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.
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