Soundgarden, King Animal

Bill Murphy

By Bill Murphy

on 11.14.12 in Reviews

King Animal

The restless passion is still there

Even after 16 years off the grid, banging out a killer rock record, it turns out, can be just like riding a bike – in Soundgarden’s case, a tricked-out, and exceedingly loud, Harley. When lead singer Chris Cornell cuts loose with “No one knows me/ No one saves me/ No one loves or hates me” in the raucously uptempo “Been Away for Too Long,” there’s no irony there; he sounds like the same tortured underdog who sought to break his “Rusty Cage,” recapturing the coiled rage that always seemed to propel the band beyond the limiting “grunge” tag. No one else can really deliver the Seattle stock-and-trade of sinewy groove-metal (“By Crooked Steps”), quasi-orchestral narcotic fugues (“Bones of Birds”) and phantasmagorical, endlessly unfolding campfire jams (“Black Saturday”), and that’s really why Soundgarden’s long absence has left such a gaping hole in what passes for heartfelt hard rock these days. The restless passion is still there, coursing through Kim Thayil’s sitar-like guitar drones on “A Thousand Days Before” or living in the diamond-hard Sabbath riffs of “Eyelids Mouth.” Best of all, Cornell hasn’t lost his defiant scream; he hits it at will on the floor-shaking “Non-State Actor,” and all suddenly seems right with the world.