We live in a time where it’s rare to see a straight up “rock” album recorded. We live in the era of space rock, indie rock, folk rock, electro-rock, etc…
That’s what King Animal is: a straight-up, no frills rock album – guitar, bass, drums, and heavy, heavy riffage. In a way, it’s refreshing in simplicity…but in another way, I kind of wish Soundgarden had pushed the envelope.
I was nervous about this for good reason. Soundgarden’s first album in 15-16 years. I had no idea what to expect, and artists are notorious for going to seed in old age. I could see King Animal going one of two ways: Soundgarden sticking to their signature sound of grungy, doomy riffage, or completely surprising everyone with something off the wall.
They decided to go the safe route. This album is a time capsule. Any of these songs could have fit on any of Soundgarden’s other albums. It’s good, it rocks, don’t get me wrong…clearly Kim Thayil hasn’t lost his touch (even if Cornell’s voice is noticeably weaker). But King Animal doesn’t stand out from the rest of their discography. I was really, really interested to see if any more modern music influenced their sound. From the few listens I’ve had, I would say no.
After all, these guys have had sixteen years to learn, grow, and listen to new stuff that might have influenced their current sound. But then again, perhaps the homage they paid to their old sound was a conscious decision. I read somewhere that there was a lot of disappointment with the release Down on the Upside because of a departure from their signature riffage.
Which would be an understandable decision. If fans have been demanding a new Soundgarden album, how cheated would many have felt if they got something un-Soundgarden-esque?
King Animal is a decent album. I just get this inkling that it could have been so much more. Then again, maybe I should just let Soundgarden be Soundgarden, and enjoy what they have offered up – a great rock album and a fitting tribute to their legacy.
Highlights: “Been Away Too Long”, “Blood on the Valley Floor”, “Black Saturday”, “Rowing”