Rock - and all of music - lost one of its finest voices last week. Legendary rock vocalist Chris Cornell tragically took his own life last week, leaving a huge hole in the hearts of his fans, his family and friends, and rock. He and his band Soundgarden were one of the five key bands of the Seattle grunge movement in the early 90s, his voice being one of the defining voices of the genre and continued to push boundaries for the decades he performed in.
Rather than mourning the loss of Cornell, what's better is to celebrate him. For the next five Throwback Reviews, we'll be taking it back to the grunge era and reviewing one album from all of the giants, starting now by discussing the voice of a generation, and remembering Chris Cornell with Soundgarden's Superunknown, one of 1994's biggest hurrah's for grunge.
Everything about Superunknown really serves as a testament to just how talented Cornell was. This album is a beast from a wide perspective, but just focus on Cornell's vocal performance and you'll be taken aback all the same. Single 'Fell On Black Days' really stands as a prime example of this ability as a vocalist. The iconic, somber guitar riff opens the song before Cornell comes on the track, his voice just as retrospective as the riff as he sings about the entire world going dark (which hits all too hard now). As the song progresses, so does Cornell's intensity in his voice, going from the sobering lower register to heartbreaking falsetto to his roaring full voice. The same intensity that the song features by its end is the claim-to-fame for title track 'Superunknown' as well, its wild riff serving as an undertone for Cornell's huge vocals, both his voice and the guitars roaring in conjunction with each other.
Vocally, there really isn't a weak moment on the record, and for an album that's over an hour long, that's a true feat. Cornell's voice never wavers once, moving forward with undeniable emotion and a conviction in them. The riffs of the record seem to act as support for Cornell's roars, especially on tracks like 'My Wave,' where the rocking riffs definitely take a back seat to the vocals. The rawer execution on 'Spoonman' proves Cornell's power even further, while 'Limo Break' takes it to another level with absolutely insane vocals from Cornell, the drums and guitars crashing and spiraling in perfect conjunction. The pleading nature of 'Black Hole Sun' cannot be forgotten either, their execution offering perspective and a different tone to the album.
The instrumental power of the record cannot be ignored, as it plays a key role in accentuating Cornell's performance. The rolling nature of 'The Day I Tried To Live' and its warm instrumental definitely bringing a critical to how the song comes off. Opening track 'Let Me Drown' is epic from all ends, the powerful guitar riff rolling the album to a driven start, Cornell's more threatening vocals moving comfortably over them. The deep riff of '4th Of July' gives a more evil sound to Cornell's voice, while the album comes to an anthemic end with 'Like Suicide,' everything acting as one in a big finale.
We are undoubtedly burdened by the loss of the voice of a generation. Remembering Chris Cornell with Soundgarden's Superunknown reminds us of his power as a musician and vocalist, there being nothing quite like his timbre out there. He is gone but never forgotten, and his voice will live on as an example of true power and resilience. Rest in peace, Chris Cornell. Thank you for your gift.
Favorite Tracks: Fell On Black Days, Limo Wreck, Black Hole Sun
Least Favorite Track: Half
Rating: 81 / 100
Buy or listen to Superunknown on Apple Music or Amazon: