Seattle band Soundgarden’s first studio album since 1996 was just released. It’s been a long time.
Vocalist Chris Cornell evidently agrees; the first track on the album, called “Been Away Too Long,” is an upbeat, driving rock song. This song was alright, but it was definitely the right choice as the first song on the album.
“Non-State Actor” sounded very much like the old Soundgarden. The vocals, the guitars, and the melody sounded like it came straight out of the 90s. It’s debatable whether that’s a good thing or not, but considering that it’s Soundgarden we’re talking about, I’ll call it a good thing.
“By Crooked Steps” and “Blood on the Valley Floor” were not very interesting musically. The lyrics of “By Crooked Steps” were somewhat interesting, but that didn’t make the song itself much better. It was very repetitive, and the vocals didn’t seem to match the tone of the song very well. “Blood on the Valley Floor” had a cool, heavy sound to it, but it just wasn’t up to the standards. “Taree” was another unimpressive song, aside from the solo, which I thought was played very well and musically interesting.
“A Thousand Days Before” was one of the best songs on the album. It created a dreamy mood in the beginning, and built up for the chorus. The lyrics were really reflective: “Now a thousand days have gone/again, like the sun and moon at war.” They were almost poetic.
“Bones of Birds” was a pretty good track. Like “Non-State Actor,” it sounded a lot like something from Soundgarden’s previous albums.
“Attrition” was one of the few faster songs of the album. After a long string of slower songs in the middle of the album, “Attrition” was a refreshing break, and something a lot more fun than many of the slower, heavier songs. Musically there was a lot going on, but everything flowed together quite well.
“Black Saturday” was more acoustic and minimal in the beginning. The song built up, from just an acoustic guitar and vocals, then adding some percussion, and eventually, adding in the rest of the band with an electric guitar. This song also included vocal harmonies which some of the other songs were missing. This song was very well written, and perhaps even the best on the album.
“Halfway There” sounded very poppy to me. The rhythm the guitar used in the intro sounded like something a pop-punk band would use. The song was catchy and fun, but there wasn’t anything special about it.
“Worse Dreams” had a very long, minimal intro. I liked the percussion during the verses, as it was not your typical rock beat. Aside from the intro, this song was good. I would have cut the intro and made it at least half as long. “Eyelid’s Mouth” had a similar minimalist intro, although it was much shorter. The vocals on this were outstanding, especially during the beginning and chorus. Although not as good as “Black Saturday,” this was a well-written song.
“Rowing” was a good way to end the album. Soundgarden definitely knows how to order their songs on an album. The song itself focused on the vocals, and was very repetitive, but not horrible. As the song went on, more instruments were added into the song and it got more interesting.
Overall, I give this album 3.5 out of 5 stars. Keeping in mind that Soundgarden hadn’t put together an album in 15 years, it wasn’t bad. I’m partial to their older albums, but I do hope they put out another album in a couple of years, as I’m sure they’ll improve.