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Sludgegarden - 78%

Insin, May 9th, 2015

Love does not have a volume or make noise. It is an abstract concept. So, by default, this album is in fact louder than love: an improvement upon the mediocre Ultramega OK, but not yet at the level of later albums Badmotorfinger and Superunknown. Soundgarden adopts a sludgy feel, much of the album slow and driven by Black Sabbath worship with the inclusion of punk influences. The song Gun demonstrates exactly what the album is about. It’s doomy and slow, gradually building in speed until the punk-driven bridge, with a solo that has not quite yet taken on Kim’s trademark sound but still kicks ass.

Louder Than Love features solid instrumentation, albeit nothing special, and the production is raw. The band plays in various unusual time signatures, typical for them throughout their entire career (despite not being associated with prog or math rock/metal). There are a few memorable riffs here, especially Gun, Loud Love, Hands All Over and Big Dumb Sex’s funky, catchy riff. Loud Love shares an almost floating, spacey vibe with Searching with My Good eye Closed from the following album. I Awake is despairing, beginning with the lines “woke up depressed,” and it descends into Cornell screeching “I love you!” over and over, no doubt helping the band earn the nickname “Frowngarden.” Hands All Over is the album’s best remembered song, though it might have done better if it had been shortened instead of plodding along for a total of six minutes.

Cornell’s voice was still developing at this point, not yet reaching the peak of versatility and fullness found on later albums, though he unleashes some great screams. This is exemplified by Power Trip, and more notably the way the guitar transitions flawlessly into his voice at the beginning of Loud Love. The lyrics, usually vague in the band’s case, are clearer on this release, mocking and immature, in reference to Big Dumb Sex and the punk-driven Full on Kevin’s Mom (but who could hate that mommy scream?). (Okay, BDS is fairly entertaining and catchy – the fucks change ears if you listen with headphones. It was meant to mock hair metal bands that only sang about sex, but Guns n Roses clearly didn’t get the message when they covered it.)

Louder Than Love is not a widely varied album; it’s sludgy, guided by Black Sabbath and to a slightly lesser extent punk rock. It bridges the gap between their early sound and Badmotorfinger, the albums prior to their experimentation with the alternative rock sound. Though it varies from song to song, the tracks generally tend to be dark, primitive, and creeping; or quicker and punk-influenced, or a combination of the two.

Recommended album. Highlights: Gun, Loud Love, Big Dumb Sex.