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Soundgarden

Soundgarden made a place for heavy metal in alternative rock. Their fellow Seattle rockers Green River may havespearheaded the grunge sound, but they relied on noise rock in the vein of the Stooges. Similarly, Jane's Addiction were toofascinated with prog rock and performance art to appeal to a wide array of metal fans. Soundgarden, however, developeddirectly out of the grandiose blues-rock of Led Zeppelin and the sludgy, slow riffs of Black Sabbath. Which isn't to say theywere a straight-ahead metal band. Soundgarden borrowed the D.I.Y. aesthetics of punk, melding their guitar-driven soundwit ...read more

Soundgarden made a place for heavy metal in alternative rock. Their fellow Seattle rockers Green River may havespearheaded the grunge sound, but they relied on noise rock in the vein of the Stooges. Similarly, Jane's Addiction were toofascinated with prog rock and performance art to appeal to a wide array of metal fans. Soundgarden, however, developeddirectly out of the grandiose blues-rock of Led Zeppelin and the sludgy, slow riffs of Black Sabbath. Which isn't to say theywere a straight-ahead metal band. Soundgarden borrowed the D.I.Y. aesthetics of punk, melding their guitar-driven soundwith an intelligence and ironic sense of humor that was indebted to the American underground of the mid-'80s. Furthermore,the band rarely limited itself to simple, pounding riffs, often making detours into psychedelia. But the group's key sonicsignatures -- the gutsy wail of vocalist Chris Cornell and the winding riffs of guitarist Kim Thayil -- were what brought themout of the underground. Not only were they one of the first groups to record for the legendary Seattle indie Sub Pop, butthey were the first grunge band to sign to a major label. In fact, most critics expected Soundgarden to be the band thatbroke down the doors for alternative rock, not Nirvana. However, the group didn't experience an across-the-board successuntil 1994, when Superunknown became a number one hit.

For a band so heavily identified with the Seattle scene, its ironic that two of its founding members were from the Midwest.Kim Thayil (guitar), Hiro Yamamoto (bass), and Bruce Pavitt were all friends in Illinois who decided to head to Olympia,Washington, to attend college after high-school graduation in 1981. Though none of the three completed college, all of thembecame involved in the Washington underground music scene. Pavitt was the only one who didn't play -- he founded afanzine that later became the Sub Pop record label. Yamamoto played in several cover bands before forming a band in 1984with his roommate Chris Cornell (vocals), a Seattle native who had previously played drums in several bands. Thayil soonjoined the duo and the group named itself Soundgarden after a local Seattle sculpture. Scott Sundquist originally was theband's drummer, but he was replaced by Matt Cameron in 1986. Over the next two years, Soundgarden gradually built up adevoted cult following through their club performances.

Pavitt signed Soundgarden to his fledgling Sub Pop label in the summer of 1987, releasing the single "Hunted Down" before theEP Screaming Life appeared later in the year. Screaming Life and the group's second EP, 1988's FOPP, became undergroundhits and earned the attention of several major labels. The band decided to sign to SST instead of a major, releasingUltramega OK by the end of 1988. Ultramega OK received strong reviews among alternative and metal publications, and thegroup decided to make the leap to a major for its next album, 1989's Louder Than Love. Released on A&M Records, LouderThan Love became a word-of-mouth hit, earning positive reviews from mainstream publications, peaking at 108 on the charts,and earning a Grammy nomination. Following the album's fall 1989 release, Yamamoto left the band to return to school. JasonEverman, a former guitarist for Nirvana, briefly played with the band before Ben Shepherd joined in early 1990.

Soundgarden's third album, 1991's Badmotorfinger, was heavily anticipated by many industry observers as a potentialbreakout hit. Though it was a significant hit, reaching number 39 on the album charts, its success was overshadowed by thesurprise success of Nirvana's Nevermind, which was released the same month as Badmotorfinger. Prior to Nevermind,Soundgarden had been marketed by A&M as a metal band, and the group had agreed to support Guns n' Roses on the fall1991 Lose Your Illusion tour. While the tour did help sales, Soundgarden benefited primarily from the grunge explosion, whosemedia attention helped turn the band into stars. The band was also helped by the Top Ten success of Temple of the Dog, atribute to deceased Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood that Cornell and Cameron recorded with members of Pearl Jam.

By the spring release of 1994's Superunknown, Soundgarden's following had grown considerably, which meant that the albumdebuted at number one upon its release. (A year before its release, Shepherd and Cameron released an eponymous album bytheir side project, Hater.) Superunknown became one of the most popular records of 1994, generating a genuine crossover hitwith "Black Hole Sun," selling over three million copies and earning two Grammys. Soundgarden returned in 1996 with Down onthe Upside, which entered the charts at number two. Despite the record's strong initial sales, it failed to generate a big hit,and was hurt by grunge's fading popularity. Soundgarden retained a sizable audience -- the album did go platinum, and theywere co-headliners on the sixth Lollapalooza -- but they didn't replicate the blockbuster success of Superunknown. Aftercompleting an American tour following Lollapalooza that was plagued by rumors of internal fighting, Soundgarden announcedthat they were breaking up on April 9, 1997, to pursue other interests.

During the late '90s and 2000s, each member kept very busy. Cornell released three solo albums, also recording and touringas Audioslave with former members of Rage Against the Machine. Cameron toured his Wellwater Conspiracy project, and alsoplayed and recorded with Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. Thayil collaborated with a wide range of artists, includingCameron, Dave Grohl, Steve Fisk, and Boris. Meanwhile, Shepherd helped out with Wellwater Conspiracy, and also played andrecorded with Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees. Finally, in 2010, the band announced a reunion with a few live shows duringthe summer (including that year's edition of Lollapalooza) which preceded a compilation, Telephantasm, in the fall.Telephantasm was initially available as a double-disc set on September 28, with a single-disc version appearing a week later(the single disc was also included via Guitar Hero on September 28). In 2011, Soundgarden released their first live album, Liveon I-5, which featured material recorded during the band's supporting tour for Down on the Upside. All of this activity wouldbe the prelude to Soundgarden's full-on return in 2012, when they released their sixth album, King Animal, in the fall of thatyear. « hide

Similar Bands: Nirvana, Skid Row, Alice in Chains, Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam

LPs
King Animal
11/13/2012

3.6
468 Votes
Down on the Upside
1996

3.7
854 Votes
Superunknown
1994

4.3
2,084 Votes
Badmotorfinger
1991

4.1
1,367 Votes
Louder Than Love
1989

3.5
491 Votes
Ultramega OK
1988

3.3
365 Votes
EPs
Songs from the Superunknown
1995

3.2
25 Votes
Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas
1992

3.4
17 Votes
Loudest Love
1990

3.8
13 Votes
Flower
1989

3.2
25 Votes
Fopp
1988

2.9
45 Votes
Screaming Life
1987

3.7
55 Votes
Live Albums
Live on I-5
2011

3.1
39 Votes
Compilations
Telephantasm
2010

3.9
55 Votes
Fresh Deadly Rarities
2000

4
9 Votes
A-Sides
1997

3.9
204 Votes
Alive in the Superunknown
1995

4.1
8 Votes
Screaming Life/Fopp
1990

3.5
71 Votes

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