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A Band Still Developing - 66%

Insin, April 9th, 2015

Ultramega OK is a strange one. Soundgarden’s debut shows them developing their sound, while putting in whatever they feel like onto the album. The album has been cobbled together from multiple influences and lacks much originality.

The major issue is the massive amount of joke songs. 665, 667, Circle of Power, and One Minute of Silence all fall under this category. 665 does have its humor value, just look at the reversed lyrics. This band, nicknamed “Frowngarden,” isn’t that depressing after all; 665 can be likened to Big Dumb Sex from the followup album, Louder Than Love, in terms of its lighthearted poking at cliches. Circle of Power, while possibly not intended to be a joke song, comes across as one with its display of flat-out terrible vocals, performed by bassist Hiro Yamamoto. He manages to sound like an enraged Eddie Vedder, completely drugged up, and hyperactive, while including spoken portions, all within two minutes. Leave the singing to Chris, please. The track still manages to have parts in a weird time signature – way to go, Soundgarden. None of these joke songs are too long, but they take up four out of thirteen of the tracks, and about 13.1% of the album’s run time.

The non-joke songs are not bad, but they’re lacking anything special about them. Soundgarden hadn’t found their style at that point, and while there are good riffs (see He Didn’t and Flower) and construction on Ultramega OK, nothing is catchy or really unique. They had yet to reach their classic sound of Superunknown, or even Badmotorfinger. Their punk influence is evident here, as well as a touch of blues and metal, specifically the slow and doomy songs taking guidance from Black Sabbath. The cover on here is an odd choice, but well-done: Smokestack Lightning from blues singer Howlin’ Wolf. Production is raw and could’ve used improvement. Cornell's voice is good but not at its peak, as are the intrumentalists’ performances.

Ultramega OK is the awkward start to Soundgarden’s career, and fortunately, they improved some after this. Highlights include Flower and the more acoustic-oriented Mood For Trouble. Worth checking out for the dedicated fan, not so much for the casual. All in all, Ultramega OK lives up to its name.