During the hiatus of Alice In Chains, guitarist Jerry Cantrell released a couple studio albums. The first one was released in 1998 called “Boggy Depot.” The second one, most recent and the one I will be discussing today is “Degradation Trip” that was released in 2002. It marked his difficult transition from Columbia Records to Roadrunner, and was dedicated to Alice in Chains lead singer Layne Staley, who died two months before the album's release. The title was taken from the song "Solitude", the fifth track from the album.
Degradation Trip featured two singles and was well received by critics, faring better than Cantrell's solo debut and bearing stronger resemblance to his work in Alice in Chains. "Anger Rising" and "Angel Eyes" were released as singles. "Anger Rising" reached No. 10 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks and stayed on the chart for 18 weeks. The album has sold 100,000 copies in the U.S. as of December 2002. In April 2019, it was ranked No. 21 on Rolling Stone's "50 Greatest Grunge Albums" list.
The album was the result of an intense writing process that resulted in 25 songs. Cantrell enlisted new bandmates (Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin and then-Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society bassist Robert Trujillo) to officially dissociate himself from the incapacitated Alice in Chains and, after being dropped from Columbia, faced a turbulent recording process funded entirely by himself. After a lack of label interest, Cantrell eventually acquired a deal with Roadrunner who requested that he condense the material to 14 tracks. When he began work on a sophomore record, it was written in the seclusion of a house in the Cascade Mountains. In a state of self-imposed isolation, Cantrell recorded the demos using a four-track recorder and a Gibson Les Paul.
In 2002, he detailed the experience of writing the album and its outcome: "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. The album is an overview of birth to now. . . Boggy Depot is like kindergarten compared to this. The massive sonic growth from Boggy Depot to Degradation Trip is comparable to the difference between our works in the Alice in Chains albums Facelift to Dirt, which was also a tremendous leap. I got into a writing session which lasted for three or four months where I just continued to spew and pour all of this shit out of the depths of myself from every level and aspect of my life. I dealt with a lot of issues that aren't easy for me to verbally get across. I think it's easier for me to do it in a musical venue. But it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I'm glad I did it and I'm glad I went through the experience, but it's certainly something I don't ever want to do again."
This record is dark, scary and everything you would expect from someone who locked themselves in their house and went out of their mind. Instrumentally it features some of Cantrell’s best career works. In songs like “Hellbound” and “Bargain Basement Howard Hughes” you get smacked in the face with the melodic dark sense this record has.
The songs “Psychotic break” and “Solitude” give such a deep insight and is so relatable to a lot of people who have gone through depression. Lyrically Cantrell outdid himself, they’re dark and confessional. The record also features a moody ballad “Angel Eyes” which he talks about dreaming of a girl that he messed up with. My personal favorite off this record is a swaying acoustic track called “Gone” which ends the record. It has a unplugged feel to it, and such a bunch of raw emotions. He has many unorthodox rhythms and time signatures are exhibited throughout the album, it’s perfectly imperfect.
Thank you Cantrell for locking yourself up and being a mad man to produce such a incredible record. As of April 2020 Cantrell is in the studio recording his third solo record, and I personally can not wait to hear the follow up to Degradation Trip. Check out this record, it’s so underrated.