Reprinted without permission from Vox, December 1997
PEERLESS IN SEATTLE: SOUNDGARDEN, A-SIDES
Rating: **** (four stars)
The Spinal Tap phrase "none more black" couldn't have been applied to a more suitable band than Soundgarden. Metallica may have recorded the "black album" and Sabbath, to whom this Seattle quartet were often compared, were without doubt blacker than most, but the mood that ran throughout Soundgarden's criminally short career was the colour of pitch. Always fighting against the stardom that arrived with the immense success they so justly deserved, they grew from thrashy, punk upstarts to revered artists, creating a sound that was one of the most accomplished of any modern metal band.
An immensely talented outfit and the most metallic of the big Seattle grunge boys, they never allowed their obvious love of Zeppelin and Sabbath to enshroud their music, nor the excesses of their chosen genre to swamp the subtleties of their sound.
The brutality of their first two albums, 'UltramegaOK' and 1989's 'Louder Than Love' (the first Seattle scene release on a major label) is well represented on this collection by the likes of 'Flower' and 'Loud Love', but it was the metallic thrusting of 'Badmotorfinger', and notably 'Jesus Christ Pose', that saw the band attract a massive audience (opening for Guns 'N' Roses also helped).
After that came the US Number One smash 'Superunknown' that rates, along with 'Metallica', 'Ten' and 'Nevermind', as one of the era's defining albums, and 1996's equally superb 'Down On The Upside' that saw influences like Pink Floyd and The Beatles entering the fray as the band progressed steadily to even further greatness.
That Soundgarden imploded due to the friction brought about constant media and public attention says everything about their integrity. But their split is possibly the worst thing that has happened to metal. Ever.