Due to its unfortunate timing -- arriving in stores about two months after the passing of his former bandmate, Layne Staley -- it may be impossible not to view Jerry Cantrell's second solo album, Degradation Trip, without hearing it through the prism of the demise of Alice in Chains and the death of Staley. First of all, the sound is instantly reminiscent of Cantrell's former band because, of course, he was instrumental in creating the slow, brooding minor-key grinds topped with flat vocal harmonies that were the group's stock in trade. Second, if you dig through the lyrics, it's easy to speculate that some of them are about the addiction that sunk Staley. These two qualities are so prominent that some may have a hard time getting around them, but serious listeners and longtime fans will find it much easier to get past the surface and appreciate the album as Cantrell's best record since Dirt. True, it does bear the hallmark of a guitarist who is allowed to indulge his instrumental ideas, with several tracks being as epic as a classic prog rock number, yet this is a good thing since not only are his ideas frequently intriguing, but they are balanced with shorter songs -- cuts that aren't necessarily snappier, but certainly more concise -- giving the record a real sense of momentum, something that's only enhanced by his best, most consistent writing since Dirt. Essentially, this is a more ambitious, focused spin on Alice in Chains' final studio album -- -- which may make it sound a little out of place in 2002, since it is defiantly out of fashion and builds on Alice in Chains' early-'90s sound, but it certainly serves as an effective reminder in a time that's over-run with Alice in Chains clones of how powerful, dramatic, and resonant these hypnotic guitar dirges can be, especially when they're written by somebody at the top of their game.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine