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Soundgarden: King Animal (Seven Four Entertainment/Republic, CD)

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Soundgarden – King Animal

As Soundgarden kicks in with the ferocious (and appropriately named) lead-off slammer “Been Away Too Long,” it would seem that the Seattle grunge icons’ reunion album is more of the same—a predictable return to their heavy sound.

And while King Animal certainly takes up where they left off with their last release, Down on the Upside, in 1996, the band—best known for its sludgy 1994 grunge anthem “Black Hole Sun”—explores plenty of new colors in this set of 13 fresh compositions. “Bones of Birds” is slow and reflective, while “A Thousand Days Before” flirts with psychedelia and a jumpy rhythm. Elsewhere, the more melodic leanings of singer Chris Cornell’s acoustically oriented solo work is echoed in “Halfway There.”

The album boasts from a solid recording and mix that harken back to Soundgarden’s 1990s classics while benefitting from the sonic improvements of the 2010s. And throughout, Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron lock in like they never stopped playing together 16 years ago. Great to have them back.

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