Jerry Fulton Cantrell (born March 18, 1966 in Tacoma, Washington) is the lead guitarist/backup (occasionally co-lead) vocalist for the Grunge/Alternative Metal band Alice in Chains, as well as being their primary songwriter. He was raised on a steady diet of Country Music, but while still in his teenage years, the allure of Hard Rock and metal music caught his eye. Eventually, he would form a band called "Diamond Lie" featuring future Alice in Chains band member Mike Starr. Needing a vocalist, he turned to his then-roomate, Layne Staley, and after a few renames, the rest was history.
While Staley was an active member of the band, Jerry took a more background role. He wrote the songs and played guitar, but the lead singing was left to Layne. This is not to say that Jerry wasn't an essential part of the band's sound, as Jerry's backing vocals were an important counterpoint to Staley's lead—creating the haunting vocal harmonies that the band is most known for to this day. As Staley fell more and more into his drug addictions, Cantrell was placed as the lead singer more and more. This change is noticeable when comparing Alice in Chains' second album Dirt with their eponymous third album: Jerry did not perform lead vocals at all on the former, but he does multiple times on the latter. After the recording of Alice in Chains and an MTV Unplugged live album, the band fell mostly silent.
But Jerry was still active, and in 1998, he put out his first solo album, Boggy Depot. This album was more experimental in nature than his AIC output, featuring elements of Country Music and Progressive Rock, with just enough Heavy Metal songs to keep AIC fans happy. While in the process of recording his second album, Degradation Trip, Layne Staley sadly succumbed to his drug addiction, hitting Jerry hard. The album and its subsequent and superior re-release were dedicated to him. It was during his touring to support this album that he met William Duvall, Staley's eventual replacement. Eventually, Jerry was coaxed into bringing AIC back out. They preformed a well-received tour, featuring big name musicians filling in for Layne, such as Maynard James Keenan from Tool and James Hetfield of Metallica. In 2006, AIC ended their unofficial hiatus, eventually culminating in their Come Back Album, Black Gives Way to Blue. As of 2015, the band is still going strong, and working on their third post-reforming album.
Jerry was heavily influential on the metal and Alternative Rock scene, his work with AIC inspiring a whole generation of Alternative Metal and Post-Grunge. He's received acclaim from other established metal bands as well, perhaps most notably with Dimebag Darell of Pantera noted as liking his simple yet skilled style of guitar leads.
Jerry's work with Alice in Chains can be found on that page. His solo albums are:
- Boggy Depot (1998)
- Degradation Trip (2002)
- Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2 (2002)
- Under Cover (2005) (an Ozzy Osbourne album where Jerry was the lead guitarist)
- He also recorded a song for the soundtrack of John Wick 2, named " A Job to Do"
For a more extensive list, look at his Wikipedia entry.
"Tropes From Cantrell's Solo Career":
- Animal Motifs: "Pig Charmer" and "Spiderbite" use ... well, motifs of a pig and a spider respectively.
- Darker and Edgier: The two Degradation Trip albums are much darker lyrically and much much heavier sonically than Boggy Depot. In fact, it's probably the darkest/heaviest thing he's done to date—including his time in Alice in Chains.
- Doom Metal: Degradation Trip blurs the line between this and sludge metal.
- Drugs Are Bad: Much like his well-known band, this is a common theme in his songs. The shining example is "Spiderbite", comparing drugs to a predatory spider, waiting to strike from the shadows.
- Genre Roulette: Boggy Depot is like this. Some songs are metal, some are alt rock, some are progressive rock, and there's even a country song in there! It's less prominent in Degradation Trip, but still there.
- Groove Metal: "Spiderbite" alternates between this in the verses and doom/sludge metal in the chorus and bridge. Some of the other songs on the album also have traces of this trope.
- Heavy Meta: A few of his songs are about his life as a rock star, in a much less than flattering light.
- Lighter and Softer: Boggy Depot lacks the oppressive sound that most of Alice in Chains albums have, and while it's not all rays and sunshine by any means, the lyrics are much less hopeless.
- " A Job to Do" isn't really a soft song, but it is much lighter than most of the songs on Degradation Trip
- Metal Scream: "Caine!" from "Spiderbite".
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Boggy Depot averages in at around 5-6, with only "Keep The Light On" and "Jesus Hands" reaching a fairly low seven. Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2, however, sits around 7-8. While it still has ballads, the metal parts of the album are all quite heavy, with the song "Spiderbite" nearing 9 at some points.
- New Sound Album: Depot was this to Alice In Chains, being very different than their usual sound. Trip was this to Depot, bringing it back to the Alice in Chains sound and Turning It Up To Eleven.
- Post-Grunge: Some of the more radio friendly songs on Depot have elements of this.
- Progressive Rock: Experimented with on Boggy Depot, with the songs "Settling Down", "Breaks My Back", and "Cold Piece" being throw backs to this genre.
- Sanity Slippage Song: To some degree, all of Degradation Trip is about this, but the song "Psychotic Break" is about this, specifically.
- Spiritual Successor: Jerry's solo career in general is seen as an unofficial continuation of the Staley years of AIC. Degradation Trip specifically could be seen as a follow up to Dirt.
- Uncommon Time: Par for the course with Jerry, especially on Degradation Trip.
- "Dickeye", off of Boggy Depot, alternates between 13/4 during the verses and 4/4 during the chorus.
- "Psychotic Break", from Degradation Trip, is entirely in 6/4.
- "Locked On", also from Degradation Trip, alternates between 14/4 during the verses and 4/4 during the choruses.
- Your Cheating Heart: What the song "Keep The Light On" is about.