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Soundgarden

Soundgarden made a place for heavy metal in alternative rock. Their fellow Seattle rockers Green River may have spearheaded the grungesound, but they relied on noise rock in the vein of the Stooges. Similarly, Jane's Addiction were too fascinated with prog rock andperformance art to appeal to a wide array of metal fans. Soundgarden, however, developed directly out of the grandiose blues-rock of LedZeppelin and the sludgy, slow riffs of Black Sabbath. Which isn't to say they were a straight-ahead metal band. Soundgarden borrowed theD.I.Y. aesthetics of punk, melding their guitar-driven soun ...read more

Soundgarden made a place for heavy metal in alternative rock. Their fellow Seattle rockers Green River may have spearheaded the grungesound, but they relied on noise rock in the vein of the Stooges. Similarly, Jane's Addiction were too fascinated with prog rock andperformance art to appeal to a wide array of metal fans. Soundgarden, however, developed directly out of the grandiose blues-rock of LedZeppelin and the sludgy, slow riffs of Black Sabbath. Which isn't to say they were a straight-ahead metal band. Soundgarden borrowed theD.I.Y. aesthetics of punk, melding their guitar-driven sound with an intelligence and ironic sense of humor that was indebted to the Americanunderground of the mid-'80s. Furthermore, the band rarely limited itself to simple, pounding riffs, often making detours into psychedelia. Butthe group's key sonic signatures -- the gutsy wail of vocalist Chris Cornell and the winding riffs of guitarist Kim Thayil -- were what broughtthem out of the underground. Not only were they one of the first groups to record for the legendary Seattle indie Sub Pop, but they were thefirst grunge band to sign to a major label. In fact, most critics expected Soundgarden to be the band that broke down the doors foralternative rock, not Nirvana. However, the group didn't experience an across-the-board success until 1994, when Superunknown became anumber one hit.

For a band so heavily identified with the Seattle scene, it's 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 collegeafter high school graduation in 1981. Though none of them completed college, all of them became involved in the Washington undergroundmusic scene. Pavitt was the only one who didn't play -- he founded a fanzine that later became the Sub Pop record label. Yamamoto played inseveral cover bands before forming a band in 1984 with his roommate Chris Cornell (vocals), a Seattle native who had previously playeddrums in several bands. Thayil soon joined the duo and the group named itself Soundgarden after a local Seattle sculpture. Scott Sundquistwas originally the band'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 the EP ScreamingLife appeared later in the year. Screaming Life and the group's second EP, 1988's FOPP, became underground hits and earned the attention ofseveral major-labels. The band decided to sign to SST instead of a major, releasing Ultramega OK by the end of 1988. Ultramega OKreceived strong reviews among alternative and metal publications, and the group decided to make the leap to a major for its next album,1989's Louder Than Love. Released on A&M Records, Louder Than Love became a word-of-mouth hit, earning positive reviews frommainstream 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. Jason Everman, a former guitarist for Nirvana, briefly played with the band before Ben Shepherdjoined in early 1990.

Soundgarden's third album, 1991's Badmotorfinger, was heavily anticipated by many industry observers as a potential breakout hit. Though itwas a significant hit, reaching number 39 on the album charts, its success was overshadowed by the surprise success of Nirvana'sNevermind, which was released the same month as Badmotorfinger. Prior to Nevermind, Soundgarden had been marketed by A&M as a metalband, and the group had agreed to support Guns N' Roses on the fall 1991 Lose Your Illusion tour. While the tour did help sales, Soundgardenbenefited primarily from the grunge explosion, whose media attention helped turn the band into stars. The band was also helped by the TopTen success of Temple of the Dog, a tribute to deceased Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood that Cornell and Cameron recorded withmembers of Pearl Jam.

By the spring release of 1994's Superunknown, Soundgarden's following had grown considerably, which meant that the album debuted atnumber one upon its release. (A year before its release, Shepherd and Cameron released an eponymous album by their side project, Hater.)Superunknown became one of the most popular records of 1994, generating a genuine crossover hit with "Black Hole Sun," selling over threemillion copies and earning two Grammys. Soundgarden returned in 1996 with Down on the 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 asizable audience -- the album did go platinum, and they were co-headliners on the sixth Lollapalooza -- but they didn't replicate theblockbuster success of Superunknown. After completing an American tour following Lollapalooza that was plagued by rumors of internalfighting, Soundgarden announced that 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 touring as Audioslavewith former members of Rage Against the Machine. Cameron toured his Wellwater Conspiracy project, and also played and recorded withSmashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. Thayil collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Cameron, Dave Grohl, Steve Fisk, and Boris.Meanwhile, Shepherd helped out with Wellwater Conspiracy, and also played and recorded with Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees. Finally, in2010, the band announced a reunion with a few live shows during the summer (including that year's edition of Lollapalooza) which preceded acompilation, Telephantasm, in the fall. Telephantasm was initially available as a double-disc set on September 28, with a single-disc versionappearing a week later (the single-disc was also included in Guitar Hero on September 28). In 2011, Soundgarden released their first livealbum, Live on I-5, which featured material recorded during the band's supporting tour for Down on the Upside. All of this activity would bethe prelude to Soundgarden's full-on return in 2012, when they released their sixth album, King Animal, in the fall of that year.

King Animal debuted at five on the Billboard Top 200 upon its November 2012 release and the band supported it throughout the next year witha tour. Matt Cameron took a hiatus from the band in November 2013 due to commitments with Pearl Jam; former Pearl Jam drummer MattChamberlain replaced him for live dates in 2014. That year, Soundgarden celebrated the 25th anniversary of Superunknown with the releaseof two deluxe editions of the 1991 album: a double-disc set and a seven-disc Super Deluxe box set. During 2015, Chris Cornell mentioned thatSoundgarden had started working on material for a new studio set and the band made it official in 2016, announcing that they were beginningto record an album. In the meantime, the band released a deluxe reissue of Ultramega OK in March 2017. However, while on tour with thegroup two months later, Cornell was found dead from suicide by hanging in his Detroit hotel room following a show at the city's Fox Theater;he was 52 years old. « hide

Similar Bands: Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Melvins, Chris Cornell, Nirvana

LPs
King Animal
11/13/2012

3.5
707 Votes
Down on the Upside
1996

3.7
1,154 Votes
Superunknown
1994

4.3
2,833 Votes
Badmotorfinger
1991

4.1
1,889 Votes
Louder Than Love
1989

3.5
719 Votes
Ultramega OK
1988

3.3
525 Votes
EPs
Songs from the Superunknown
1995

3.2
30 Votes
Satan oscillate my metallic sonataS
1992

3.6
25 Votes
Loudest Love
1990

3.8
21 Votes
Fopp
1988

2.9
67 Votes
Screaming Life
1987

3.6
90 Votes
Live Albums
Live on I-5
2011

3.1
49 Votes
Compilations
Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path
2014

3.8
16 Votes
Telephantasm
2010

3.9
71 Votes
Fresh Deadly Rarities
2000

4.1
10 Votes
A-Sides
1997

3.9
224 Votes
Alive in the Superunknown
1995

4.1
10 Votes
Screaming Life/Fopp
1990

3.5
90 Votes

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