I've probably listened to this album to the point of overplaying it already. But it still doesn't sound any less interesting. Here's my attempt at reviewing it (I tried to review album as a whole rather than focus on the individual tracks):
Sixteen long years have passed since the last Soundgarden album. And things have completely changed in that time. Or have they?
I’ve been waiting for this album ever since the band announced their reunion on 1st January, 2012: "The 12-year break is over and school is back in session. Sign up now. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!" To be honest I could actually smell it happen even a few months before the announcement, I knew they’d be back the moment I read about all four band members appearing together at a Pearl Jam Concert. Anyway, I pop the CD into my stereo, press play and the first track comes up. Been Away Too Long doesn’t sound like a typical Soundgarden song, but it’s catchy and energetic and does a good job at opening the album. As the album progresses though it becomes more and more apparent that King Animal is a Soundgarden album through and through. It contains all the signature elements of the band – odd time signatures that still somehow manage to sound completely natural, kickass drumming from Matt Cameron, who finally sounds at home again, heavy Kim Thayil riffs (and an occasional eastern influence or two, listen to A Thousand Days Before and see what I mean), great bass lines from Ben Shepherd and of course Cornell’s brooding vocals. While he can’t quite reach the notes he once used to hit with ease, his raspier and more mid-range vocal style works perfect for this kind of album.
Songwriting on King Animal is absolutely top notch. There’s a lot of diversity and weird Soundgarden moments, although the band does not dwell into the weirdness too much. But they still take you to different places and through different moods, which combined create an atmosphere that goes hand in hand with the album’s artwork – it’s dark, creepy and heavy, with signs of light every now and then, but even that light feels rather cold. The production is also perfect, it is polished but still raw and natural sounding.
So, was the wait worth it? Well, that depends. If you were hoping for Badmotorfinger part II, then no. King Animal is not a rehash of the band’s previous material, it is not a return to form or a reunion album. No, King Animal is the band picking up right where they left off with Down on the Upside, it is the band continuing to row onwards. “I don’t know where I’m going, I just keep on rowing”, Cornell sings on the album’s closing track, a perfect bluesy adventure which ends in a storm of wailing vocals and guitar wizardry. But if this album is any sign, wherever he and the rest of Soundgarden may be rowing to, it is the right direction.
I had high hopes for this, but it still exceeded my expectations. And yes, now I can say I like it better than Down on the Upside for sure, this is more consistant. It feels like the band never went away, as it really doesn't feel like a reunion album.
My favorite songs: A Thousand Days Before, Blood on the Valley Floor, Bones of Birds, Taree, Black Saturday, Eyelid’s Mouth, Rowing. There is no song that could be called filler on here and it’s hard to choose favorites, but these are my picks.