GRUNGEREPORT.NET REVIEW OF SOUNDGARDEN’S NEW ALBUM KING ANIMAL

Published On November 6, 2012 | By Brett Buchanan | Featured, Grunge Report, Soundgarden

The time is finally here (abeit a bit late for me, since I did not receive my press copy on time).  The album I’ve been waiting for what seems like forever, one of my most anticipated albums of all time is finally here.

First off I’ll run through the two songs we’ve all heard.  The album kicks off with ‘Been Away Too Long.’  The song has a solid chorus and a bridge that sounds like classic Soundgarden, the flaw in the song is that the verses tend to sound a bit forced.  The second track is ‘Non-State Actor,’ the song has a nice chorus but the song tends to get repetitive.

The album really picks up steam with ‘By Crooked Steps.’  That is where the album really starts for me.  The intro/buildup to the hook laden riff is fantastic.  This sounds like vintage Soundgarden.  Cornell sounds on top form here, his screams here are the best I’ve heard since the first Audioslave album a decade ago and he came up with a memorable melody.  This should be a great live song, I could imagine it opening up shows.

‘A Thousand Days Before’ is reminiscent of Mind Riot and Searching With My Good Eye Closed.  Thayil’s playing has a Middle Eastern vibe to it (Cameron’s drumming compliments this well), this is some of his best playing on the album.  Great melody and lyrics from Cornell, this is the highlight of the album so far.  Epic.

‘Blood on the Valley Floor’ has the same Grungy plodding vibe that was a mainstay on Superunknown.  Great dark lyrics from Cornell here, another song with a classic Soundgarden vibe.

‘Bones of Birds’ definitely sounds like it’ll be the next radio single, and it will be a hit.  It’s one of the best songs on the albums and it holds up with Soundgarden’s old classics.  Very melodic melody by Cornell with a simple catchy riff, it reminds me a bit of Blow Up The Outside World/Fell On Black Days but at the same time it has its own vibe.  It’s one of those songs where the verses and chorus are equally catchy, it does not let up.  Cornell uses birds as part of the imagery, like he did in Like Suicide.  The chorus goes ‘Hey sometimes she won’t cry/when the smallest one has drowned/too weak to survive.’

Ben Shepherd and Chris Cornell bring a bluesy vibe to ‘Taree,’ I like the verses a lot, the chorus is fine.  This song isn’t quite as immediate as the previous four, but it gets better with each listen.

The punky ‘Attrition,’ a song where Ben Shepherd penned the lyrics and music, is next.  The song has gotten negative reviews from other critics, but it’s a fun little song, I don’t get why they hate it.  I like it.

The next song is a change of pace.  ‘Black Saturday’ starts out with an acoustic guitar, and then goes electric.  It has kind of a jazzy vibe.  The lyric ‘Burn out any memory of me ever breathing/Til I’m born again’ is one of my favorites on the album.  The song then kicks into the dark riff we heard in the King Animal trailer before going back into the chorus.  I think it would have worked better to just end the song on the dark moody riff, but this is a solid song.

‘Halfway There’ sounds like a Chris Cornell solo song, it reminds me of Carry On.  This song is better crafted though than the songs on that album and it obviously has a far better backing band.  I like it though, nice melody.  I’ll bet many Soundgarden purists won’t like it, but I am always drawn to a strong melody more than anything.

After two songs with acoustic guitars, we get a rockier number in ‘Worse Dreams.’  Ben Shepherd’s bass playing is one of the highlights of the song.  The chorus has a poppier vibe than I was expecting after the preview we heard in August, the guitar tone during the chorus reminds me a bit of Pearl Jam’s Backspacer.  The verse riff has a spy movie type sound.  This is a solid song, another one that should be a fun live one.

While in the past Soundgarden tried to avoid comparisons to Led Zeppelin, they fully embrace the mighty Zep on ‘Eyelid’s Mouth.’  Cornell channels Robert Plant and Kim Thayil channels his inner Jimmy Page.  The song drags near the end, but overall a solid effort.  Seems like a grower.

‘Rowing’ is driven by some of the best bass playing of Ben Shepherd’s career.  Cornell sounds very soulful here, a bit like When I’m Down during the verses.  The simple chorus is very catchy, it stuck with me the moment I heard it in the King Animal trailer.  With two and a half minutes left the pace picks up a bit with the full band coming in leading to vintage Kim Thayil guitar solo.

