Soundgarden is back, and they sound better than ever with their recent release, “King Animal.” The album is the Seattle-based grunge group’s first in 16 years.
Though the wait for the album has been that of Guns N’ Roses proportions, upon listening it’s like the band never left at all. “King Animal” picks up right where their last album, “Down on the Upside” left off by sticking to a similar sound.
The album opens with the first single, appropriately titled “Been Away Too Long.” The track begins with a slow, guitar fade in from Kim Thayil’s and immediately rips into a punk-influenced riff. Lead singer Chris Cornell belts out powerful, upbeat lyrics about the band’s recent comeback before announcing to the listener that they have, in fact, “been away for too long.” The band couldn’t have picked a better song to kick off a comeback record.
The next track, “Non-State Actor,” begins by showcasing the talent that is Thayil’s ability to create a melodic riff. It sounds as though the riff is falling into itself, creating a controlled-chaos vibe that sets the tone for the song. Soon, Cornell launches into a blood-curdling scream that’s reminiscent of his Audioslave days.
A song titled “By Crooked Step” follows and continues the same style. A crucial drum pattern created by Matt Cameron, who some might recognize as the drummer for Pearl Jam, weaves perfectly with the bass and guitar to create a cohesive piece of music.
On tracks “Blood on the Valley Floor” and “Bones of Birds,” Cornell returns to melodic vocals famously found on other Soundgarden tracks, like “The Day I Tried to Live” and “Fell on Black Days.”
The sixth track on the record, “Taree,” has been described by the band as an “ode to nature.” The song has a haunting melody accompanied by spooky lyrics like: “In the bones and the blood flowing needles on the ground / In the ether I sail to you floating on the fumes / Run aground on the shore for your simple wreckage.” According to Cornell, the song was written before the band broke up in 1997.
Interestingly, the 12th track on the album, “Eyelid’s Mouth,” features a special appearance by Pearl Jam guitarist, Mike McCready. The song features Cornell successfully reaching the high ranges he used to hit back in the ’90s. The guitar solos by McCready and Thayil are the most impressive one featured on the album. Varying in speed and use of the effects, the solos embodies the spirit of grunge guitar playing. The song makes it clear that grunge is far from dead and the genre still has much to offer. The final cut on the album is a bluesy track by the name of “Rowing.” Whether or not Cornell is trying to address the future of the band is unclear, but the final words sung on the track is the monotone chorus: “Don’t know where I’m going I just keep on rowing / I just keep on pulling, gotta row.”
Overall, the record has achieved great reviews. Hopefully this won’t be the last we hear from Soundgarden. After years of separation that featured a number of musical projects by band members, including the amazing supergroup Audioslave, Soundgarden is just as heavy as they were in ’97.