After 17 years apart, it’s fitting the first single from Soundgarden’s new album “King Animal” is called “Been Gone Too Long,” a nod to the Seattle super group’s reunion and first release since 1996. And if early reaction is any indication, fans and critics alike agree.
“I was struck by how naturally they seemed to get back together. They said it’s kind of like riding a bike. You get right back on it and it feels more like 12 months rather than 15 years,” said longtime Seattle music journalist Gene Stout in an appearance on KIRO Radio’s Seattle Sounds.
Stout recently spent time with the band as they prepared for the November 13 release of “King Animal.”
“It didn’t seem forced. It seemed as though they really wanted to get back together and make music and once they did it was sort of an ‘oh my god moment’ and they realized ‘you know we can do this again, this is something we’re experienced at and we know what we’re doing. We’ve got ideas we’ve been playing around with for years so let’s do it.'”
In many ways, the album is a departure from the bombast of “Down on the Upside,” the band’s last release that soared to number two on the Billboard charts and sold more than 1.6 million copies. It’s rawer, less polished, more reminiscent of the band’s early days.
“There’s a lot of familiarity there,” said Stout. “The big guitar sound, the heavy dark sound, but of course you’ve got songwriting that has matured a bit. Chris Cornell is writing about being a parent. There’s a bit more mature subject matter just from living life for 15 years. But the sort of grunginess if you will, the heavy, dark brooding sound is still there, so it feels very much and sounds like a Soundgarden album.”
The band announced Friday they’ll play two shows in Seattle February 7 and 8 at the Paramount Theater, the first in their hometown since their breakup. The shows will be among the most highly anticipated in recent years.
“I couldn’t be more excited to see Soundgarden. I would love to be blown away,” said Chris Kornelis, Seattle Sounds co-host and music editor at Seattle Weekly.
Stout said fans won’t be disappointed. Rather than just a trip down Nostalgia Lane, the band continues moving forward, with Kim Thayil’s guitar wizardry even better than ever, and Cornell’s voice still standing out as one of the greatest ever in rock.
“The voice is still intact. Four octave range, it’s a remarkable voice. He can scream when he needs to scream and he can get reflective and wistful when he needs to do that,” Stout said.