Favorite songs: A Thousand Days Before, Bones of Birds, By Crooked Steps, Rowing, and Blood on the Valley Floor

Overall, this is a really solid album.  It definitely blew away my expectations after hearing Been Away Too Long/Non-State Actor, which I was not big on.  It is a return to form for Chris Cornell, after a couple of misses in my opinion (Carry On and Scream) and his strongest effort since Audioslave’s self-titled debut album 10 years ago.  Do I think this is as great as Badmotorfinger, Superunknown, and Down on the Upside?  Not on my first 5-6 listens, but what matters is this is a good album with some amazing songs (A Thousand Days Before/By Crooked Steps/Bones of Birds/Blood on the Valley Floor) from a veteran band returning from a long absence.

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About The Author

Bio: Brett hosted the BWR podcast from 2004 to 2009, and then opened GrungeReport.net in May 2009. The site changed its name to AlternativeNation.net in June 2013. Brett also owns Concertfy.com. Reach out to Brett at; brett (at) alternativenation.net
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  • Jen

    Not a lot of my friends have given King Animal a listen (They got scared off by Live To Rise and Been Away Too Long), but it seems we both agree that Blood On The Valley Floor is one of the best on the album. I think my favourites were Non-State Actor, Blood on the Valley Floor, Taree, and Eyelid’s Mouth.

  • Jen

    I should also add that their decision to leave off Live To Rise (Even though I liked Live To Rise, unlike many of my friends) made the album way better. Live To Rise wouldn’t have fit.

  • WizeKraker

    When i heard blood on the valley floor i shit my pants. how was that not the fuckin single! killer track.

  • thefreewheelinMarkArm

    Attrition sounds like it could be GnR almost

  • Crazies

    A Thousand Days Before, Bones Of Birds, Worse Dreams and Eyelid’s Mouth are the ones that really stand out (imo). So fucking good! Followed by Blood On The Valley Floor, By Crooked Steps, Taree and Black Saturday. I have to give the other songs a few more listems but this album is pretty great overall. It sounds like Soundgarden but not like a nostaligia act. Good job SG!

  • Dragus

    Jen, in my opinion, Live to Rise could’ve fitted KA as a bonus track, kind of like She Likes Surprises on Superunknown. That way it bridges the gap a little

  • MAYAN

    I HATE IT WHEN PEOPLE SAY 1000 SOUNDS LIKE MIND RIOT (and this article is moronic saying its like swmgec)….dumb.

  • MAYAN

    oh and this isn’t normal mayan guy, im using this notorious name because maybe the writer will take notice becausee i’d love an explanation on how 1000 sounds like searching. cheers :P

  • lol
  • TC

    Rowing is pretty cool, almost Gospel tinged.

  • TC

    Great drumming on ‘A Thousand Days Before’ and reminds me of George Harrison’s Middle Eastern Beatles efforts. Obviously a lot heavier :)

    Great to hear more of Kim’s Indian heritage come through.

  • TC

    Blood on the Valley Floor is pure SG. Gotta be the best track here for me.

  • Matt

    “Been Away Too Long” really reminded me of Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice” for the verse parts. It was an awesome meshing of SG and Nirvana.

  • With Negativity

    Blood on the Valley Floor has such a raggae-ish vibe about it. I love his vocal delivery on this.

  • SON

    It’s amazing. I’m a little biased, but holy crap. I don’t even have words.

  • le

    Starts out rockin’ then slows down a little, then a little uneasy and then you fall asleep until you kind of wake up with Attrition before nodding off again and waking up with Worse Dreams and ending with a vintage spacey jam. Already up to the 11th song. A little more promising and spaced out blues with Eyelids Mouth. Before falling stone cold dead with Rowing.

  • Andrei

    They didn’t leave off Live To Rise because it didn’t fir, they left it off because it’s owned by the company behind The Avengers.

  • Mackeena

    All of you have to listen to the album more times, you can’t judge or make a review of an album only with 3, 4 or 5 listenings in the first day, just keeping listening for a few days or weeks and you’ll see how amazing is KING ANIMAL. It took me years to apreciate DOWN ON THE UPSIDE.

