Reprinted without permission from KERRANG!, December 14, 1996

by Joshua Sindell

Rocket From the Crypt
Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles
Monday, December 2


It's hard to believe a band as fiercely elemental as Rocket From The Crypt would confuse anyone, but the blank, uncomprehending stares they receive show the obvious: they are not welcome here. This crowd wants something heavy, dark and sombre, and Rocket -- with their silver bowling shirts and hand-clappin', finger snappin' bonhomie -- provide anything but.

Singer Speedo leads them through '50s-influenced punk tunes like of "On a Rope", "My Arrow's Aim" and "Drop Out" with flat-out fury, but the much-vaunted horn section gets lost in the murky mix. Trumpeter JC 2000 becomes so infuriated with the lack of response that he strides the lip of the stage with a bottle of water, dousing onlookers with quick, stabbing motions. As they finish, he sneeringly adds, "Thanks for putting up with yourselves". He and the band get the worst kind of reaction -- none at all.

As Soundgarden tear into opener "Spoonman" all memories of the support band are blown away. LA has loved this band from its earliest visits to the town's grottiest punk dives, and Soundgarden reward them with a set that gets better and better. The most telling thing is that the usually mosh-happy crowd stand awestruck, so intent are they on every second of Chris Cornell's magnetic performances of "Searching With My Good Eye Closed" and "Pretty Noose".

While Cornell has the annoying tendency to sing his vocal lines differently to the way they were recorded, it's done to dissuade mass sing-alongs -- not that anyone could duplicate that incredible voice. Bassist Ben Shepherd, meanwhile, stalks up and down the stage, a bemused look on his face rather than the usual scowl self. He walks up to Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil, eyeing them intently as if to say, "Are you enjoying this? I think I am". And they call them Frowngarden...

By the time Soundgarden launch into "Outshined", longtime fans are exchanging disbelieving glances. Soundgarden have never, ever been this good before. "Rusty Cage" is heavier than a dying sun, "Blow Up the Outside World" sounds nothing short of thunderous, and "Slaves and Bulldozers" is performed with supernova intensity. Even after 19 songs, the audience demands more, and receive "Dusty" and "Jesus Christ Pose" in return.

It ends in a hail of feedback and strewn amps, the crowd booing when the house lights go up.

Most Rocking moment:
A devastating segue from an acoustic "Black Hole Sun" into an overdriven "Outshined"

Least Rocking moment:
The losers in the audience ignoring Rocket From The Crypt

Best Onstage Quote:
"We come from Seattle, where it rains 364 days a year and schoolteachers shoot heroin..." -- a sarcastic Chris Cornell

Rocketing from agony to ecstasy