless. Their unique sound, combined with Staley’s unforgettable vocals, solidified their place in rock history. While the band has undergone changes over the years, their music continues to resonate with old and new fans alike, ensuring that Alice In Chains’ powerful legacy endures.