Soundgarden proved that there was more to Grunge than Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. Sadly, singer Chris Cornell suffered the same fate as Kurt but not for many years after Kurt Cobain took his own life in 1994. That aside, this is easily one of the best Grunge albums to be released from the prime of that era, and by all accounts, it sounds awesome. Let’s take at a look at Soundgarden’s Grunge masterpiece.
Let Me Drown kicks off Soundgarden’s epic journey on this album, and has a load of Black Sabbath detuned riffs. It’s a great tune to kick off a great album, and sounds really awesome. It’s less deep and meaningful than Nirvana and more pleasant sounding than Nine Inch Nails. All in all, an excellent piece to begin this album, and it sounds mega and awesome. There is power, melodicism and a general sense of awesome musicality here. The guitar solo here is super awesome as well. No doubt massively influential music, this is really fantastic.
My Wave begins with an interesting strummed guitar riff and has some interesting lyrics likely about drug use and music. It’s a really concise effort by Soundgarden, and sounds like a very 1990s rock song, and album as well. An excellent and well thought out piece of music, this is not some ordinary three chord Punk jam, this is mega loud Grunge Metal for the 1990s and beyond. A great effort, and no doubt earned the respect of many in the rock world for this music, and album. There are some intricate and well played guitar parts here as well, along with some Cliff Burton style wah-wah bass. Neat. Kim Thayil is an awesome guitarist.
Next is Fell On Black Days which begins with some dark and Grungy guitar riffage, before going into a decent song with some really great singing by Chris Cornell here. It’s a dark and loud pop song suitable for the era of American based Grunge music. It’s a superb listen and although has a great progression about it, seems quite relaxing for this sort of music. Chris Cornell is a great singer, no question about it. This is an excellent song, as is the rest of the album so far.
The monstrous Mailman comes next, which is a loud and sludgy sounding piece from the word go. It is a superb piece however, and sounds inspired and as though many Metal bands were directly inspired from this album. Still, a catchy and great listening experience, just going to show that the music here is top notch. Most likely Soundgarden’s best album, and you can hear why. The music here is super focused, complete with a mellotron solo. Awesome music for the 1990s, excellent work boys.
Superunknown is the title track, with a great melodic guitar riff played and some spot on screaming from Chris Cornell. It just sounds really awesome, and transcends the music of the time and the label that is Grunge. Drop tuned riffs are here aplenty, and this is a great track. “Alive, in the Superunknown!” is chanted here, just a great song. Screaming guitars and clever melodies are all throughout this song, superb effort. Sounds mega and awesome, the wah-wah guitar solo is fully sick mate. Excellent song.
Head Down comes next, being an excellent piece of music as well. There is some hybrid acoustic and electric guitar work here, whilst Chris Cornell sings beautifully here. This is top notch, a great and solid piece that is more mellow than previous songs, but still maintaining a pulsating energy about it. Good and melodic powerful music to hear, this is really good quality music. Some interesting sound effects are in the background of this song, nice to hear. Good and solid listening. The drum work towards the end is superb, balancing between solid beat and drum solo, along with some trippy sound effects to match it. Cool.
Next is the weird sounding intro of Black Hole Sun which sounds interesting. It’s not a keyboard you hear, but a heavily effect driven guitar part. This is definitely a more memorable piece from the album, and proves that you don’t need to leave your genre of music to make it interesting. Memorable listening, it sounds artistic and meaningful in its intent. Somewhat psychedelic, and just cool to hear. Good to hear Soundgarden cut across a large variety of music, this is an excellent song. Just sounds awesome, the harmonies towards the end are reassuring.
The quirky Spoonman is next, with a breakbeat sort of rhythm about it and an excellent sounding piece that is demanding of your attention from start to finish. It’s quirky, with a stop/start sort of approach, but hey, it shows that Soundgarden had more variety than most bands, even at the time. The bass guitar solo is really good too, followed quickly by some awesome lead guitar solos. This is really fantastic to hear, such a cool and out there song to hear. Well structured and overall great listening.
Limo Wreck comes next, which is a more laidback piece to start with. It is a more low key tune that has some nonsensical lyrics to match. It talks about some negative events, but hey, it has some some good harmonies in the middle of the song. An unusual listen, and sounds a bit weird, but still enjoyable. Chris Cornell puts in another great effort here, with some mega heavy guitar solos to match. Great music here, some great screaming towards the end is here.
The Day I Tried To Live comes next, with a strange slide guitar intro, before going into a more concise and consistent song than the previous song, with lyrics about the conflicting emotions that one can have in life. It could indeed, be about suicide or self-destruction. But hey, this was 1994, and it was totally acceptable to discuss such issues openly in music. Do you really think Justin Bieber would put out something quite like this? The clear answer is no. This is a very good song, keeping this superb album going on through its second half. Some great singing is here, once again. It sounds really cool regardless.
Very Punk Rock sounding is Kickstand which is another example of the musical variety of this album. It’s cool, upbeat and just interesting to listen to. It’s a great piece to hear, although being incredibly short for Soundgarden. A nice and welcome change on this recording.
After that is Fresh Tendrils which is really awesome and a more typical Soundgarden piece to listen to. There is some furious screaming by Chris Cornell, whose vocal abilities cannot be underestimated. A good and more pop sounding piece, it just sounds superb. A great listen from start to finish, with some great sounding bass guitar to match the electric guitar riffs. Another excellent tune, further cementing the greatness of this album. “Throw yourself away!” is repeatedly screamed here, but at this point, Soundgarden were throwing nothing and nobody away.
4th Of July begins with some really, really, heavy guitar. Drop tuned beyond all imagination, it is a super tune to hear, and just sounds like something from a heavy music nightmare. It is still very good, although not the strongest piece on the album. A good listen, although a warped listen. There are some interesting sonic touches to this song, although it goes to show that Metal or Grunge need not be super fast to impress one with its heaviness. Obviously, Metallica took note around this time.
Half is a weird, weird tune. It has some vocal samples, some weird acoustic guitar riffs and rolling drums. It is obviously supposed to be a weird track added to make the album a bit different. It goes into a mish-mash of musical sounds, and is very short.
The last track is Like Suicide which is actually rather dark and depressing. It’s a deep and perhaps, especially these days, very tragic in light of what has happened with Chris Cornell. The whole song sounds as though Chris Cornell needs a serious hug from a stranger. Still, a good song and not exactly light listening, but a good one. A good piece of music, and something definitely worth hearing in a low mood. “I feel for you…” is sung passionately here, just before a magnificently shredded guitar solo. These guys knew music, and were great at what they did. A seven minute long song about staring over the edge of a cliff, but perhaps not jumping off it.
This is a really fantastic listen, and has not aged at all to this day. Some of Nirvana’s more extreme musical statements have worn thin over time. Soundgarden on the other hand, delivered a great, listenable and variable Grunge rock (if that is what it should be deemed?) album that destroys barriers. A very interesting and consistent listen overall, and demands a place in your album collection. Superunknown has had many different reissues, so be sure to check out those if you are keen to do so.