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Jerry Cantrell 

Degradation Trip (Roadrunner)

There was a discernible aura of uncertainty surrounding Jerry Cantrell's 1998 solo debut, Boggy Depot. It was certainly not manifested in volume or presentation; Cantrell is as visceral and concussive as anybody in hard rock. The undropped shoe in Cantrell's life was the specter of Alice in Chains and the obvious question of the band's nebulous future.

That conflict was resolved in 1999, when he sequestered himself for several months to write over two dozen songs detailing a number of personal crises that were consuming him at the time. The result of that descent into the pit is Cantrell's uncompromising and harrowing new album. When Cantrell revels in his AIC heritage ("Psychotic Break," "Hellbound," "Anger Rising"), the results are as blistering and effective as any of the band's most glorious outbursts. When he departs from his pummeling sonic attack, Cantrell shows an intimacy and delicacy that is electrifying in its counterpoint. With Layne Staley's death, the question of Alice in Chains' future is inexorably silenced, but Degradation Trip shows that Jerry Cantrell had already moved on before that tragedy finalized it.

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