Every Soundgarden Album, Ranked

Watch Stone Gossard, Jonny Polonsky Cover Audioslave In L.A.
Watch Stone Gossard, Jonny Polonsky Cowl Audioslave In L.A.

Soundgarden actually stood tall over the world of Seattle rock within the grunge period – each member of the band’s basic lineup was a minimum of 6’1”. As moreover the heaviest and most unabashedly formidable band within the scene, Soundgarden leapfrogged shortly from Sub Pop to a significant label within the late ‘80s. Frontman Chris Cornell, a naked chested rock god who might each sing and scream with uncanny melodic precision, finally revealed a delicate facet and a present for Beatles-esque psychedelic pop, whereas lead guitarist Kim Thayil and drummer Matt Cameron saved the band’s thunderous sound rooted in Sabbath and the Stooges.  

With the arrival of bassist Ben Shepherd in 1990, Soundgarden’s music grew to become extra complicated and collaborative as they explored alternate tunings and weird time signatures. Singles like “Outshined” and “Spoonman,” and a formative Lollapalooza stint in 1992, pushed the band to platinum gross sales, however Soundgarden broke up in 1997 earlier than ever mellowing out or turning into predictable.

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Cornell continued making hits as a solo artist and with the supergroup Audioslave, however Soundgarden’s comparatively amicable break up left the door open for a triumphant reunion in 2010. They continued touring and recording till Cornell’s loss of life in 2017, at which level they’d labored on a minimum of seven songs for a deliberate seventh studio album. After a protracted authorized battle between the band and the singer’s widow Vicky Cornell, a settlement was reached in 2023, hopefully clearing the best way for a last Soundgarden album launch sooner or later.

Soundgarden’s best-selling album, the dizzyingly numerous 70-minute opus Superunknown, was launched 30 years in the past final week. Is it their finest? Under, we’ll wade into the everlasting Badmotorfinger versus Superunknown debate and take a facet.

8. Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Throughout the Path (2014)

Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Throughout the Path is an appropriately nerdy title for a compilation tailor made for Soundgarden completists – a sprawling triple album divided into originals, covers and oddities. Highlights just like the Superunknown outtake “She Likes Surprises” and “Blind Canine” from the Basketball Diaries soundtrack are secret gems of the catalog. Listening to the band tackle Devo and Spinal Faucet songs is a kick, whereas different materials showcases the band’s spacey experimental facet. The brand new recording on the gathering, “Storm,” was written in 1985 and completed almost 30 years, and it holds up surprisingly nicely. Nonetheless, Echo of Miles is for hardcore followers solely, and simply skipped by everybody else.

7. Louder Than Love (1989)

Soundgarden’s main label debut for A&M Information got here at an ungainly time when their sound was a bit of too darkish for mainstream laborious rock, however future Seattle compatriots Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Alice in Chains hadn’t but primed different radio for one thing heavier. The singles “Loud Love” and “Palms All Over” are nice, however Louder Than Love is a wierd, meandering album, and the band’s camaraderie was faltering. Unique bassist Hiro Yamamato left Soundgarden quickly after the album was completed to pursue a Masters diploma in chemistry. The glam metallic parody “Massive Dumb Intercourse” was later lined by Weapons N’ Roses, who maybe didn’t get the joke. “This AOR reclamation job isn’t retro as a result of so a lot of their culturally disadvantaged boho contemporaries have just about the identical concept,” Robert Christgau wrote within the Village Voice assessment.

6. Screaming Life/Fopp (1990)

Soundgarden’s first two EPs from 1987 and 1988, later launched collectively on CD, are as essential to Sub Pop’s early historical past and what would finally be referred to as “grunge” as Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff or Nirvana’s Bleach. It’s spectacular how absolutely shaped Soundgarden was on Screaming Life – “Nothing to Say” sounds prefer it might’ve been on Badmotorfinger. Fopp is a bit more flimsy, making the compilation really feel lopsided. There’s just one unique music, and 10 minutes are dedicated to “Fopp,” a prime 40 hit from the Ohio Gamers’ 1975 funk basic Honey playfully rendered as an AC/DC-style rocker and an extended, bizarre dub remix filled with Godzilla sound results.

