Between fears and hopes, I have a kind of strange, mixed emotions regarding this reunion. Smells more like fishing for “cookies” (cashing-in), rather then fueled by creative impulses. Don’t get me wrong, I was, and still I an a huge “Badmotorfinger” era Soundgarden fan, but “that” Soundgarden it’s long gone and dead. The following two albums, “Superunknown”, respectively their last release of 1996, “Down on the Upside” were less and less impressive, they chosen to go on a more soft, radio/media friendly path and lost their tooth, their… grunge. While drummer Matt Cameron, bass player Ben Shepherd and guitarist Kim Thayil were quite off the radar since their break-up, singer Chris Cornell was hipper active. After a Beatles flavored solo album entitled “Euphoria Morning” and released in 1999, Cornell joint forces with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, then-former members of Rage Against the Machine and formed Audioslave.
After three albums, “Audioslave” (2002), “Out of Exile” (2005), and “Revelations” (2006), Cornell left Audioslave in early 2007, resulting in the band’s break-up. He released his second solo album, “Carry On” in June 2007 and the third, entitled “Scream”, produced by Timbaland, was released in 2009. Both to mixed commercial and critical success, but “Scream” stir up lot of discussions and controversy, gathering mainly reproaches from his previous and Soundgarden fans.
And while Cornell is one of the greatest Rock singers of all times, the only question is who is he actually? The greasy dandy from the “Scream” era, or he is really a Rock-God?
“King Animal”, the band’s first original album in 16 years, it’s a mixture of everything Soundgarden delivered from “Ultramega OK” to “Down on the Upside”. While the album will be released on November 13, 2012 on Seven Four Entertainment/Republic Records, on November 6th, it was leaked to the internet.
01. Been Away Too Long (3:36)
02. Non–State Actor (3:55)
03. By Crooked Steps (3:58)
04. A Thousand Days Before (4:24)
05. Blood On The Valley Floor (3:41)
06. Bones Of Birds (4:19)
07. Taree (3:39)
08. Attrition (2:47)
09. Black Saturday (3:27)
10. Halfway There (3:14)
11. Worse Dreams (4:52)
12. Eyelids Mouth (4:28)
13. Rowing (5:04)
“Been Away Too Long” was the first single to be released on September 27. It’s a heavy, full-mouth Soundgarden take with tasty Southern flavored riffs, pounding drums and Cornell screaming like Dio again. Feels good, sounds good. It’s still not a “Rusty Cage”, not that fast, but mainly not that explosive, but it’s a good comeback. Strangely, reminded me of Queensryche.
The following “Non–State Actor” was released on YouTube on October 31, and the video for the song features an American flag waving back and forth with the “King Animal” logo replacing the stars. This one is heavier and faster, but somehow less convincing. Matt Cameron do a killer job as always, the song have nerve, but something it’s still missing.
“By Crooked Steps” take us back again to the “Badmotorfinger” era heavy Soundgarden, Cornell it’s unleashed, the song pounding and with my good eye closed, it feels like the beginning of the 90s. Probably it’s one of the strongest, one of the best songs from the album, Soundgarden at their best peak.
“A Thousand Days Before” lead us back to “Superunknown”/”Down on the Upside”. Dreamy and smoothly glowing, halfway to be slow, it’s a nice trip of sounds.
“Blood On The Valley Floor” feels more like a fill-up. Designed to be a heavy piece, but that heaviness only cover up the emptiness inside.
“Bones Of Birds” it’s almost a classic Grunge “ballad”, once again Cameron bang his drums heavenly, Kim Thayil playing nicely while the bass of Ben Shepherd it’s murderous here and there. Cornell it’s on the top of his singing – and shining.
“Taree” follow the same slow path down, dream-like fragments are alternated with riffs and moments of heaviness without being aggressive. The solo delivered by Kim Thayil it’s a pearl.
“Attrition” it’s an absolute fill, sounds more like a Kiss track then a Soundgarden Rock train, the vocal build-up it’s interesting, the rest it’s only… Rock’N’Roll.
“Black Saturday” it’s a Southern flavored Blues with typical Soundgarden fluorescence and groovy, twisted in and out, gloomy, but with energy and life pulsing throughout. Very nice blending of flavors and sounds. Definitively another highlight of the album.
“Halfway There” it’s a nice song. Not more, not less, smartly build-up, charming, perfectly arranged and again, with an excellent rhythmical structure.
“Worse Dreams” have a very catchy leading riff, the whole song it’s about that and it’s gloomy atmosphere. The chorus it’s more luminous, once again they try to merge different vibes, shifting moods. And well, the trick worked nicely again.
“Eyelids Mouth” reminds me of “Spoonman”. Strange song, but kind of hypnotizing. The chorus sounds like: “Voulez vous coucher avec moi (ce soir. 😉 )”. Thayil have some killer solos again.
“Rowing” sounds like a tribal incantation, very smooth and hypnotic closing of the album, inspired as well, leave you an exotic taste, reminded me of “Anonymous”, the album by Tomahawk which features Native American music that guitarist Duane Denison researched. Anyway, this is almost the best song of the album, which is also quite strange.
Convinced? Not really, although “King Animal” it’s definitively more vivid and more alive then their previous “Down on the Upside”. They are definitively back in business, but feels like it’s the case that Zappa made fun of it: we’re only in it for the money. Reunions are mainly only about that, isn’t it? When you can move forward, you go back. On the other hand “King Animal” it’s not that bad.