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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soundgarden get autumnal on their comeback album, December 10, 2012
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This review is from: King Animal (Audio CD)
Having been a Soundgarden fan since early high school, I wasn't sure what to expect from their comeback album, the first in 16 long years. Not only has technology, the bandmembers' age, and MTV changed; the musical landscape itself has transformed tremendously since the mid '90s. The fading grunge scene has all but died, paving the way for countless uninspired bands like some kind of cruel slash-and-burn cycle that began with a beautiful forest but ended with an ugly cold jungle. However, in the midst of said forest, there has always been a garden. Sometimes serene, sometimes abrasive, sometimes not even appearing at all, this garden is more or less the genesis AND revelation of alternative heaviness. Obviously, this palindromic force is Soundgarden. Reforming in 2010 with a new compilation album, their reunion generated a lot of feedback, but the "new" songs on the album didn't really generate much buzz. Likewise, their song for the "AVENGERS" soundtrack was fair as a standalone rock song, but absolutely stale and generic for a band with such unprecedented power and unpredictability. Was Soundgarden still able to kindle the fire they'd created long ago? I treaded cautiously but enthusiastically while preparing for their comeback album....

The lead single, "Been Away Too Long," makes a LOT of sense. Perhaps too much, as it almost seems like a blatant marketing attempt to get everyone charged up with a kick-ass rock song that disguises an album that may otherwise not be representative of Soundgarden's uncompromising sound. Thankfully, that notion is false. In fact, "Been Away Too Long" is one of the lesser tracks on the album. "Non-State Actor" has a funky drive and a hell of a lot of attitude, and in my opinion, it's the REAL album opener. "By Crooked Steps" introduces Open-D (DADF#AD) tuning to their sonic catalog, with superb results. It has an almost dissonant time signature, but with repeated listens, it becomes apparent that it's subtly fantastic work- much like the album itself. Then there's the album's absolute masterpiece- "A Thousand Days Before." It begins with a serene, meditative guitar riff that'll make you crank the volume until a surprise ditty makes you jump out of your seat (it happened to me). An almost wistful track, the song will make you feel romantic, reminiscent, and powerful at the same time, as Chris sings, "Here in the cold, where no one stands beside me/ I'll be on my own side, you know where to find me..." It's an anthem for the loner in all of us. Other highlights include the creeping "Blood on the Valley Floor"(with a riff that's cerebral and slugging), the eerily mortal "Bones of Birds"(with an anthemic chorus reminiscent of "Blow up the Outside World"), the folky "Black Saturday," and the epic "Rowing," the album's closing song that manages to be simultaneously soothing, unsettling, and leaving the listener thirsty for more.

All in all, this is an album that takes TIME to grown on the listener. It lacks the hooks of their previous albums, including Down on the Upside, but you know what? This album is more rewarding, more precise, and more confident than ANY grunge album released since Screaming Trees' 1996 opus, "Dust". Listen for yourself. It may take weeks, months, years to fully comprehend this album. In a sense, that makes the listener hope that the sheer mystery of this release will never dissipate.

Final Score: 8.1/10
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 16, 2012 4:55:26 AM PST
Mark F says:
"However, in the midst of said forest, there has always been a garden."

That line rocks.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2012 8:47:00 AM PST
Thank you. :)

I just kind of visualized it as I wrote. :D
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