on 25 February 2001
I have owned Superunknown since it was released. it was the first soundgarden record i bought. To this day it is still one of my favourite albums. There are many great things to be said of this recording. Perfect production, fantastic vocals, searing guitar work from both Thayil and Cornell, drums from Cameron fitting perfectly with each track. What stands it above its contemporaries for me is the apparent simplicity but underlying complexity of the music. Couple this with the vocal range of Chris Cornell revelling in the highs,(Superunknown, My Wave) and dragging us through the more downbeat songs, (4th of July, Like Suicide). i can even forgive a few of the ropey tracks towards the end because the quality of their companions is so high. BUY IT!!!!
on 14 September 2005
Soundgarden are often referred to as merely a clever metal band - plenty of style, but no real substance. They are accused of using musical tricks to hide the lack of real invention or emotional depth in their music. Anyone who says so is unlikely to have heard this album. On previous releases, the arrangements have been more aggressive, perhaps at the expense of some of the subtlety displayed here, and certainly there is a lyrical depth that seems newly discovered. Released in the heyday of Grunge, this album shows that Soundgarden are not so easily categorised.
The range of material on this album is amazing, and the band are on a technical and musical high throughout, although the mood is often much darker. "Mailman" is a bleak, threatening and vivid piece, a promise of violence that builds in intensity, and is genuinely disturbing. The title track is a superb riff-based powerhouse, with a memorable lead line, and the band simply rock. "Fresh Tendrils" features intense vocals from Chris Cornell, and some brilliant rhythmic precision from drums and bass. "Just Like Suicide" is perhaps the closest thing to classic grunge here, with some perfectly crafted guitar from Kim Thayil, and a lazy but relentless beat. Cornell's vocals here are dark and expressive.
There are several relatively weak numbers on the album, but on a release of sixteen tracks this is inevitable. To be fair, none of them are truly awful, just below par in the context of the extremely high standard displayed. There is great emotional conviction here, some mature lyrics and complex arrangements, and a band on top form. Overall, this is a superbly crafted album, almost certainly the most musically significant Soundgarden have produced to date, and it is a must for fans of alternative rock.
on 25 February 2012
Superunknown is quite simply the best rock/metal (not gonna use the G word) album of the last century. Kerrang magazine reviewed the album on release and stated that this was the album that all other albums will be compared to as this is pretty near perfection.
The thing that makes this album so amazing is that it is so experimental and sometimes off the wall but it hits the spot and delivers on every level. Soundgarden didn't play it safe and make something easy for the masses to digest, oh no, they gave us some of the most thought provoking lyrics (Like Suicide, 4th of July) and rip your face off riffs (My Wave, Mailman) and put them with songs like "Half" and "Head Down" which challenged the listener. "Black Hole Sun" was the hit from the album but is far from the strongest song on here.
I bought the cd whilst visiting Seattle on its day of release so my cd ends with "Like Suicide" which I prefer as a full stop to the album.
Soundgarden never bettered this album and having seen them live three times, this tour was the best I saw them at. Tight but loose, heavy but tender, joyous but sad.
on 19 February 2006
If you are after the definitive 'grunge' album, this is the one. There are very few fillers on here and plenty of classics. Who could argue with Black Hole Sun or Spoonman as being two of the best rock tunes of the era?? I have to admit I loved all the bands of that genre but I have to say that without a doubt this is THE best album of the lot. Forget Nevermind, In Utero, Ten, Dirt etc this is the one that blows everything else away. An essential purchase for lovers of early nineties rock.
on 8 August 2003
Soundgarden were too talented to be constrained by a meaningless term like 'grunge', and almost 10 years later this album stands up as a high-water mark for '90s rock. Featuring the Robert Plant-like vocal stylings of Chris Cornell ('No one sings like you any more'), a crunchy hard-rock guitar tone (not quite enough bottom end to be truly Sabbath-like, but getting there), Superunknown, their fourth album-length excursion, saw the band free themselves from the vestigial remains of their Sub Pop roots and invest their highly individual form of contemporary rock with swirling psychedelic flourishes.
