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The Most Fun You’ll Get Out Of Grunge - 94%

OzzyApu, October 23rd, 2009

Of all the Soundgarden albums, this is easily my favorite. Badmotorfinger got me into the band, but this album draws you in like no other, regardless of what music locale you’re coming from. Something about it tastes so bittersweet and the stench is so alluring. The uniqueness of this album has withstood history; I can hardly think of anything that sounds so distinct on such a level. The album is so dynamic, enduring, rich, and deep without going overboard – it has its own character and personality, flawlessly tripping you out every time you hear it. The band is at their creative peak with this album, I feel, and was unable to replicate it in their short career post-release.

Superunknown encompasses many styles that make listening to this a spiritual journey as anyone’s ever going to get. There is this essence that transcends merely hearing songs; it reaches in and pulls you into Soundgarden’s blazed world. While the last output stood well on its own as a heavy metal album, this one goes more into the alternative territory (“grungier,” if you so happen to be yelling that at this point). The bass is at its grooviest, the tone is squishy, and the vibe is psychedelically chill. It’s quite a comforting, warm approach to such music and makes it standout well amongst its peers.

Many people have heard the staple “Black Hole Sun,” and while I think its pretty good, I dismiss it in the face of the other tracks, which I believe excel way above it. Many people miss out on the surfer-esque “My Wave,” the anthem / epic title track, and the hauntingly gloomy “Head Down.” Superunknown is packed with pieces that truly have a life of their own; so many personalities running wild make this a dreamy experience like no other. The main effect comes from the guitars, which morph between brisk, muddy, pensive, and overall colorful and friendly, despite the overall dark tone of the album. Thayil, that bearded bastard, is the real deal behind the fun factor, though Cornell and him don’t fuck around when it comes to the more raw tracks like “Spoonman.” You want a throwback to Badmotorfinger, then “Spoonman” is your call sign. Aside from the inclusion of spoons, the song is a balls to the wall beat-em-up with a skullcrushing riff and a brilliant, soulful performance on Cornell’s part. Everything you’d expect from him shines here and elsewhere: expressiveness, lucidity, articulation, and just flat-out hellish wailing with that pissed-off attitude behind them.

Alice In Chains may have been fucked up with their realistic portrayal of drugs on their Dirt album a couple years before this release, but Soundgarden portray such substances in a more positive, philosophical light. The concept of duality is alive and well as your soul surges through each song, for your body doesn’t need to be along for the ride to get a once in a lifetime experience. It’s difficult to really nail down a track for giving this album a bad rap, since the experience is collective; they all must team together to whisk your mind off into another world. You can easily choose a song at random and still have a jovial time, but if you want to achieve enlightenment without becoming Buddhist, then you must hear this from start to finish. It’s a long album, but not one moment you’ll feel out of touch from metal – only reality and all of its associated evils.

Drumming I’d say is relentless without going into any extreme territories. Matt Cameron is a beast in a wolf’s body, I’d say, because he can pretty much compete with the best of them. He takes on a jazzier style, much like the music, but that won’t stop him when the music takes a nosedive (which it often does). Crashing cymbals and bobbing double bass never had so much power behind them, and you can literally picture him in your head playing them; you damn well know it’s him behind the kit. He definitely has the right patterns going on, really helping you to take the music all around without going berserk or pummeling you non-stop with blast-beats. If there’s one thing I’ll rag on, it’s the hollow sounding toms, which even then is like stabbing Euronymous in the back right after Varg finished – you just don’t do it. It’s very noticeable and although I hate it, I can’t help but love it, but only because the music benefits all-around (hollow toms / snares would never pass in my book for an extreme metal band).

One track I’ll praise wholeheartedly with all the life in my body is “4th Of July,” a track that offers more than all the singles from this album combined. The guitar ruptures forward, falling leisurely with a luxuriously sludgy tone. The atmosphere is otherworldly dark, brooding alongside Cornell’s haunting opening lines. It’s the darkest song on the album, which protrudes as its lifespan shortens with every passing second. It’s an unforgettable song that captures the best of all the instruments and will cause the hairs on the back of your neck to cower. The bass, like on most of the album, is particularly bludgeoning and crisp, truly adding another layer as it crushes any unmoving moments.

It was a monumental achievement when an album like this managed to become number one in the US, especially considering the content. All the yuppies care about “Black Hole Sun,” but we know there’s far more magic to be found. If you see the opulent cover art as it sits proudly on the face of the booklet (behind the jewel case, of course) chilling on the shelf of the nearest music store, then you better cough up all you have (if that’s what it takes) in order to get it. Superunknown is really the masterwork of Soundgarden and will live happily amongst the rabble of our collection, as it does in my own.