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All Your Fears Are Lies - 70%

Twisted_Psychology, June 24th, 2009

I've always held a strong belief that many of the bands that were labelled grunge were only considered to be so on the basis of their location. If bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains were from Texas instead of Washington, they'd probably be classified as stoner rock right now! Soundgarden in particular was hard to put a label on and their debut album shows the band at their most experimental.

While future albums such as "Superunknown" may feature an eclectic variety of genres and style experimentations, "Ultramega OK" may be the most erratic album of the band's career. It could be viewed as an archetypical debut album; the production is raw and somewhat unbalanced but the band's execution takes no prisoners and wouldn't give a damn what the survivors would think anyway. Vocalist Chris Cornell's performance stands out in particular and while he's not as strong as on later efforts, he still manages to hit some of the highest notes in his entire career (Just listen to the climax of "Smokestack Lightning"). Of course, his lyrics are even more cryptic and hard to interpret than they would later become...

For the most part, the band's best performances seem to occur they stick to a more direct approach. "Beyond the Wheel" is probably the strongest track of the lot and thrives on eerily droning Sabbath-esque riffs and Cornell's contrasting moans and howls and "Incessant Mace" stands out with its slower tempo and bluesy guitar performance. This album also seems to have more punk influence than later albums and delivers some solid attitude-driven material in the form of "All Your Lies," "Nazi Driver," and "Head Injury."

Unfortunately, this album's flaws seem to mostly come from the more experimental songs on here. While the ideas behind "665," "667," and the band's "cover" of John Lennon's "One Minute of Silence" are fairly amusing (Especially the backmasking on "665"), they don't accomplish much musically and seem to disrupt the album's flow. I also side with the numerous people who believe that "Circle of Power" would've been a much better song if bassist Hiro Yamamoto's vocal performance wasn't so poorly executed. Honestly, it sounds like he was deliberately trying to make the song sound so terrible. I can only wonder what the story behind that move was...

All in all, this is a pretty interesting effort worth checking for fans of the band and "grunge" in general, but I'm not too sure if it's accessible enough to be a first purchase for a newcomer. Perhaps after a bit of editing...

Pros:
1) An eclectic and interesting listening experience
2) Great band performance

Cons:
1) Most of the experimental tracks don't seem to work as actual songs
2) The production is rather raw and unbalanced

Current Favorites:
"All Your Lies," "Beyond the Wheel," "He Didn't," "Head Injury," and "Incessant Mace"