The introduction to 'Head down' may sound for all the world like an outtake from Led Zeppelin III, but 'Black hole sun' sounds like nothing else you've ever heard, and I'd recommend your purchase it on the strength of this track alone. From the simple but monstrous riff at the heart of 'Spoonman' to the crawling crescendos of 'Day I tried to live', Superunknown is a sprawling, ambitious work which glistens with many of the rock spectrum's various hues, but which nevertheless manages to maintain its integrity.
This is a special album.
on 10 January 2014
What a shame. Waited years to get my hands on 2 x lp black vinyl. I have had the CD since it's original release and absolutely love it. Thought vinyl would rock. Sadly it does not. Tinny sounding with not enough middle. Very quiet for a double LP and lacking any richness. This may be because the vinyl is not heavy weight. Who knows. If your a fan of the CD. I would stick with that.
on 9 September 2010
Back in 1994, Soundgarden with Cornell on lead vocals released their masterpiece. He was one of the great grunge voices of the era. His voice soared over the bludgeoning, guttural riffs of Kim Thayil, especially on this album.
Previous albums had impressed, but Superunknown was a bold statement. 70 minutes and 15 diverse tracks was quite a lot to take in. Were they aiming for a White Album of grunge, maybe? The bottom line with this album is it is full of great, heavy songs, many of which were quite anthemic, and a lot of it is more metal than grunge.
Fell On Black Days, starts with a great, driving low riff and a superb vocal from Cornell. Mailman, is heavier, almost draggier (in a good way), as Cornell sings about "heading for the bottom". The title track follows which races along at breakneck speed, sounding enormous. Thayil plays not one but 2 guitar riffs and Cornell belts out the lyrics as if his life depended on it.
There is room for moodier introspective (with a degree of heaviness) on tracks like Head Down, The Day I Tried To Live, both of which feature unusual, exciting chord progressions. Along similar lines Black Hole Sun made a huge impression on MTV, being both a moody anthem, and being radio-friendly.
At the opposite end of the spectrum Spoonman is a heavy anthem featuring jackhammer drums, rampaging riffs and a spoon solo (!) in the middle (failed to start a musical trend), while Kickstand is a short, sharp, punky shock to the system.
On Half they try their hand at Eastern stylings while 4th of July drags a little on sludgier than sludgy riffs, but in the main the ten tonne, 20 metres below sea-level guitar riffs and vocal pyrotechnics win the day here. It's one of the essential albums of the grunge era.
The hype and publicity that surrounded the band after the boom of grunge music was somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand it gave Soundgarden mass sales and worldwide recognition, but on the other it lead to a lot of flat-out copying and phoney bands producing sub-standard `scene' music. "Superunknown" is Soundgarden's reaction to the sudden fame and worldwide power of the Seattle scene, disposing of the full-on guitar onslaught of previous works, and creating a hybrid album, combining the best aspects of grunge, psychedelic, pop and punk rock.
Quotes from the band pretty much sum up this idea of evolving past the generic scene - Cornell said on his return to Seattle "every single person in Seattle started looking like me, all the young white boys with long curly brown hair and facial hair". He proceeded to shave his head after this, thus loosing the famed locks. He also talked about bands becoming "Seatlized", and how "Superunknown" sees the band trying to "keep things interesting", and ultimately maintain inspiration.
The result is a large body of works. This album is very long for your 90's rock release, containing 16 tracks spanning just over 70 minutes. Such length is a reflection of the ambition here, as the band really strived to create something grand, complex and varied. Apparently they had enough material to span two discs, and were even considering this option, but they all managed to agree on which songs to cut out, leaving these wondrous cuts.
The album also took on some new ears with producer Michael Beinhorn and sound engineer Brendan O'Brien, both well respected in their jobs, and they brought the Soundgarden sound to a whole new level. Previous albums had a somewhat muddy feel, and often the guitar tone lacked abrasion. This is not the case with "Superunknown" which was Soundgarden's first well-recorded and mixed release, with its warm vibe that is also punishing and powerful when need be.
