In 1991, Soundgarden released their third studio album, ‘Badmotorfinger’, a release that was arguably a cornerstone in the 90s grunge movement and in the evolution of heavy music overall. The reason for mentioning this seminal record will all become apparent as two decades later, ‘King Animal’ is released.
I came at this album with a huge sense of optimism, but unfortunately it’s almost immediately dashed. The intro to the album is a very strange choice to say the least. The riff is kind of cheesy with a strong Nickelback vibe; a bad start. The chorus does have its hooks and the solo is creative, but really on the whole, it feels like there could have been a bit more effort put into the songwriting. This notion is continued throughout the rest of the record.
That’s not to say there’s not some solid music in there. In fact, straight after the sketchy start things begin to look up in ‘Non-State Actor’. It’s a little more down-tempo, with a nice heavy blues feel. The chorus again is beautifully catchy and frontman Chris Cornell displays he still has a stellar voice and one of the most unique in the industry. It’s just when you listen to the song as a whole it begins to suffer. There’s some great ‘parts’, but there’s no flow.
Maybe they’re going soft in their old age, or maybe it’s just musical progression, but there’s little in the way of ‘heaviness’. The riffs are light-hearted on the most part and the vocals, not to mention the lyrics, are far more mellow than previous releases. It seems as though they’ve lost what made them so great and this is where ‘Badmotorfinger’ comes in. That album was the perfect balance of heavy and moody which was what made it so dark and emotive. The lyrics had integrity to them; an outlet for Cornell‘s own personal struggle. It also displayed some of the greatest musicianship that the 90s ever saw. All these attributes made it a phenomenal record and, although it may be slightly unfair to make such a basic and brash comparison between old and new, I can’t help but take it into account when listening to ‘King Animal’.
I’m a firm believer in progression, which is why I’m not completely trashing this record, even though I do not particularly like it. To stagnate as a band voids them of any credibility, so respect must be given to Soundgarden for actually writing and recording something new. More than likely the reason for the album’s inconsistency is simply down to being out of practice, which is a shame.
However, as a record, it’s not a patch on previous material nor is it pushing any boundaries in this particular musical avenue they’ve ventured down. I fear I may be out of touch when I say this, but, I think I’ll stick to ‘Badmotorfinger’. Thanks.
Written by Jack Bastard