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Soundgarden - "King Animal" (CD)

Soundgarden - "King Animal" CD cover image

"King Animal" track listing:

1. Been Away Too Long
2. Non-State Actor
3. By Crooked Steps
4. A Thousand Days Before
5. Blood On The Valley Floor
6. Bones Of Birds
7. Taree
8. Attrition
9. Black Saturday
10. Halfway There
11. Worse Dreams
12. Eyelid's Mouth
13. Rowing

Reviewed by on November 22, 2012

"Soundgarden's 'King Animal' isn't just a great comeback album, it's easily one of the best records of the year. Moreover, it ranks right up there with grunge classics 'Badmotorfinger' and 'Superunknown.'"

It's rare that a band comes back after a huge hiatus and manages to shake the dust off as well as Soundgarden does on "King Animal." It may be true, as Chris Cornell sings, that the band has "been away for too long," but they manage to pick up the pieces of the band that created "Badmotorfinger" and "Superunknown" and glue them right back together, with nary a seam showing.

It's hard to believe that it's been 16 years since the somewhat underwhelming "Down On The Upside," after which the band broke up. Nothing any of the members have done since has had as much significance, though drummer Matt Cameron has recorded some good albums with fellow grunge-sters Pearl Jam, while Cornell created some decent solo albums and a trio of so-so Audioslave albums with members of Rage Against the Machine.

From the first notes of "Been Away For Too Long," it's clear that everyone is back where they belong. Kim Thayil's monstrous riffs have been often imitated over the past decade and a half, but never equalled, which makes the fact that we get a whole bunch of new ones all that more enjoyable. The ax-man's work on tracks like "By Crooked Steps" and "Taree" has a splendid '70s feel that recalls the likes of Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page, with the solo on the latter track especially fun to listen to.

Cornell's vocals are as impressive as ever, digging down into a nice lower range on tracks like "Attrition," while they reach for the stratosphere on "By Crooked Steps." He brings a welcome rawer quality to tracks like "Non-State Actor," adding a good bit of grit.

One thing that's notably different on this album compared with Soundgarden's earlier albums is Matt Cameron's drumming. Where the earlier albums were much more focused on heaviness, Cameron brings a more upbeat feel that's definitely akin to his playing in Pearl Jam. For the most part, it works well, but the album's weakest track, "Worse Dreams" feels all the weaker for its lack of heft on the percussion side. Still, "Worse Dreams" is better than virtually anything Audioslave put out, so it's not like Soundgarden fans will mind much.

Soundgarden's "King Animal" isn't just a great comeback album, it's easily one of the best records of the year. Moreover, it ranks right up there with grunge classics "Badmotorfinger" and "Superunknown.

Highs: "Been Away For Too Long," "Taree" and "Non-State Actor."

Lows: "Worse Dreams" isn't bad, but it is the least good song on the album.

Bottom line: A superlative comeback album that equals the band's previous classics.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)