Ultramega OK



by Werny USER (10 Reviews)
January 29th, 2005 | 168 replies

Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist

This is considered by many the best pre-Nirvana Grunge record, so I took liberties and decided to review it myself.
Be warned, I'm no technical musician, so I guess this review is one for the layman. Oh, and it's my first review.

Soundgarden is (at the time of recording)

Chris Cornell: Vocals, additional guitar on some tracks, bass on Circle of Power.
Kim Thayil: Guitar
Hiro Yamamoto: Bass, vocals on Circle of Power
Matt Cameron: Drums

Released: 1998 by SST

Short Bio: In 1981, two mates, Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto, moved to Seattle because of their admiration of the local music. Hiro moved in with a drummer named Chris Cornell, and the two started a band along with Kim, naming themselves after a pipe sculpture in a park in Seattle. Chris was on vocals as well as drums, and didn't like that arrangement, so they hired Scott Sundquist to drum so Chris could focus on singing.
When the record label "Sub Pop" formed, they were largely interested in Green River and Soundgarden. Soundgarden signed onto them, and released their first recording on the Deep Six compilation in 1985, a song called "Heretic". Soon after, Scott quit and Matt Cameron joined, and they released an EP, "Screaming Life", in 1987, and another one, "Fopp", in 88 (the two would later be released together in 1990). The band quit Sub Pop for the lure of SST, and Ultramega OK was released late 88.

The Review:

1. FLOWER 5/5
Music: Thayil; Lyrics: Cornell

A majestic intro introduces you to Flower: for the first 15 seconds or so, there is just Kim breathing on the guitar strings. The sound is absolutely gorgeous, the best way to start an album. Then a loud, magnificent drumroll by Matt, which leads into the psychedelic part of the song, with abrupt drumming and echoing guitar and Chris soothingly saying "along her vain parade.... along her vein...". Gorgeous. Then a very metal "HUH!" from Chris, and the song explodes into a pretty fast riff, about 40 seconds into it. This is the main part of the song, the bass is pretty obvious, but there's strangely slow drumming. This is the only drum part I don't like from Soundgarden. The riff keeps going, then the psychedelic part again, then just the bass, then back to the main riff. This is a song of legend, the lyrics are magic and the distorted, garagey sound rules all.

Music: Thayil, Yamamoto; Lyrics: Cornell

Trademark Matt Cameron drumming, very fast riff and a slightly poppy, punky sounding geetur. Basically three parts repeated over and over, with a relatively fast solo near the end. This song is proof that Matt Cameron is the best god damn drummer ever, his fills are of legend. Although it's a grungey sound, it steers away from the garagey sound the rest of the album is known for.

3. 665 2/5
Music: Yamamoto; Lyrics: Cornell

Cornell chanting, pongy, echoing drums and a haunting guitar with another Chris voice layered into it screeching "I need you Santa baby" backwards. Making fun of the notion that if you rewind rock music it's satanic messages. Don't let it turn you off the album. It's out of place, way too early in the album, and you won't listen to it on it's own.

4. BEYOND THE WHEEL 5/5 (Don't worry, I'm not giving all of the songs a perfect score)
Music & Lyrics: Cornell

The most Black Sabbath song they did, it's easy to see. It starts with the distorted guitar strumming and Cornell chanting, then a Black Sabbath-esque drum intro, then the song explodes. A huge slam on the guitar and the best scream you'll ever hear. This is commonly known as an example of the best vocalist ever. Basically a slamming, sludge riff with Cornell screaming out lines at the top of his lungs, then an instrumental, which is a great variation on the main riff, and then back to the screaming/slamming. Then the instrumental for a few seconds, and then the main part but with Chris just chanting the words instead of screaming (can't blame him) and the guitar being messed up. Then a big loud solo.
"That solo is one of my favourite things I've ever done, and one of the best Soundgarden solos." --Kim Thayil
The most eerie song they ever did, probably my favourite song of all time. Listening to this song on full volume is a truly unrivalled experience.

