The music for the songs "Wake Up" and "River of Deceit" came out of rehearsals that the group had before vocalist Layne Staley joined. The song "Artificial Red" came together at a show that the band had at the Crocodile Cafe in October 1994. The songs "Lifeless Dead" and "I Don't Know Anything" were first premiered on Pearl Jam's January 8, 1995 Self-Pollution satellite radio broadcast.
McCready said, "We did all the Mad Season music in about seven days. It took Layne just a few more days to finish his vocals, which was intense since we only rehearsed twice and did four shows. So this has been the most spontaneous thing I've ever been involved in. This was done even quicker than Temple of the Dog which took about four weeks...With Mad Season we just went in and started jamming on tunes and everybody had ideas and it just happened with three or four days."
During the making of the album, Staley read The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. Drummer Barrett Martin said, "Layne Staley felt as though he was on a spiritual mission through his music. Not a rock mission, a spiritual mission.
Vocalist Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees contributes guest vocals on "I'm Above" and "Long Gone Day". "I Don't Know Anything"'s verse bar features a droning guitar melody with feedback in a fashion comparable to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". "Long Gone Day" takes influence from genres as diverse as jazz, progressive rock, classic rock, and blues. Saxophonist Skerik contributes to the song.
Lyrically, much of "River of Deceit" was inspired by Khalil Gibran's The Prophet.
Rolling Stone gave Above two and a half out of five stars. Reviewer Barbara Davies said that Mad Season "take artistic risks and set out to make something fresh on Above." However, she criticized the album for having a "hit-or-miss quality." Davies ended the review by stating that "the band is – at times – more than the mere sum of its parts.
Above included the singles "River of Deceit", "I Don't Know Anything", and "Long Gone Day". "River of Deceit" had an accompanying music video, while other music videos were taken from performances from the band's home video release, Live at the Moore. "River of Deceit" was the most successful song from Above on the rock charts, reaching number two on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts and number nine on the Billboard Modern Rock charts. "I Don't Know Anything" also charted on the Mainstream Rock charts. "River of Deceit" is arguably the group's best known song while "I Don't Know Anything" still maintains modest radio play today.
A promotional version of Above has a bonus track entitled "Interlude", which follows "Artificial Red".
|1995||US Billboard 200||24|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||24|
|Swedish Albums Chart||46|
|Canadian Albums Chart||65|
|1995||"River of Deceit"||US Mainstream Rock Tracks||2|
|US Modern Rock Tracks||9|
|Canadian Singles Chart||68|
|"I Don't Know Anything"||US Mainstream Rock Tracks||20|