Album Review: Soundgarden’s “King Animal”


In anticipation of the Soundgarden concert I’ll be going to later today (2/16/13) at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, today’s album review will be that of Soundgarden’s latest album, “King Animal”.

The picture above is the King Animal box set that I purchased.  No, the picture above isn’t the box set that I purchased.  Mine is still in its plastic shrink wrap.  I’m a music dork, what can I say?  Instead, I can only look at this picture and gain some satisfaction knowing that my set will rest in pristine condition until … well … who knows …

“King Animal” is Soundgarden’s 6th studio album, and first in 18 years.  It was released on November 12, 2012 (one day before my birthday!) and received very solid reviews across the board, and I agree with all of them.

The production quality on this album is so much more polished than their prior albums.  Each guitar lick is steady like a metronome, and pierces through without being intrusive, with the drums anchoring the steady count.  I mean, just listen to “By Crooked Steps”.

Let’s not forget about Chris Cornell’s ability to wail through songs.  His voice definitely sounds more mature than on the prior Soundgarden albums, but he can still wail.  Check out “Black Saturday”.  Though his voice may not be able to hit ALL of the notes he used to be able to sing, he’s smart enough to write melodies that fits the voice he as today.

The album starts with a bang.  “Been Away Too Long” (very fitting title, by the way), the first track, is classic Soundgarden.  Big and loud, it’s the kind of song that makes you want bust out the air guitar and fantasize about being a rock star.  Other highlights for me include “A Thousand Days Before”, “Non-State Actor” and “Blood on the Valley Floor” (which, for me, sounds like a slowed down “Spoonman”).  Coincidently, all of these tracks are in the first third of the album.

The rest of the album seems to be more toned down that the songs at the start of the album.  I’m not sure if that’s what the band was looking to do, but that’s how it feels. I can’t say I particularly liked “Attrition”, “Taree”, “Halfway There” or “Eyelid’s Mouth”.  They are average songs to me.  In fact, and I hate to even say this, but “Halfway There” and “Eyelid’s Mouth” almost feels like <gasp> soft rock.

The album, as a whole, doesn’t finish as hard as it opens, but that’s besides the point.  This is still a solid album.  And if you are a Soundgarden fan, you will not be disappointed.  I’m excited about what the future holds for them.  The album was produced by Adam Kasper, but I’d love for them to branch out and get a cutting edge producer to do the next album… “Hello, is this Jack?  Is Jack White there?”…

1. “Been Away Too Long”: ***** 

2. “Non-State Actor”: ***** 

3. “By Crooked Steps”: ***** 

4. “A Thousand Days Before”: ***** 

5. “Blood On The Valley Floor”: ***** 

6. “Bones of Birds”: **** 

7. “Taree”: *** 

8. “Attrition”: *** 

9. “Black Saturday”: ***** 

10: “Halfway There”: *** 

11: “Worse Dreams”: **** 

12: “Eyelid’s Mouth”: *** 

13. “Rowing”: **** 

Album Rating: ****

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