When I think of Soundgarden, I think of a sound, I think of one entity, one organic thing, says singer and guitarist
Chris Cornell, but I guess that the exciting part is that its always been really varied.
Hailed as grunge innovators, Soundgarden redefined rock music for a generation. In the 80s and 90s, the bands mesmerising
soundscapes and compelling lyrics seduced audiences hungry for originality. It was a sound rooted deeply within the wild landscape
of the Pacific North West an atmosphere which still resonates strongly for Cornell. The band is dripping with
it, he says. that indescribable longing. Its not about the society, its not about the people, its
not about the city. Its some other thing.
That elusive other thing pervades Soundgardens new album King Animal, recorded close to their
roots in Seattle and released November 13 2012. Over a year in the making, it promises to continue the musical evolution we
anticipate from one of the worlds most groundbreaking bands. One song, the yearning Taree, is a hymn to
the wilderness my love song to the natural side of the north west where I grew up, as Cornell explains.
It was easy to feel like we were growing up in this strange, mystical place. By contrast, riotous album opener
Been Away Too Long is a doubled-edged blast of homecoming celebration and urban angst.
Soundgarden had been away since 1997, when its four members amicably agreed to put the band to rest while they pursued other
projects. But by 2009 theyd decided to work together again. Rehearsals for a world tour swiftly turned into songwriting
sessions. "It isnt really a matter of reinventing ourselves for a new chapter, says Cornell. Theres
quite a bit of natural progression in just living life for 15 years....our lives progressed as they would have done if wed
still been together. We were just catching up.
The bands unique alchemy reasserted itself and ideas flowed freely, with some songs still under construction while others
were already being mixed. Theres a certain amount of trust...that things are going to work out, and that songs
are going to appear out of nowhere. The first day we started, everybody just would play a part or an idea or a song arrangement
that they had, and it started going from there, recalls Cornell. We had a studio engineer recording all our rehearsals
and a few songs actually came out of that. The song Rowing - Ben [Shepherd] played this incredible bass ad-lib
part and because it was recorded, I went home and looped it and wrote a whole song to it. Ive learned over the years
that following Ben -- or Matt, or Kim down these moments of creative brilliance is always a good idea.
King Animal can be explosive, as in Blood On The Valley Floor (the quintessential, perfect,
heavy Soundgarden song), nightmarish (Worse Dreams) or wistful (Halfway There), leading us through
changing sonic landscapes that can embrace both the jazz inflections of Black Saturday and the driving simplicity
of feral rocker Attrition. The subject matter is broad - Kim Thayils lyrics for Non-State Actor
are an incisive and cynical take on the powers behind political thrones, while Cornells bruised and introspective Bones
of Birds explores the terrors and vulnerabilities of parenthood. Having children forces you to look past your
own mortality, says Cornell. How loss is going to affect them, even long after Im gone.
Soundgarden remain a truly alternative band in an age when the word has been devalued to just another genre label.
Though firmly rooted in their shared sense of place, they continue to be instinctive pathfinders. I dont think
weve ever had to find a compass and redirect ourselves to the north, says Cornell. "Thats never happened
to us, and it certainly didnt happen to us this time.