Soundgarden
King Animal


4.5
superb

Review

by Soundknight USER (10 Reviews)
November 28th, 2012 | 12 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist


When Soundgarden first got back together many asked, what does this return mean? Having already accomplished what few bands have, what do they have left to prove? That after four presidential elections they can still pick up their instruments and play? No, that's not it. King Animal proves much more.

Soundgarden fans will notice a new sound in the garden, and while each Soundgarden album broke new ground, King Animal does to a further extent. They seem more reserved, and yet more masterful for it. In a positive fashion, the maturity of the band is evident, as this album holds tracks that a younger Soundgarden couldn't represent. Down on the Upside foreshadowed this change in sound, King animal runs with it.

As a whole King Animal's style is fresh and new, yet it's details are reminiscent of albums prior. For example, the song progression and echo-guitar effects on "Bones of Birds" may rekindle a certain "Black Hole Sun", and Cornell's abstract lyrics, like those found on "Worse Dreams", might remind some of the lunacy "Drawing Flies" once offered. This connection to their previous work should allow for Soundgarden to venture further without abandoning their fans, often an issue for bands with indistinctive qualities.

Lead vocalist, Chris Cornell, is essentially in competition with his former self. It is hardly a fair match, but 'Twenty-Twelve' Cornell brings a decent fight. Out of the thirteen rounds, the closer "Rowing" is his best fought. Cornell, singing in an old blues style, features his falsetto and makes best use of his what range he has left. There are moments when you can hear that age has caught up with him, namely on "Non-State Actor" and "By Crooked Steps". Despite this however, both are excellent tracks in their own right.

Lyrically, King Animal stays true to it's album cover, revolving around themes like survival, water, nature, and healing. Chris' vocal delivery throughout the album is notably sincere. A creepy atmosphere is cast after he chants, "Steaming in a line of fire, you're wild and free" in "Worse Dreams". Then on the poetic "Taree", he proclaims the majestic line, "In the ether I sail to you, floating on the fumes".

After listening through this CD several times, it becomes apparent that no stone was left unturned, the album was thoroughly recalculated and edited. As a whole, King Animal flows well from track to track. This fluidity is partly a by-product of the album's track lengths. No track overstays it's welcome, a misdemeanor Soundgarden repeated in times past. Soundgarden makes a commendable attempt to steer clear of the standard verse-chorus-verse formula, adding exceptional bridges and outros to many of their tracks. One good example would be "A Thousand Days Before"; the outro fittingly captures the melancholic change in tempo before Cornell cries "A thousand to ignore!". Indeed, this album has a tendency to pull the rug right from under you. Tracks like "By Crooked Steps" and "Blood on the Valley Floor" change in rhythm frequently, throwing the listeners for a loop. Ben Shepherd's bass is not buried sound on the album, however his presence is more playful from "Bird of Bones" onward. Meanwhile, the consistent Matt Cameron makes known why he is regarded as one of the most proficient drummers around. Playing for Pearl Jam all these years hasn't changed his style at all returning to Soundgarden.

There is a section of the album (somewhere between the middle of "A Thousand Days Ago" and the start of "Attrition") where the mood darkens from initial vibe. This may or may not bring back nostalgic emotions stirred by previous albums. Overall though, King Animal avoids the doom and gloom feel. In fact, this album includes back-to-back acoustic gems, "Halfway there" and "Black Saturday". One of which draws from Chris' pop-rock solo work, and the latter, which features some unusual drumming and much-welcomed electric riffs by Thayil. In the end, the variety in moods and reserved approach are what make King Animal a wholly refreshing album.

Pitted against the test of time, the stakes were high. One slip, and over two decades worth of reputation may have been in jeopardy. Aside from misdirecting the music community with their single featured on the blockbuster film The Avengers (2012), I would say that Soundgarden bounced back fairly with this release. It is common practice to rank and compare albums to their predecessors. But I don't think we can accurately gauge yet how King Animal will stand up against the monolith of Superunknown and the grittiness that is Badmotorfinger. One thing is certain though, King Animal is sure to exceed the expectations of the pessimists.

Recommended Tracks- Rowing, Blood On The Valley Floor, A Thousand Days Before, By Crooked Steps



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user ratings (503)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Spoonman67 (3.5)
    This is an album I really like but not the best I´ve ever heard by these guys....

    donovan909 (3)
    Soundgarden returns with an album that should please fans but not likely to win over any n...

    Jamie Coughlan (4)
    A worthy return that flies in the face of expectations...

    Travis Marmon (4)
    Though not a classic, Soundgarden have produced a surprisingly solid comeback...

  • Limberg (4.5)
    Soundgarden have a strong musical legacy, one that fans were afraid could have been tarnis...

    slagun (4.5)
    After 16 years we finally have a new Soundgarden album, an album for which every Soundgard...

    Peter K. Mark (4.5)
    'King Animal' is a modern take on vintage rock and a natural progression for Soundgarden, ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Cipieron
November 28th 2012


3508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great album, great review too!


just saw them play live on Jimmy Kimmel... Cornell sounded rough tbh. Glad to see them back though, even if this is it

Happy2review
November 28th 2012


112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks. Yeah.. I'm still waiting for that invention that allows one to forget specific experiences so that I can listen to Superunknown for the first time every day :P

TrephineArtist
November 28th 2012


188 Comments


Very good review! I haven't heard the album yet though just a couple of songs.

truekebabpower
November 28th 2012


639 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really happy Soundgarden are getting as much praise for this album, but I'm really surprised that there are no negative reviews for this, I mean it's not THAT great

NightmareCinema16
November 28th 2012


2016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nice job with the review. You and Peter Mark probably had the best King Animal reviews so far.

VheissuCrisis
Contributing Reviewer
November 28th 2012


970 Comments


Good work man, really need to check this out.

Happy2review
November 28th 2012


112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm really happy Soundgarden are getting as much praise for this album, but I'm really surprised that there are no negative reviews for this, I mean it's not THAT great

Well, to be honest if I weren't a big fan it would be closer to 4/5 (8/10). But all things considered, I felt a case could be made for this album being a 4.5/5 (9/10). There aren't any mediocre tracks to be found on this album aside from the opener. That and Soundgarden added some classic tracks to their discography. Here's your negative review though..

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/17300-king-animal/

LepreCon
November 28th 2012


4093 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Bitchfork reviews don't count though. Great review here, album is pretty fecking sweet

Happy2review
November 28th 2012


112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the feedback! Yeah just wanted to put up what the other guys think. I agree with most the reviewers here on Sputnik so far. Excellent/Superb album, better than Down On The Upside.

Mike08
November 28th 2012


607 Comments


As you can probably tell, I am a Soundgarden fan myself.

-This doesn't need to be here, and the first 3 sentences of paragraph 5 need work. Other then that great review

Happy2review
November 28th 2012


112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sure it wasn't necessary, but I wanted to state that I was a fan before I continued to used the word "I" in my review. And thanks for pointing that out.. I fixed it up a little.

Happy2review
December 1st 2012


112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is my first review of a new release. I gave it another good edit. Well glad everyone everyone who responded thought the review was positive one, hopefully it professional enough. I drew a lot connections to the previous Soundgarden, but perhaps that's to be expected being a "comeback album."



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