    This is a 9 album, if you don’t think so, just listen, listen to KA…

  • Brett Buchanan

    Mackeena, I’d have preferred to listen for a few days before reviewing, but I was never sent a press copy like was promised to me. That is why the site is going to change its name and add new bands. We can’t go on being treated like shit/second class citicizens by PR people. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

    To the Mind Riot person, I’m referencing the guitar riff and tone. I’m not saying the entire song sounds like Mind Riot. I referenced Searching because the vocal style reminds me of A Thousand Days Before.

  • TC

    The breakdown in Taree is sick!

  • TC

    Like any SG album, the listener is rewarded by repeated listens. This is not bubblegum pop people.

  • Rwilson

    Blood on the Valley Floor reminds me of Cropduster. Harmonics are very similar. Attrition = All Night but more similar to the Ramones who inspired both. The middle feels like a Cornell solo record until Worse Dreams. Eyelids Mouth is very jazzy like something from Louder Than Love but ends with a whimper.

  • wheresSG

    For the most part the album is honestly pretty boring, most of the songs are really lackluster. My favorite, and probably the only legitimately strong song on the album is “Bones Of Birds”. Others that are at least decent “Black Saturday”, “Eyelid’s Mouth”, and “By Crooked Steps”. The rest of the album is filled with Down On The Upside B-Sides. Melodies are weak. Bass playing is cool on a few tracks, but none of the riffs are particularly memorable, and none of the songs are memorable for that matter. “Bones Of Birds” can’t make up for an entire album’s worth of mediocre songwriting.

  • TC

    @wheresSG Harsh – give it some more listens. loud.

  • Dissapointed

    I agree with wheresSG, it’s a really underwhelming album, but I’ll give it a few more listens.

  • TBone

    Overall it’s a really good album. BATL is a stinker. Other than that I like this record more than DOTUS.

  • SuperSG

    I only had the opportunity to listen to BOB, Taree and Worse Dreams. Greatness,but each song seemed to have little effects that felt unnecessary.

  • SOUNDGARDEN SUCKS

    How does Soundgardens new album have anything to do with their rich history?? How in the fuck is anyone supposed to connect a song like By Crooked Steps , Been Away Too Long or Blood On The Valley Floor to such great songs like Spoonman, My Wave, No Attention, Ty Cobb, Kickstand, Rusty Cage, Outshined, Get On The Snake?? When Audioslave were covering a Soundgarden songs like Loud Love or Spoonman, hardly anyone gave that band credit for tryin to relive Chris Cornells grunge past. But now 10 years later since 2002, Chris Cornell is popular again ? His singing is so mediocre , damm not even Scott Weiland or Eddie Vedder or Billy Corgan sound that bad compared to Cornell. I really dont support Soundgardens attempt at coming back at all. They should of just quit and let Soundgarden go down in history as a grunge seattle rock band without trying to change its sound or his creative vision.

  • Jim2

    The guy above is high. Great album. And that’s with the first listen. It’s not Superunknown, Down on the upside or Badmotorfinger but it’s great.

  • Kirill

    the guy above is our old time favorite friend, Mayan :)

  • Robert

    I finally heard the album. Killer album with the highlights were By Crooked Steps, Bones of Birds, Blood of the Valley Floor, and Rowing.

  • André

    I dont think that this new album is near of any other work of soundgarden , but isnt bad . Let’s see if the next album will be better , for a album after so many years , it’s ok , nothing more and nothing less .

  • Grungy

    Great album that shows that a long time away didn’t stop them. Best album in years.
    There place in music history is now near the top.

    They have so many diffrent songs now,
    more than any band in music history.

    They have at least 3 more albums too. :o

    That will put them in the Led Zepp territory!

    :)

  • A-Side

    IMO:

    Album is great, solid stuff. Great music, Cornell sounds strong. This sounds like SG to me!! Obviously not the same as the 90′s but i love it!

    That being said i think “Been Away too long” and “Halfway There” don’t belong here, they’re just too poppy for this album. They would have done well as separate singles, specially “Halfway There”, that has Cornell solo song written all over it.

    Rowing, Bones Of Birds, Blood On The Valley Floor, By Crooked Steps, A Thousand Days Before are the high points here, those songs alone are make the album great.

    All in all better than what i expected. They still have it and this album might be better than DOTU.

