Reprinted without permission from St. Pete Times, April 15, 1997

The band helped define the Seattle sound, and it's hometown rock scene is full of shock and regret.

SEATTLE -- The breakup of Soundgarden, a rock band that helped define the uniquely Seattle sound known as "grunge", is a sad milestone in Seattle rock history.

Signaling what many feel is the end of the grunge era, acclaimed multiplatinum hard rockers Soundgarden called it quits Wenesday after 12 years together.

Along with Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden brought international attention to the city's rock scene with it's powerful and brooding sound.

Several of Soundgarden's songs -- Rusty Cage, Jesus Christ Pose, and Black Hole Sun -- are classics of the Seattle sound.

While the breakup was a surprise to many, the writing had been on the wall for some time. Relations among group members reportedly were strained.

During the Lollapalooza tour, band members were taking separate flights and meeting at the gigs. A few performances, insiders said, were interrupted by onstage spats that saw some members walk off in mid-performance. And it was recently rumored that bassist Ben Shepherd had joined another band, Devilhead.

Talk of a breakup brewed for weeks, but few fans believed there was any truth to it. So the groups decision to disband was greeted with shock and regret."It really makes me sad," said Jeff Gilbert, a Seattle-based writer and editor for Guitar World magazine. "Soundgarden is the cornerstone of the Seattle sound. With them gone, the whole scene could crumble. A lot of Seattle bands are really depressed. They're in a state of shock."

Soundgarden began its career on Seattle's influential "indie" label, Sub Pop Records, and later moved to A&M Records. The group performed twice on the Lollapalooza alternative-rock tour, most recently last sumer with headliner Metallica.

Soundgarden, which has sold more than 20-million albums, won two Grammy Awards in 1994 (for Black Hole Sun and Spoonman) and was nominated for six others.

The song Pretty Noose, from the group's current album, Down on the Upside (released last May), brought Soundgardens most recent Grammy nomination. Unlike the groups previous album, Superunknown, the latest album was a raw, stripped-down record.

The lyrics to Pretty Noose are dark and menacing -- and perhaps even prophetic: "Diamond rope, silver chain/Pretty noose is a pretty pain/And I don't like/What you got me hanging from."

The groups last concerts in December was postphoned for a week because lead singer Chris Cornell was having throat problems, which wasn't in evidence at the rescheduled concert.

In an interview before the show, Thayil yearned for a time when the band played small night-clubs rather than large arenas.

"Our initial fans were very much our peers," he said. "They were musicians, artists, students, people involved somehow in music. But nowadays, you also have the kids and the housewives, the casual fans. With your casual fans, you say, 'Thanks for the money.' And they say, 'Thanks for the song.'"

In the past few years, band members have explored new musical frontiers.

Drummer Matt Cameron was among the rock musicians who performed at the November 1995 "Cyberian Rhaopsody" concert, which paired Seattle's rock scene with the Seattle symphony.

Band members are likely to resurface in other bands, or as solo performers.

"Every one of those guys probably has a bright future," said rock station KNDD-FM disc jockey Bill Reid. "They're so talented, I don't think we've seen the last of them."