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The year was 1987, and thrash metal dominated the metal scene. Slayer and Metallica clones appeared like mushrooms after the rain, and the lack of originality in the metal world was a major problem.
Two years prior to that, a band called Green River released their first EP, Come On Down, which marked a new period of heavy music: grunge. It blended hardcore punk and alternative rock, with a slight touch of doom metal- a mixture that wasn't accepted among critics and popular culture, but was gaining popularity within the metal community. A year after, a split record featuring this new style of music was released, featuring Green River with young bands such as Melvins and Soundgarden, which all followed the sound they created the year before.
In 1987, Soundgarden released their first EP. It featured a heavier sound than the other grunge bands at that time (except for Melvins) and was more influenced by bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath (as seen in the first two tracks) rather than Sonic Youth and indie rock. The chaotic, distorted sound they've created helped developing the stoner metal genre, which is heard in the songs Tears To Forget and Hand Of God. The whole sound in empowered by the production, which is muddy, dirty and makes the EP even heavier. The only con about this EP is the duration of the songs, which is longer than it should be, and If it was reduced by 1:30 it could have been given a higher score
The lyrics and vary from depression and drug abuse to plain nonsense and heavy critique, which is an uncommon thing among grunge bands:
Sometimes you can give a band a break on their early material due to the quality of their later material. Well with Soundgarden, that isn’t the case, right from the start, with only their second release, “Screaming Life” EP, they already show many qualities that became their trademark.
From Chris Cornell’s banshee wail, to the wall of sound created by Kim Thayil thunderous, heavy guitar next to the fluid bass of Hiro Yamamoto, topped off with Matt Cameron’s steady beats, this already shows signs of what Soundgarden would become, if not already being in the general area.
Like most early Soundgarden material (pre-1991ish) this has more in common with stoner metal, and has strong influence by Black Sabbath. Also, “Screaming Life” sounds like the band just recorded whatever the heck they wanted as there is an experimental vibe on some of the tracks, demonstrated by such tracks as “Little Joe” which has more of a rap vibe. Another thing you’ll notice is the lyrics still don’t have some of the bite they do on other albums.
“Screaming Life” has a few key tracks on it, such as “Nothing to Say” which would remain a concert staple to their breakup, the rap flavoured “Little Joe” and the odd “Hand of God”. Though most of this material is fairly good, and there are no downright skipable tracks.
Overall, Soundgarden’s “Screaming Life” is a very solid EP, and while it is best taken in as something that helped allow them to find their sound, it is very enjoyable just on its own. Also this was combined with the other EP, “Fopp” on cd, making for a reasonably priced compilation.