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Soundgarden, ‘King Animal’ – Album Review

Seven Four Entertainment/Republic

With a monstrous 16 year hiatus between Soundgarden‘s last studio release and their newest offering ‘King Animal,’ the group’s fans likely had a lot of questions leading up to the return of one of rock’s most beloved bands.

The biggest question of course lies within their sound. While it helped mold a new revolutionary genre back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, does it have staying power for a whole new century? The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ ‘King Animal’ settles in nicely, picking up right where the band left off so many years ago and taking care of a lot of unfinished business. ‘King Animal’ displays the familiar sounds of Soundgarden without getting too caught up in nostalgia, something that can often handcuff bands trying to rise up from the ashes of their past.

The band, feeling revitalized and a sense of renewal with this disc, see their reunion as more of a rebirth rather than a comeback, and the creative inspiration fueling that sentiment can be felt throughout ‘King Animal.’ Although the vibe is undeniably Soundgarden — moody, groove-laden rock — the band’s evolution is on full display, as Chris Cornell’s iconic vocals and Kim Thayil’s guitar work provide a sonic power that’s impeccably complemented by the the rhythm section of drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd.

The first single ‘Been Away Too Long’ serves as a battle cry for the band’s triumphant return. It’s almost as if the band wrote a personal letter to their fans with Cornell’s brooding confessions, “I’ve been away for too long” and “I only ever really wanted a break.” Sixteen years may have been too long indeed, but Soundgarden are clearly back.

With everyone in the band with at least one writing credit to their name on ‘King Animal,’ the songs cover a lot of sonic terrain from the explosive drums that fuel ‘By Crooked Steps’ to the ethereal swirling vocals on ‘Blood on the Valley Floor.’ The haunting lingering vibe left by the intricate web of sound spun in ‘Bones of Birds’ is arguably one of the disc’s best offerings, followed by the visual soundscape painted by ‘Taree.’ ‘King Animal’ offers up an eclectic mix of visual imagery, thought provoking prose, all set to a timeless soundscape of flourishing rock with a reminiscent feel.

In music, it’s sometimes difficult to stand the test of time but Soundgarden prove with ‘King Animal’ that they did not reassemble simply to preserve a legacy but to build on one that’s already firmly in place.

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