Soundgarden’s new album King Animal is a blast from the past. From the first few chords of “Been Away Too Long”, you feel like you’re back in 1991, jamming to grunge music while sipping your Starbucks coffee in your plaid shirt. In Soundgarden’s first disc in 16 years, the Seattle based band whisk their music back into their glory days of the early 90’s effortlessly. The result is a refreshing and fun reboot of grunge rock.
Soundgarden has always gone the way of Chris Cornell. When he is doing his best, it sounds like Robert Plant was born again in Seattle. But when he tries to take too much control over the band or his singing, it has almost always imploded. Cornell is the one who messed things up in the first place, when he insisted the band change up their sound for their 1996 album Down on the Upside. The band used a considerable amount of acoustic sounds, and generally went away from the heavy metal thunder they were producing earlier in their career. And then their was Cornell’s most recent album. Scream, his take on metal produced by Timbaland, was quite honestly the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever had the displeasure of listening to.
Luckily, things are quite different on Animal King. Cornell takes a minimalists amount of control over what the rest of the band attempts to do, and the result is the heaviest album Chris Cornell has been a part of in years. The singer is in rare form, belting out heavy sounding jams the way he did when Kurt Cobain was still alive. On “Taree”, Cornell provides his best vocal performance in years, sounding amazing, yet still providing plenty of room for the heavy riff. Which brings me to the best part of Animal King. These are some of the heaviest songs I’ve ever heard all year. In the middle of the album, there is a three song collection that could out-heavy any other album this year. “Blood on the Valley Floor”, “Bones of Birds”, and “Taree”, all are some of the hardest rocking songs the band has ever recorded, period. “Blood on the Valley Floor” especially, has one of the best riffs in a Soundgarden song ever.
King Animal is essentially a reboot of the Soundgarden legacy. Its the band’s best album since Superunknown, and is one of the best albums in the year in my opinion. King Animal is heavy, bad-ass, but most importantly, fun. You can tell on songs like “Halfway There” and “On Crooked Steps” that this is the most fun the band has had in years, and it makes for a very awesome listen. The album is grunge without the depression, and in the end its one of the best albums to come out from a grunge band in a while.