Songwriting Analysis: Alice in Chains “Man in the Box”

Alice in Chains: Facelift

“Man in the Box” in my mind is the prototype of Alice in Chains.  The earliest example of their very distinct sound/style.  How do they conjure up their signature heaviness?  From the songwriting point of view, here are some elements we can observe:

  • Impressively succinct main riff that utilizes 3-2-3 subdivision to create a big, heavy gesture instead of typical metal busy-ness.
  • Dorian harmony and melody creates a sound that’s less smooth and wimpy than regular minor harmony — the raised 6th creates a sense of lift and uncertainty.
  • Classic call and response structure in chorus breaks the monotony of single-line melody and grabs the listeners’ attention.