King Animal

There have been loads of reasons to fear a Soundgarden reunion: Frontman Chris Cornell’s most recent solo work, the Audioslave debacle, and the limp “Live to Rise,” the band’s first song in 16 years, which recently appeared on The Avengers soundtrack. Things looked gloomier than the Seattle skyline. Even “Been Away Too Long,” the first single from the new album, had me feeling uneasy about their inevitable comeback with its schmaltzy declaration. But the deeper you get into King Animal the more like Soundgarden it sounds. “By Crooked Steps” will take you back to the band’s late-’90s output with its driving riff offset by drummer Matt Cameron’s slightly off beat. And “Blood on the Valley Floor” and “Bones of Birds” will truly have you believing Soundgarden has been away too long. King Animal is far from immaculate, however, with a handful of clunkers lodged in its gut slowing things down. While the songs here don’t always sound fresh, you have to keep in mind that many lesser bands have made similar music in Soundgarden’s absence. King Animal isn’t a bad record for those who followed the band in its post-Badmotorfinger heyday. If anything it hints that they have another great album in them.