5. King Animal (2012)

Throughout Soundgarden’s 13-year breakup, Cornell and Cameron continued enjoying arenas with Audioslave and Pearl Jam, respectively, whereas Shepherd led Hater and Thayil collaborated with a bunch of friends. Seems the members of Soundgarden merely sound higher with one another than with anyone else, and King Animal rekindles that outdated chemistry with ease. Cornell’s voice had began to lose a few of its energy and vary in center age, and “Been Away Too Lengthy” is an uncharacteristically unimaginative comeback anthem. For probably the most half, the band picked up the place they’d left off within the ‘90s with gnarled, heavy grooves like “Non-State Actor” and “A Thousand Days Earlier than.”

4. Ultramega OK (1988)

Soundgarden had been already getting affords from main labels after their early Sub Pop releases, however opted to first make a smaller soar to a extra established indie, the California establishment SST Information, for his or her debut full-length. Soundgarden recorded on a budget with the label’s beneficial producer Drew Canulette, who’d labored on a Black Flag dwell album, they usually had been in the end sad with the sound and thought of remixing it. “There are some bizarre phasing points with guitars and a few cymbals,” Thayil advised creator Jim Ruland within the 2022 guide Company Rock Sunds: The Rise & Fall of SST Information. Regardless of the flawed manufacturing, Ultramega OK is a pointy and hard-hitting album, with spectacular songwriting contributions from every member and extra fascinating left turns than on the eventual Louder Than Love. The album solidified Soundgarden’s early popularity as a heavy band, garnering airplay on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and their first Grammy nomination (for, considerably comically, Finest Metallic Efficiency). In 2017, a Jack Endino remix was lastly accomplished and launched on an expanded reissue of the album.

3. Down on the Upside (1996)

1996 was a famously tough 12 months for different rock’s industrial prospects, as a lot of America’s greatest bands immediately discovered their new albums promoting half in addition to earlier efforts. That will have been a welcome adjustment for Pearl Jam, who’d been shell-shocked by their fast rise, however it appeared to take the wind out of Soundgarden’s sails, as they introduced their breakup lower than a 12 months after Down on the Upside hit shops. Upside retains the richly rewarding anything-goes vibe of Superunknown regardless of fewer standout hits, bouncing from the mandolin-flecked punk of “Ty Cobb” to the smiley, elastic Zeppelin groove of “Dusty” and the Moog atmospherics of “Applebite.” “Soundgarden doesn’t sound a lot like Rush anymore. There’s a brand new rhythmic tilt in just a few songs that implies the affect of the unjustly maligned ‘70s boogie custom – you’ll be able to virtually hear ‘Candy House Alabama’ hovering behind the backbeat of ‘Burden in My Hand,’” wrote Ivan Kreilkamp within the SPIN assessment.

2. Badmotorfinger (1991)

Michigan producer Terry Date spent the second half of the ‘80s serving to heavy bands resembling Metallic Church, Dream Theater and Fifth Angel file their debut albums earlier than he introduced Soundgarden roaring into the large leagues with the brooding bombast of Badmotorfinger. Cameron and Shepherd shaped a pummeling new rhythmic core for Soundgarden on “Jesus Christ Pose,” whereas Cornell started stretching out with arty epics like “Looking out With My Good Eye Closed.” Soundgarden would by no means wail with the identical constant depth after Badmotorfinger as they pivoted towards extra colourful and different albums, however the pace and fury of “Rusty Cage” and “Face Air pollution” is simple.

1. Superunknown (1994)

By the point Soundgarden started recording their fourth album, Cornell had already revealed a quieter, extra nuanced facet with the 1991 Pearl Jam-assisted facet challenge Temple of the Canine and his basic solo lower “Seasons” from the Singles soundtrack. The band’s first set of demos for Superunknown, nonetheless, caught to Soundgarden’s tried-and-true laborious rock sound, till producer Michael Beinhorn prodded Cornell to jot down songs extra like his basic rock heroes Cream and the Beatles. The consequence was a brand new crop of tunes that included the psychedelic “Black Gap Solar” and the gradual however highly effective “Fell on Black Days,” which propelled Superunknown right into a sextuple platinum blockbuster and proved Soundgarden wasn’t only for the metallic heads. Shepherd’s eerie “Head Down” and the clavinet-assisted groove of “Recent Tendrils” had been new territory, and even the largest straight-ahead rocker from the album, “Spoonman,” was an unlikely collaboration with the eccentric Seattle percussionist often called Artis the Spoonman. 

To see our working record of the highest 100 biggest rock stars of all time, click here.

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