Ever since I started Audioeclectica, I’ve constantly been thinking of different topic ideas to add to the fun. One that I’ve been thinking about a lot as of late is a spotlight on solo albums. There are so many out there and certain ones really deserve to be given their proper due. Solo albums are tricky to pull off. A lot of the time the solo album tends to fall flat or sound too similar to the artists main band.
Back in 2002 following the passing of Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell was readying a new solo album. The album was recorded before Layne had passed but, was dedicated to him when the album was released two months later. The album I’m speaking of is Degradation Trip. This opus is truly a remarkable album. The story behind it is pretty interesting too. To quote Jerry, “In ’98, I locked myself in my house, went out of my mind, and wrote 25 songs. I rarely bathed during that period of writing; I sent out for food; I didn’t really venture out of my house in three or four months. It was a hell of an experience.” Something else that makes Degradation Trip a stand out solo album is Jerry using a different backing band, enlisting the help Mike Bordin (Faith No More, ex- Ozzy Osbourne) on drums and Robert Trujillo (Metallica, ex- Ozzy Osbourne. Another intriguing tidbit about this album is that while making it, Jerry would be left without a label and a slew of studio bills. Jerry would go on to mortgage his home to continue on making this record. Upon completion, Jerry would sign a new deal with Roadrunner Records. After the signing, the label had asked for the album to be condensed from 25 songs to 14, but promised it would release the other songs at some point. Which explains why there are two different versions of Degradation Trip.
Jerry Cantrell is one hell of a songwriter and on this album he really carves his own niche. While the material on this album has many similarities to Alice In Chains, there is a purity to it that makes this a memorable and artistic triumph. Songs like “Psychotic Break,” “Owned,” “Angel Eyes,” “Solitude,” “Hellbound,” “Gone,” “Castaway,” She Was My Girl,” “Anger Rising” and “Thanks Anyway” are among my favorites on the album. The guitar work on all throughout the album is masterful. Not only are Jerry’s riff skills impressive, his use of melody is what really separates him from the pack. Always one to write deep and introspective words, Jerry doesn’t stray from that on this album. In fact I find these songs to be some of the most poetic songs he’s written since Dirt.
Jerry Cantrell really comes through on delivering a true solo album. This album deserves to be regarded and given the proper accolades it deserves. It’s not easy to go out on your own especially when you are part of something as special as Alice In Chains but, Jerry did it with grace and artistry. Check out Degradation Trip and let the music consume you.
Jerry Cantrell- Degradation Trip Volumes I & II:
Anger Rising Video: