Monday 3 December 2012

Soundgarden Reclaim Their Throne

In the heyday of the grunge era in the nineties, Soundgarden were one of the most creative bands out there. The band threw some stoner and psychedelic influences in the mix resulting in a big and heavy sludgy sound. That slowly transformed into a more polished and balanced sound and peaked at the epic albums Badmotorfinger and Superunknown. After disbanding in '97 the band now returns with a new album King Animal.

Soundgarden - King Animal (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

After the band fell apart, drummer Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam. Singer Chris Cornell chased a solo career that got off to a promising start but reached an alltime low with the collaboration with Timbaland and the dreadful album Scream. He was more successful in Audioslave halfway his solo attempts. Guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd kind of disappeared from the spot lights. In 2010 the band announced their reunion and after a few shows revealed the work on a new album.

These kind of band reunions can have dubious results. Musicians are often chasing faded glory and releasing music that is just a shallow copy of what used to be. When playing King Animal, the album opener doesn't promise much. 'Been Away Too Long', also the first single, isn't bad, but sounds pale compared to their old work. It's a polished rock song with some good bits, but already is forgotten when it's finished. Fortunately after that the old band is picking it up. Next song 'Non-State Actor' already sounds familiar after a few seconds with a killer riff and Chris Cornell screaming. It turns into a great heavy stoner-like song with Cornell whaling like in the old days.

The album holds more songs that definitely are great additions to the Soundgarden catalogue, including the occasional time scale tricks we know so well like in 'By Crooked Steps'. 'Blood On The Valley Floor' is an old fashioned slow heavy groover. 'Worse Dreams' is a no nonsense straightforward rock song. Some of the slower songs show what they are all about: 'Bones Of Birds' has every band member at its best and probably is the best song on the album. 'Eyelids Mouth' has Soundgarden written all over it. There are a few misses as well though, 'Attrition' really sounds like filler material.

All in all this is not a bad start for a reunited band. They didn't try to recapture the old glory days but really went out there to make a good rock album. Especially the fans will be relieved and pleased to hear Soundgarden still is up there with the best.

Listen to 'King Animal' on Spotify.

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