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Album Review: Soundgarden – King Animal

4 min read

Rising from Seattle’s emerging  grunge scene back in the early eighties, rock icons Soundgarden made their way to music’s top shelf in 1994 with the release of their international breakthrough release, Superunknown, a record that launched the outfit into rocks mainstream with singles that included Black Hole Sun and Spoonman, both of which garnished the band with Grammy’s for their songwriting labors.

SoundgardenKingAnimalSoundgarden formed in 1984 and with their brand of alternative rock and the distinctive vocal style of Cornell, became one of the seminal bands that helped develop and push the grunge movement into mainstream popularity in the nineties alongside fellow grunge heavyweights, Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

The band also made an acclaimed star out of its front man Chris Cornell who has, over the years following the bands unveiling onto the mainstream, carved quite a lucrative songwriting and recording career of his own, proving capable of fronting a top selling band and running a very successful solo career particularly during the bands hiatus.

Soundgarden always seemed destined to reunite at some point. It was always just a matter of when it would happen.  The band’s first new material was offered to us earlier in the year with the song Live To Rise which was featured on the soundtrack to The Avengers. Though the song failed to offer a groundbreaking return for Soundgarden, it did deliver promise that a reunion was well and truly on the horizon. That hope has now blossomed into reality as the band are on the verge of releasing their first full length studio record in 15 years, King Animal.

While lengthy hiatus’ break most bands when they attempt a comeback, time seems to have been generous to Soundgarden as we hear when we listen to the new record. Most of the qualities that made the act a force to be reckoned with throughout the nighties can still be found on King Animal leaving no reason to feel too estranged from the band.

They kick the affair off with the opening Been Away Too Long. They couldn’t have chosen a more appropriately titled track to start the record off and front the record as its lead single given their absence as a unit. A little too obvious? Perhaps, but the number does a fantastic job at ushering back one of alternative rocks most influential and pioneering collectives. The track combines the bands signature guitar whirlings as they crash around lyrics like ‘no one knows where the edge of the knife is, no one knows where intelligent life is’ showing off the bands still evident song-smith skills.

Notable numbers found on the record find their footing predominantly within the opening half of the record. A guitar riff led, psychedelic instrumentation paces us through Non-State Actor and contains some impressive vocal arrangements that Cornell holds on to tightly. That same psychedelic sound finds its way into the following metal-edged By Crooked Steps, easily one of the more hardcore coated pennings included on the album and one that showcases Cornell’s vocals as they swing from brutal metal screamer to effortless vocal crooner in one quick movement.

Further in we are offered a bass heavy track in the form of Bones of Birds. For this addition the band turn the tempo down and reveal a softer track that could easily have been included on their breakthrough Superunknown release, sounding like Soundgarden in their peak years but still retaining a fresh quality to it as well as some effective harmonies dotted within the mid-section of the track.

Powerful guitar solos are included on numbers like the following Taree while the band dabble in acoustic territory on Black Saturday which allows Cornell to offer a track quite close to his own solo sound. The track also includes a haunting dream sequence which finds a complimenting position near the end of the number.

King Animal displays a creature that has emerged from hibernation and roars to life from the get-go.  With so long out of the public eye as a band, King Animal undoubtedly comes with high expectations layered upon it. With the offering of 13 brand new tracks for fans to wrap their ears around, there isn’t too much on the new record that can be faulted. The band show they are still able to churn out some fairly meaty tracks and Cornell’s vocals seem unweathered against the bands intricate instrumentation here. There isn’t really much more than can be asked for on a comeback album from these guys!

Buy ‘Soundgarden – King Animal’ from Amazon