Buzz on Alice in Chains' withdrawal from their Metallica tour and Woodstock '94 dates has it that the multiplatinum Seattle act is riven by internal strife and by frontman Layne Staley's reported heroin habit. Last week's official statement eerily reminiscent of the one issued by Nirvana when they withdrew from Lollapalooza, shortly before Kurt Cobain's suicide-claimed that their cancellations were ''due to health problems within the band.'' A source at Alice's management company went on to insist that breakup rumors were just that: ''No one's in the hospital. They're just hanging low and regrouping.''
But on stage at the Seattle club Fenix Underground two weeks ago, Staley, performing with Second Coming a band containing two members of the original 1987 Alice 'N Chains and whose new CD, L.O.V.Evil features Staley on one track spoke of the problems he was having with his bandmates. The group's split, however, may out of necessity, be short-lived. ''I can't imagine this band being fronted by Sammy Hagar,'' says Charles Cross, editor of Seattle biweekly The Rocket. ''Layne's important. Given the benefits that working together would represent for both the band and the singer, some kind of compromise has to be accepted.''