One may be a little put off by this new ambition to create a hybrid album crossing the genres, as after all Soundgarden were renowned as one of the hardest, heaviest and no-messing acts around in the late 80's and early 90's. But don't worry, as the band has lost none of its rocking ability in their maturing years. "Let Me Drown" kicks things off in excellent hard rocking style combining typically gloomy lyrics of the time, concerning crawling back into the womb to die (inspired by salmon's return to their birthplace to pass away), with powerful guitar riffs, overwhelming Cornell vocals, booming Cameron drums and stylish Thayil solos. This is the sound of a hard rocking band maturing and sharpening their style. "Let Me Drown" continues this style with one of the album's most contagious riffs and an excellent confrontational vocal delivery from Cornell. This all gives way to a stunning psychedelic closing section, an aspect of the band that was somewhat swept aside on "Badmotorfinger".
This sharpening of the grunge rock anthem is perhaps best highlighted with the album's lead single, which was ultimately one of the biggest songs from the 90's - "Black Hole Sun". Yes, this song is popular, but it's for a very good reason. Soundgarden get everything spot on here, big booming chorus lines, a contrasting laid-back melancholy atmosphere in the verses and some seriously slick guitar outings, all culminating at the end to forge a massive climax. This is a truly excellent song, and perhaps the pinnacle of the band's career.
"Superunknown" is a typically gloomy and despairing album thematically. Cornell is not a happy soul, and in keeping with his style, and that of the genre, this album has some really brooding dirges. "Fell On Black Days" really hit me the first time I listened to it. The lead riff is bluesy with that special dark and menacing attitude, and Cornell's dejected vocal style which comes in-between the banshee cries in other songs is put to its best use ever here, completely swamping the song and stealing the spotlight. The title really gives away the theme of this song, it is an honest little lament about the sting of depression. Is this a somewhat self-indulgent, been-done-before theme? The answer is of course yes, but the earnest delivery is chilling and rides above the thousands of grunge ballads. Other menacingly dark pieces include "Mailman", a somewhat Sabbath-esque tune that slowly grinds away. There is the sluggish "Limo Wreck", which is a fine combination of Thayil's bleak guitar overtones and Cornell's idiosyncratic laid-back melancholy style I spoke of earlier, all contrasted with a crashing chorus, peaked by Cornell's aggressive cries of "and the wreck of you, is the death of you". And to conclude the dirge section there is the wondrous "4th of July", which is Soundgarden's tour-de-force of slow, ominous guitars, with its huge lead riff, augmented by Cornell's eerie and echoed vocals. One of my favourite cuts on the album.
The album balances these slow and gloomy tracks with a deal of up beat and ultimately feel-good songs. For example the title track is very retro-fun sounding, and contains some of Cornell's best deliveries on the album, really taking that banshee/Robert Plant influenced wail to its limits. "Spoonman" is equally up beat, fusing a catchy lead riff with some experimental tribal drumming and clattering of spoons. "The Day I Tried To Live" is the ultimate Soundgarden inspirational song. Starting with an ethereal lead intro that harkens back to the beginnings of "Loud Love" from their mixed-bag release "Louder Than Love", it moves into a stripped-down verse section which gradually builds to a glossy, beautiful chorus.
So overall, this is Soundgarden's magnus opus. It sees the band evolving from the generic Seattle sound, fusing all sorts of genres to create an eclectic body of works. This is one of the most important albums of the 90's, and really a must-have for any fan of rock music.
on 27 May 2009
I know I have said this is Soundgardens best album and only giving it 4 stars because for me, I prefer Aduioslave and the most brilliant Temple Of The Dog album. For those people that don't know they are two other groups in which Chris Cornell is the lead singer for too. The best thing about this Superunknown album is if you strip away the music is that every single song pretty much has wonderful lyrics. The songs Black Hole Sun and The Day I Tried To Live are both tremendous. The main thing that lets Soundgarden down for me is that I find their tunes are rather tuneless in the main. If their tunes were better then yes 5 stars no problem but as it is just compare this to the Temple Of The Dog and you will see where I am coming from.
on 7 November 2000
Although soundgarden lost their place as frontmen of seattle under nirvana, it is safe to say that this is one of the best alternative rock/metal albums ever produced. It is one of those albums that leaves you wanting more, with the kind of melodies that cannot be copied or remade. The bands evident maturity and slowed down tempo makes for a far more varied and interesting album than its predecessors, with such classic tracks as like suicide, the day i tried to live, black hole sun and fell on black days. This truly makes for an unforgettable rock album. Soundgarden and indeed seattle at its best.