More than any of their grunge peers, Soundgarden have always been a band about pure, musical muscle. While Nirvana appealed with punk bile, Pearl Jam with broad rock populism, Soundgarden crushed with a technical skill more closely derived from metal. The risk for their first album in 12 years, then, isn't that their approach will have gone out of style, but that the band will have fallen out of shape. Fortunately, Chris Cornell's fluid and caustic wail is remarkably unworn by age—and, as always, his sometimes obvious lyrics aren't as important as how he sings them—but every part of the band is equally crucial, from Kim Thayil's flaring and heavy guitar riffs to drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shephard's coursing rock grooves. For having "been away too long," King Animal finds Soundgarden still in impressive shape.
Eric Grandy, Google Play