Soundgarden – King Animal album review

While the days of grunge galore remain frozen in the ‘90s, your best excuse to plunge back into said era is via none other than Soundgarden’s latest, King Animal.

Hailing from Seattle, Washington—aka grungeland—Soundgarden was founded back in 1984 by singer Chris Cornell, bassist Hiro Yamamoto, and guitarist Kim Thayil. While the line-up has changed a few times since then, it currently consists of Cornell, Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron, and bassist Ben Shepherd. By the time 1994’s smash hit Superunknown came around, they’d already released 3 albums—Ultramega OK (1988), Louder Than Love (1989), and Badmotorfinger (1991). Indeed, if the name Soundgarden instantly brings to mind lyrics to “Black Hole Sun,” it’s thanks to their highly successful fourth album Superunknown. The experimental album Down On The Upside followed in 1996, after which the band split up due to artistic differences. Indeed, it wasn’t until 2010—13 years later—that the band reunited, leading to the compilation album Telephantasm. The band, along with other native Seattle groups such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, is credited with popularizing the grunge rock music movement that remains highly influential to this day.

Produced by both the band and Adam Kasper, King Animal—the band’s 6th studio album and first creatively new album in 16 years—was released on November 12th, 2012 on Seven Four Entertainment. Long hiatus notwithstanding, the album is no far cry from what longtime fans would expect. “Been Away Too Long” figures as an angst-filled comeback, followed by the well-timed, politically-influenced “Non-State Actor.” For gritty guitars and full-blown rock edginess, look no further than the rebellious, scream-tinged “By Crooked Steps” and the high-powered “Attrition.” “A Thousand Days Before” contemplates life to psychedelic vibes as “Blood On The Valley Floor” enthralls with its intense guitar riffs. “Worse Dreams” channels morbidity and early Pink Floyd, before closing with the bittersweet nod to endurance that is “Rowing.”

The band’s been away too long, but Soundgarden hasn’t lost its ability to deliver rockin’ material to delightfully eager fans. While no one can expect time to stand still, King Animal overall maintains the band’s signature grunge elements, thanks to highly skilled acoustics and Cornell’s amazing vocals set to cryptic lyrics. It’s also refreshing for the band to resurface now, as their style contrasts what’s most popular these days.

They might ‘not know where they’re going,’ but something tells me they won’t need to worry about that.

By Natacha Pavlov

Natacha Pavlov is an avid reader, writer, and traveler. Aside from eating ridiculous amounts of chocolate from her native Belgium, she can be found consuming large quantities of tea, falafel and lebneh in the lovely Bay Area.

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