5. 667 1/5
Music: Yamamoto; Lyrics: Cornell

A pointless continuation of 665.

Music & Lyrics: Cornell

Can't seem to get into this song. Starts off with a very, very catchy acousitc riff, then it goes electric. As strange as it sounds, the vocals are very out of place. Goes fast for about 1:30, then goes slow with chanting and guitar echoes slow drumming, for about a minute, then fast for another minute, then slow again until the finisgh. The slow part is awesome, I just can't stand the fast parts.

Music: Thayil; Lyrics: Yamamoto

Stupid. A punk song with no structure, it's hard to explain. The music is awesome, except for basic riffs every know and then, but the vocals of Hiro completely ruin the song's potential. He has one of the most retarded voices I've ever heard, he should be shot for singing this.

8. HE DIDN'T 4/5
Music: Cameron; Lyrics: Cornell

A very up and down riff, with good drumming. Excellent vocals as usual. Lyrics are just a bunch of semi-clever Oxymorons. Not very complex, but very catchy.

Music & Lyrics: C. Burnett

"Smokestack Lightning" is an old Howlin' Wolf (Chester Burnett) song that Soundgarden modified a bit: the end includes portions from Sonic Youth's "Death Valley 69" (co-written with Lydia Lunch). (web.stargate.net/soundgarden.html)
Basically a country song gone electric, Cornell does a great job doing country singing. Enjoyable, but it's never managed to hook me. The end of the song is a sample from a Sonic Youth song which continues into the second greatest song of all time;

Music: Yamamoto; Lyrics: Cornell

Wow. Starts off with a bloody catchy bass riff, then the guitar and drums join in. This is the song most like their later stuff. Angry yet fun. Basically the same riff throughout, but it goes up and down a lot. Pure genius. Matt is basically rolling for the whole song, he is definitely the most underrated drummer ever. This song is everything I love about Soundgarden, in fact after just listening to it, I think it's my favourite song of all time. "Not a tear will be shed/The only colour is red". Aaaah.

11. HEAD INJURY 4.5/5
Music & Lyrics: Cornell

Starts off with a guitar ditty then a "HEY! Head injurrry" then it turns into a slightly weaker version of Nazi Driver. Fun anger. Great lyrics too. "You got a kiss for me, it's sweet and frail/You got a fist for me, sure to impale".


I guess it's ok. Basically a ballad about getting off your arse. A solo about 1:50, which goes for a while. The song is a stretch at 6:27, I usually end up just stopping the CD here. But it gets great if your can be patient enough to wait until the vocals get higher. They get higher until the screaming at the end; "MACE! MACE!" Another solo at about 3:30, and the drums and bass pick up a bit. The Like Suicide of the 80's Soundgarden. It's great if your patient enough.

Written by J. Lennon

A "cover", just a minute and a few seconds of static and the band talking. Pure comedy. Near the end there's "where's my f*ckin' watch?" "I think it's in the sink".


Well yeah, I didn't give it a five because there is a lot of filler and it doesn't flow very well as an album. But it does contain my favourite songs of all time. A great document of Grunge before it was contaminated by Nevermind.

This won't convert anyone to the Grunge cause, but if you like your Grunge then get this CD NOW. I must warn you though: Cornell's voice is pretty different from their later material.

I say again: I am a layman of the music world, so please don't say "oooh you're wrong, none of these songs have good chords" bla bla bla, I admit that I don't much about chords. This review isn't about their talent, it's about the sound, the songwriting and how much fun it is.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Roger Daltrey
April 21st 2005


Very good review, excellent review actually! The drumming and vocals on this are incredible, some of Matt's best work on Nazi Driver, and Cornell's performance on Beyond The Wheel...and just when you think a singer couldn't possibly go any higher, the end of Smokestack Lightning is even higher! 665-667...Why in the world did they put those on the ablum...and let Hiro sing???? The music on Circle Of Power are awesome, but the vocals are just plain terrible. I wonder why they never let Matt sing any, he did a bunch of singing with Wellwater Conspiracy, and had a Jeff Buckley sound, which was very good. This is one of my favorite Soundgarden albums, and is definitly worth adding to your cd stack if your a Soundgarden/grunge fan.

