Alice In Chains’ Dam That River Drum Chart

Alice In Chains’ Dam That River Drum Chart

Thanks for checking out this drum lesson on Alice In Chains’ classic 1992 track Dam That River. Read some of the background below, make sure to read the tips that will help you nail the song’s feel, and download the free PDF transcription below.



Alice In Chains are one of Rock’s great bands that came out of Seattle in the 90s. Their heavier, darker sound compared to their peers helped them stand out in the scene. This was, in part, thanks to original singer Layne Staley whose lyrics about drug abuse were autobiographical and direct. Sadly, Staley died in 2002 from an overdose; found dead in his flat a week or so after his passing.


Alice In Chains Dam That River

Alice In Chains released their second album Dirt in 1992.


The band have continued to produce excellent music with singer William DuVall, who replaced Staley in 2006. Initially playing only live shows, DuVall has been a permanent member, recording the band’s first album since Staley’s death, the acclaimed “Black Gives Way To Blue”.


Alice In Chains Dam That River

Alice In Chains: (left to right) Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Layne Staley, Mike Starr



Staley, however, left us some brilliant work to enjoy. Dirt, arguably the band’s best album, is a classic, featuring awesome songs including the punchy Dam That River. A tune that’s not only down right heavy, but beautifully simple, at least on the drums!

Drummer Sean Kinney delivers a no-frills performance, that’s straight to the point. It supports the guitar riffs in all the right ways, keeping it simple as most often is the best thing to do! In fact, my band The Mercy House, covered Dam That River to celebrate Layne Staley’s anniversary (check out the multi cam video). I tracked the drums along to the music so as to retain Sean Kinney’s time feel, which is tight, but nice and loose!




I’ve transcribed Sean Kinney’s performance and parts on Dam That River pretty much note for note. Some of the fills on the guitar solo section I’ve left a bit more open to interpretation, so you can add your own spin to them. And, whilst the track might not be the toughest to play, it’s certainly oodles of fun! Here are some tips to help you nail the vibe.


3 bar phrases

It’s not as obvious upon casual listening, but the main riff (which opens the song and is the basis for the chorus) is a 3 bar phrase. Being aware of this will help you feel groove better as you’ll be paying attention to the phrasing and structure a bit better.


Quarter note feel

Verses are played on the hi hats loose and slushy, so keep your left foot nice and relaxed on the pedal. This will make your hi hat notes sustain between beats, helping to carry the groove. Also, notice how, at least to my ears, Sean Kinney seems to open the hi hats slightly more on the last quarter note of every verse (except where the flam is played).

Similarly, during the intro and choruses, we’re “crashing” on the ride cymbal, accenting on the down beats (the quarter notes). Sean Kinney may have played quarter notes on the ride, but I have chosen to interpret this as eighth notes with the aforementioned accents.


Guitar solo section

The guitar solo section is really interesting as we got some bars in 2/4 to help change up the phrasing. Also, pay attention to how the beginning of each phrase during this section starts with the bass drum on 2+ on the 2/4 measures.





  • If you’re interested in learning to play more songs like this, or in other genres and styles, check out my drum lessons!
  • Check out my drum book “Concepts”, it’s got tons of fun ideas to help you take your drumming to the next level. Find out more here!
A Drummer’s Album Review: “Hikari” by Oceans Ate Alaska

A Drummer’s Album Review: “Hikari” by Oceans Ate Alaska

Here’s my album review of “Hikari” by Oceans Ate Alaska, a Birmingham-based Metalcore band. I wanted to share my thoughts about this record because I found it really interesting, both from a musical and drummer’s perspective. Having learnt about it listening to the Modern Drummer Podcast, I thought it would be worth giving it a listen and checking out the Chris Turner’s drumming.

The music

To my ears, the album sounds like a cross between Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan, yet more polished and less cohesive. Every track, as I wouldn’t necessarily called them songs, try to capture chaos in a bottle. Lightning fast changes in pace, frantic guitar riffs and drum grooves, furious vocals contrasted with clean singing makes for music that sounds like music for a generation with a short attention span. And whilst this may sound negative, I think it makes it really cutting-edge; the album is very much of its zeitgeist.

Oceans Ate Alaska

Birmingham-based Oceans Ate Alaska

Coming from a slightly different heavy metal background, to me the tracks don’t seem to go anywhere, but perhaps it might be because I’m more of a traditionalist. But then again, I don’t dislike what I’m hearing and neither am I trying to put it down. I’m finding it difficult to wrap my head around how a band can be both so creative and non-imaginative at the same time. Technically-speaking, they’re great and the individual bits in every song are cool, but they don’t seem to blend.

Chris Turner’s drumming

Turning to Chris Turner’s drumming, his approach to the music fits perfectly to the Ocean Ate Alaska’s sound. His playing is really interesting as he never seems to play the same thing twice, yet every drum groove really does sound like no note hasn’t been thought through. Intricate and detailed, furious yet intellectual. Really cool stuff!

Chris Turner

Chris plays DW drums and Sabian cymbals

Final thoughts

So, whilst this may not be my cup of tea, I actually enjoyed the album; cool music representative of its time, executed with precision. Yet, it’s not something I may go back to even though it has made an impact in me, and that’s what art is supposed to do. They would be a great band to check out live, I imagine.

Follow these links to listen to Hikari by Oceans Ate Alaska on iTunes or on Spotify. Let me know if you agree or disagree with me!

Thanks for reading, and if you’re interested in drum lessons, check out my lessons page and get in touch!