During the fall of 1994, members of Seattle's white-hot grunge scene were struggling to stay sober in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Alice in Chains' Layne Staley was battling a heroin addiction, Pearl Jam's Mike McCready was checking into rehab for alcoholism and Screaming Trees' Barrett Martin was attempting to rehabilitate his own cocaine habit.
They bonded in rehab and soon formed Mad Season, a band that would release one album and play only six shows before conflicting obligations pulled them apart. Their only album, Above, notched a radio hit with "River of Deceit," and a second full-length project began to develop that was eventually shelved.
This was a unique chemistry, a blues-schooled heavy rock and roll with a dark edge. It made them stand out from the burgeoning grunge scene, and they became a band that influenced the genre for many years to come.
The music on Above was an eclectic mix of styles from the Seattle area: Layne's haunting vocals were complemented by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready's stadium-size riffs, Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin's heavy blues influences and Walkabout bassist John Baker Saunders' deep swinging groove. They also featured Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees on vocals on several songs, including Black Book of Fear and I'm Above.
A few years back, McCready and Martin teamed up to reissue Above for the first time since it came out, and they've done so in an expanded box set that features not just a remastered version of the album but a DVD with live footage, a song from the aborted second Mad Season album that was finished by Lanegan, three other unreleased tracks he wrote for the group, and more. It's a wonderful reissue that's well worth a listen, especially for those who haven't gotten around to it yet.