May 3rd 2005


Thanks man, I have heard Matt sing with Wellwater and he does do a very good job.

I listened to this all the way through the other night, and it actually works pretty well as a full album if you're patient.

I've grown to love Smokestack Lightning, the wah and solos are magic. And yeah he does get higher in it! I think they're more emotional screams though, I like the ones in Beyond the Wheel better because they're just so powerful.

And Circle of Power is actually a really awesome song, the singing is of course dodgy but I tried listening to the music and ignoring Hiro, and it's a damn heavy/psycho song that never looses grip of you. Simply, an assault.

Thanks again, and yeah people buy this album!

May 6th 2006


Released: 1998 by SST


Digging: Bright Eyes - Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was

May 31st 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

Circle of Power is such a great song. I think the vocals are fantastic.

December 31st 2009


So fucking awesome.

I forgot how great Flower was. It's a shame for most that Soundgarden didn't exist before Badmotorfinger, their earlier stuff is more than worthwhile.

January 29th 2011


Album Rating: 5.0

great fucking album. soundgarden's best. however clearly the reviewer doesn't appreciate the full awesomeness of the record, despite his rating. mood for trouble, circle of power, and incessant mace are some of the garden's best. this album is their best album because it shows all of their sides, their humor, their darkness, their deepness, their energy, their rawness.

this album is a great combination of metal, punk, and parody with hints of rock and blues. truely an excellent, underappreciated gem

May 11th 2011


3.3 rating? This is Soundgarden's early classic, a true document of what was brewing in Seattle.

June 19th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

This definitely is a classic. Every time i listen to this record, there are concepts that i always see soundgarden coming back and reusing in the future. You really have to get between the lines to notice though. The thing that always got me hooked on SG was the physcadelic side of them. This trait really shines at some points on Ultramega OK

August 31st 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

I mostly agree with your review. The album is a unique blend of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and the Butthole Surfers that tells why there was a devoted cult that followed Soundgarden around in their earlier days. But the one thing that bothers me about this album is the crappy production courtesy of SST. Ultramega Ok is not completely a punk record and the metal influnces falter because of this. I sadly say that i kinda listen to the BBC version of "Flower" on Telephantasm more than the studio version here. Given the amount of good material, i'd say it's a crime for these great songs to be displayed in this manner. Now that the band is together again, i'm hoping they remix the album so it sounds better... then i'll give it a 4.5 or even a 5. :P

January 2nd 2012


This is a great review. Soundgarden is a profound metal band of epic proportions that was instrumental in getting us out of the music slump of the 80's. Their earlier material (pre Bad Motorfinger) is by far my favorite because it is pure and raw... Not polished. Chris has received much criticism of being "too cool for school" when it comes to public encounters with fans but I can identify with being on the "lone wolf" side of life at times. The most important thing is that they have given us a sound I think we can all say has helped us get through some tough times and didn't take themselves TOO seriously in the process which I absolutely love about them. Thank you, Soundgarden and it's really good to have you back.

January 2nd 2012


By the way, there is a live version of "Flower" on You Tube... Check it out. The crowd sounds bored to tears before they come out and play and then sound completely amped afterword. Pretty awesome.

June 2nd 2012


Album Rating: 4.0

average rating for this is tragically low

June 11th 2012


Album Rating: 4.0

this would be the best Soundgarden album if Badmotorfinger wasn't the greatest thing ever

January 11th 2013


nah this is better but bmf rules

January 21st 2013



January 21st 2013


Album Rating: 3.5

This is a slightly underrated underrated.

January 21st 2013


i'd say its a supremely underrated underrated

January 21st 2013


Album Rating: 3.5


January 27th 2013


hiro should have done vocals more he rules

March 18th 2013


beyond the fuckin wheel

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