Wednesday, January 9, 2013
3. Soundgarden King Animal
“I’ve been away for too long!” After an intro of familiarly crunchy guitars and that all too familiar voice, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden vocalizes the sentiment that his fans have been thinking for the past 16 years. You see it had been 16 years since fans had a Soundgarden Studio album in the form of Down on the Upside.
Soundgarden were one of the legendary 4 grunge bands who represented the Seattle Sound to the world along with fellow bands Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana. In every group, there’s distinct personalities and this crop of bands were no different. They were all young and idealistic, but from very different musical influences. Nirvana brought a punk aspect to Grunge, Alice In Chains brought more of a heavy metal vibe during a time when metal was losing ground, Pearl Jam brought commercial appeal and a willingness to reinvent themselves at every turn and Soundgarden were arguably, the artsy, experimental of the big 4 of grunge. They brought sludgy guitars courtesy of Kim Thayil, over the top drums courtesy of Matt Cameron and of course Chris Cornell’s vocals going from melodic to high pitched scream with ease.
2012 saw the release of King Animal, riding the heels of 2010’s greatest hits package, Telephantasm featuring an unheard song from the Badmotorfinger sessions called Black Rain, and a live set in 2011 called Live on I-5. While these were albums welcome to the catalogue, fans still wanted new music. Two years prior, Alice in Chains did the impossible and reformed, toured and released an album even in the void left by the late Layne Staley.
In the fall, fans received exactly what they were hoping for. King Animal is 13 tracks of absolute Soundgarden. It feels new and contemporary but it has that unmistakable vibe that only a Soundgarden album can offer. To me, this album is not as good as Badmotorfinger, but that album will forever be my favorite album of not only the band but of the genre. I can safely say, however that this reformed and refocused band has released the second best album of their career. Despite the age, the music sounds young and fresh. Only in the lyrics do we glimpse into the years that have slipped by and the age that has weighed down on the shoulders of the band members.
Standout tracks on this stellar set are the all out rocker “Been Away Too Long”, The slow and sludgy “Blood On the Valley Floor” and the nostalgic “Black Saturday” which has a feel similar to Cornell’s solo track Seasons from the movie Singles, which is where I really took notice of this band.
There is no Outshined, Jesus Christ Pose or Birth Ritual here, but there is solid hard rocking from a band that helped forever cement Seattle Washington as THE place to pay attention to for music in the 1990’s.
This is a must have album. If you don’t know, find out. If you have it already, spread the word. Show them that their return is a welcome one and that just one new album won’t be enough because they have the strength to keep it going well into 3 decades.