Release Date: November 13, 2012
In the late 1980s, the underground grunge movement out of Seattle was led by Soundgarden, giving them the title as the “godfathers of grunge.” When Nirvana’s Nevermind came out in late 1991 and completely ushered the grunge genre into the popular masses, Soundgarden began to leave their marik with Badmotorfinger. They released three albums in the 1990s and became one of alternative rock’s most prolific acts.
There was a lot of tension during the recording sessions of Down on the Upside in 1996, which resulted in their in April 1997 after touring with Lollapalooza. From that moment on, lead vocalist Chris Cornell released several solo albums and formed Audioslave with the former members of Rage Against the Machine, drummer Matt Cameron joined fellow Seattle band Pearl Jam, and Kim Thayil and Ben Shepherd did session work in Soundgarden’s downtime.
For 14 years, Soundgarden remained inactive until they performed a reunion show at Lollapalooza in 2010. Since then, they had been hard at work on a new album which resulted in King Animal.
The album kicks off with “Been Away Too Long,” which stands out as a statement most fans of the band can agree with, and features Cornell’s signature howl, Kim Thayil’s masterful fury, and a rhythm section of Shepherd and Cameron that most hard rock fans have sincerely missed. From the lead riff, you know you’re listening to a Soundgarden record.
The album progresses to the dynamic one-two punch of “A Thousand Days Before” and “Blood on the Valley Floor,” the former of which displaying an odd Middle Eastern flavor (reminiscent to that of “Head Down” on Superunknown), and the latter taking the Black Sabbath pallette and dipping it into a filthy pool of grungy excellence.
King Animal slows down a bit with the thought-provoking “Bones of Birds,” followed by homage to their Seattle roots in “Taree.” “Attrition” is a quick rocker that reminds everyone of “Kickstand” and “Face Pollution” from yesteryear, before diving into a couple acoustic tunes reflecting on Cornell’s questions and fears in his middle age.
“Worse Dreams” plugs everything back into full swing and stands out as arguably the album’s finest track, featuring a slow, elevator rhythm that builds up to an explosive chorus. If any song on the disc screams “Soundgarden is back,” it would be “Worse Dreams.
The album’s final song, “Rowing,” pays a tribute to the band’s blues influence and tells the haunting tale of life and death, with a chorus that you can’t help but sing along to no matter how wrong it may feel at times.
It took 16 years to happen, but miraculously King Animal picks up where Soundgarden left off on Down on the Upside. It sounds like they never left, with the same kind of energy they had 16 years ago. Maybe age has harmed Cornell’s voice a little bit and there are no rapid-fire songs like “Ty Cobb” or “Jesus Christ Pose,” but it all works out in the end. Soundgarden has a definitive sound people should have expected on a comeback release, and they get their satisfaction on King Animal.
Recommended Tracks: “A Thousand Days Before,” “Blood on the Valley Floor,” “Taree,” “Worse Dreams.”
Overall Rating: 8.5/10