One of the most hyped alternative metal albums of 2012 is Soundgarden’s King Animal release, their first album since their 1996 Down on the Upside album. Was it worth the long wait and hype? The answer can be heard in the opening notes of “Been Away Too Long.” If you get a chill up the back of your spine, the answer is yes. If the answer is no, you just don’t get it and should go crank the Black Album.
The long wait was so long, it was almost shocking to hear the raw, unfamiliar sound of Kim Thayil’s signature dark, strange guitar, the unpredictable flow from track to track, and the unparalleled metal vocals of singer Chris Cornell. This is the sound of a once well oiled machine being turned back on after 15 years of being on hiatus. This machine that is Soundgarden never became old or out of style, it just stopped inexplicably.
Upon the first listen, King Animal is disappointing. It’s the second and third listen that will have you realize how refreshing the album is. For those of you that listened to any Seattle band back in the early 90’s, the first listen was always difficult. We were complacent with glam metal and radio friendly rock, and this was a shock to the senses. The first time I heard “Jesus Christ Pose,” I thought it was garbage. The third time I heard it, it wasn’t on the radio, it was on my CD player. The rock environment is much the same today, and King Animal can’t be properly digested without a couple of listens to appreciate its greatness. In an era of post-grunge, Nickelback, Three Days Grace, Seether, and Alterbridge, King Animal is a welcome kick in the ass.
The sound on King Animal could be described as grunge, but there are many elements that have moved beyond that. The entire album has a very dark, sludgy sound that sounds like the skies are turning black and about to open up. The tempo on most songs are not fast, and the overall tone harkens back more to Black Sabbath than it does to Superunknown. There are a few acoustic numbers on here that outshine previous acoustic Soundgarden tracks.
The vocals on King Animal are on par with any other Soundgarden album. There could be some very slight influences of Audioslave and solo Chris Cornell music throughout, but the bigger picture here is classic Soundgarden, with even more maturity.
Metal fans will likely find this album soft, but the acoustic and slower numbers grow on you. If you find that the tempo bothers you, listen again. This album is a grower and should be regarded as a classic metal release in the years to come.
For those purchasing the deluxe edition in the USA, the final three tracks are a nice bonus that offers less polished versions of three tracks.
- Been Away Too Long
- By Crooked Steps
- B lood on the Valley Floor