  • Julz

    This is the thing I love about Soundgarden. They don’t make pop music. If you want catchy, generic music, go listen to Linkin Park. And just as Badmotorfinger sounds nothing like Louder than Love, or Down On The Upside sounds nothing like Superunknown, I think King Animal is a natural progression of how Soundgarden has grown, matured even, as musicians and as human beings. And so yes, it still surprises me, to this day that I might hear something on DOTU or Badmotorfinger that I might not have heard the first 200 times. And you people need to lay off Live to Rise and Been Away Too Long. Those songs are still a whole hell of a lot better than most of the crap people try to pass off as music nowadays. Damn, I’m getting old. HEY YOU KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN

  • My2Cents

    despite what we all want to believe, it’s really not very good. i know it, you guys know it deep down, and soundgarden knows it.

    the verses (a sections) are okay. but the choruses (b sections) are all weak and uninspired. sometimes they are so poorly developed, i’m not even sure if what i heard was the chorus (a thousand days before, etc.)

    these songs need the work that wasn’t spent on them cause the band was busy working on their marketing campaign.

    the songs leave you hanging like sex that starts out good and then stalls. and all you can think is “how the hell do i get out of this?”

    bones of birds is the only redeemable song. rowing is okay, at least it rocks for a second. but the words are lame.

    the rest don’t even make good b-side material.

    once you head down the path that cornell took, passing through audio slave, and his second 2 solo albums, its not possible to go back.

    oh well. they’re not the first. maybe in couple of years cornell can be a judge on american idle.

  • SONICGARDEN

    The true secret to Soundgardens success isnt with marketing, it isnt with trying to reinvent the rock bands sound or style, instead it all goes back to the simple nature of how Soungarden got started in the 1980s. Back when heavy metal bands like Van Halen and Bon Jovi were making their way across the American airwaves. Up in the Pacific Northwest, a real honest revolution was going on at clubs and bars. Rock bands like Soundgarden became so damm good today because they focused on the simple aspects of musicianship. They didnt write big epic rock songs, instead they wrote fast punk rock tunes that werent even meant to be full length demos, instead they were just a collection of loud guitar noises, set to some left wing poetry from the liberal Pacific Northwest rock studios like Sub Pop records. Soundgarden got their unique blend of heavy metal, mixed with elements of new wave punk, or college rock radio music. Its simplicity of making sounds that inspired Soundgarden to do what they are doing now, so the fact that some songs on King Animal sound so weird and unusual to listen to is the genius itself. I think after a long time away from the alternative rock music scene, their frontman and songwriter Chris Chris Cornell forget about grunge, what it meant, the fashion, the lifestyle and the revolutionary powers of what that type of rock music could do to people who wanted to listen to something fresh and different and honest. If Soundgarden really want to continue on with their grunge revival, then they must get back to simplicity in their music. Write as many strange and interesting songs as can you , but please remember the basic elements of true grunge rock music: fast speeds, loud vocals, trashing hard guitars and bass/drum rhythm attack no like other. And of course, lyrics that speak to peoples feelings about life, lyrics to speak the soul and peoples frustrations in these tough times socially, culturally and politically. I hope the next project Soundgarden work on, will be less abstract and be more realistic. I wanna hear 20 songs about Republicans vs Democrats, I wanna hear 20 songs about the rich vs the poor, I wanna hear 20 songs based on conspiracy theories about 2012, oil, ufos, ghosts, the government you know?? Soundgarden cant just be another artistic endeavor anymore, this rock band has to be relevant today. I think we can all agree on that right??

  • fsh

    Damn I love this album!

  • TC

    These are future classics:

    Rowing
    Taree
    Thousand Days Before
    Bones of Birds
    Non-State Actor

  • http://smellslikeinfinitesadness.com Smells Like Infinite Sadness

    I agree with much of this review. “By Crooked Steps” is really where the album should start. ‘Bones Of Birds’ has a huge hook. And I love Shepherd’s bassline on ‘Worse Dreams’.

    I’ve been listening to it non-stop ever since its been streaming on iTunes, and all in all I have to say it’s a bit of a let down. And I dislike the tepid production, which was my biggest complaint in my own review.

    These comeback albums are always tricky because they almost always fall short of expectations, but my biggest beef is the album just sounds too restrained.

    It’s not terrible, but not great either.

    But hopefully the band keeps on, and gets tighter playing shows and the next time around the material will be stronger. May just take a while to get the machine firing on all cylinders.

  • SuperSG

    BLASPHEMY! jk

  • http://smellslikeinfinitesadness.com Smells Like Infinite Sadness

    lol. I was rooting for them. Still am. I just think they can do better.