Review Summary: After 16 years we finally have a new Soundgarden album, an album for which every Soundgarden fan has hoped for.
Over one and a half decades is a lot of time for a band to stay apart. Many changes might occur, changes which often wouldn't be considered the good kind, changes which might make you ask yourself: 'Why do these guys even bother playing anymore?'. Well fear no more, this is NOT the case with Soundgarden.
Most of the songs off King Animal could have easily been recorded in the 90s and we wouldn't know. You can experience the feel of Louder Than Love with energy from Badmotorfinger and great song writing from Superunknown and Down on The Upside. However these guys are not at all repetitive and throw some unique new techniques which easily stand up to the ones from previous albums.
The instrumental side of the album is as good as ever, maybe even better. While Chris's vocals make you wonder: 'Is that guy really 48??' The messed up time signatures are present, Matt's amazing drumming and Kim's heavy, dark and haunting riffs did not disappear either.
Now to the track-by-track reviews:
Been Away Too Long: First single off the album, not everybody was too crazy about it. Why? Without a doubt it is a good song, however for Soundgarden standards average seems to be a better description. Crunchy riffs and powerful vocals however nothing mind blowing when it comes to vocal melodies. The bridge is surely the best part of the song and it is that part that makes you want to come back to this song. 6/10
Non-State Actor: Really groovy song, slightly punky even. Kim's riffs don’t disappoint while Chris's singing in the verses really keeps the song melodic and interesting. Overall it’s a really cool of mix of some sweet riffs. 7/10
By Crooked Steps: Great Badmotorfinger feel to it, a lot of energy. A nice heavy riff and really contrasting vocals which make the song one of the better on the album, not much else I can say, absolute must-listen-to. 10/10
A Thousand Days Before: A really appealing instrumental intro, a soft guitar which goes into a classic Soundgarden riff. A song which really well contributes to the record, it builds up into kind of a chorus towards the end which is a really good and rewarding ending. 8/10
Blood on The Valley Floor: An amazing dark and heavy riff throughout the song, powerful vocals. This is typical Soundgarden nothing more nothing less. The guitar parts just want to make you bang you head, great listen. 9/10
Bones Of Birds: A beautiful song with great lyrics about parenthood from Cornell. A haunting guitar part throughout the song, containing great vocals and a lot of emotion. Towards the end of the song Kim makes his guitar sound like a bunch of birds squealing. Overall this is without a doubt one of the best songs on this album, maybe even in Soundgarden’s career. 10/10
Taree: This one is a bluesy one. It was written back in the 90s before the band broke up, well we can be thankful they decided to record it and put it here. Interesting vocals throughout the song, definitely something to come back to. 8/10
Attrition: Really up-beat song, really cool melodies. Reminds me of ‘Kickstand’ from Superunknown. Some might consider it a filler track but I think it easily deserves a place on this record. 7/10
Black Saturday: Now here it starts to get really interesting, acoustic even slightly experimental but how greatly performed. The verses are mind blowing and the choruses are not any worse. There is a really sudden transition to a really psychedelic solo, unexpected but not at all in a bad way. Instrumentally this song is one of Soundgarden’s best. 9/10
Halfway There: Another acoustic, unfortunately it doesn’t even come close to the previous one. This is the weakest point of the album. This sounds more like Chris’s solo work than anything else. Catchy? Yes, but maybe not in the way we would want it. 4/10
Worse Dreams: If I was to describe this song in one word it would have to be ‘messed up’, of course in the best way possible. It starts off with a really catchy bass riff which straight away makes you think ‘something good is gonna come out of this’. And most certainly it does. We have everything we could want from Soundgarden here; great choruses, sick bass and guitar riffs, messed up time signatures, screaming and crazy drumming. 9/10
Eyelid’s Mouth: Another typical Soundgarden sounding song, once again this could have been on Badmotorfinger and would not at all be out of place. Bass riff starts off then guitars join in vocals are great throughout the whole track but what really sticks is the chorus; ‘Who let the water run down?’ Once heard will stay with you. 9/10
Rowing: Truly experimental song, some really good bass riffs accompanied by interesting vocals, it gets even better towards the end, once again this is a song to which you simply cannot listen to just once, it will haunt you until you listen to it again. 8/10
Overall I was really impressed with the whole album, these guys have certainly been away for too long, but maybe that’s what made them sound the way they do. There are really few weak points on the album which is great. King Animal is exactly what any Soundgarden could hope for after a 16 year break.
Recommended track (almost all but a few really stand out):
By Crooked Steps
Blood On the Valley Floor
Bones of Birds