Soundgarden no longer belongs to the musical landscape that they were intricate in creating during the grunge era of music, but that by no means makes them irrelevant in the music industry. Having been 16 long years since their last studio release, they make a welcome return with their latest effort King Animal. The majority of the members of Soundgarden have been around for the last 16 years, but not the band fully intact. Vocalist Chris Cornell has done various solo projects and spent time fronting the supergroup Audioslave. Guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd have periodically surfaced on projects and drummer Matt Cameron has spent a decade working with Seattle’s own Pearl Jam.
The album opens with the first single, Been Away Too Long, which takes on a double meaning for vocalist Chris Cornell, who is referring to his hometown, Seattle, and to the grunge genre itself. Given its AC/DC cookie-cutter feel with a slight addition of that Soundarden tone, it is a strange choice for their first single because it does not define, nor does it even resemble, what the rest of the album is comprised of.
Outside of the first single, the remainder of King Animal is akin to the familiar Soundgarden sounds of albums like Badmotorfinger with the signature tones and lyricism that we are used to. The mysticism of their trademark sound is here, but not improved upon. It is just touched on. Soundgarden’s reboot has everything a fan who fell for them in their heyday could hope for without all of the fluff of trying to tread new grounds. Their latest effort seems to be less of an effort to break new ground than more of an effort to let the fans know that it is their groove and they can claim it whenever they want to.