Them Bones is the first song of Alice In Chains' second studio album 'Dirt'. The song was released as the second single from their second album, Dirt (1992). The song was included on the compilation albums Nothing Safe: Best of the Box (1999), Music Bank (1999), Greatest Hits (2001), and The Essential Alice in Chains (2006).
The song was written by guitarist Jerry Cantrell. The song is highly chromatic and is played in a time signature of 7/8—except for the chorus, which is in 4/4. When discussing the use of odd time signatures in a 1998 interview with Guitar World, Cantrell said:
I really don't know where that comes from; it just comes naturally to me. I could sit down and figure it out, but what's the use? Off-time stuff is just more exciting — it takes people by surprise when you shift gears like that before they even know what the hell hit 'em. It's also effective when you slow something down and then slam 'em into the dash. A lot of Alice stuff is written that way — "Them Bones" is a great off-time song.
In the liner notes of 1999's Music Bank box set collection, Jerry Cantrell said of the song:
I was just thinking about mortality, that one of these days we'll end up a pile of bones. It's a thought for every human being, whether you believe in an after-life or that when we die, that's it. The thought that all the beautiful things and knowledge and experiences you've been through just end when you end scares me, the thought that when you close your eyes for good, it's gone forever.
"Them Bones" was released as a single in 1992. "Them Bones" peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and at number 30 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The UK single was released in March 1993. "Them Bones" reached the top 30 in the UK and Ireland.
Ned Raggett of Allmusic called the song "a brief, tightly wound explosion of sheer, inescapable riff power, focused and relentless" and added that "having made its point in two and a half minutes it stops — not a note is wasted."
The music video for "Them Bones" was released in 1992 and was directed by Rocky Schenck, who had previously directed the "We Die Young" music video for the band, and who would later direct the music videos for "What the Hell Have I" and "Grind". The video is available on the home video release Music Bank: The Videos.
A live performance of "Them Bones" can be found on the live album Live.
In 2006, Swedish death metal band Grave covered the song which appeared on their seventh album, As Rapture Comes. In 2009, American deathcore band Suicide Silence covered the song which appeared as a bonus track on the iTunes special edition edition of their second album, No Time to Bleed.
Alice in Chains would go on to become one of the most important acts of the 90's. Tragically founder Layne Staley died of a heroin overdose on April 5, 2002.
The band continues to perform under care of co-founder and close friend of Staley, Jerry Cantrell.
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