So it’s here, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the album that those of us of a certain age have all waited 15 long years to hear – and the inspiration for this blog in the first place.So what is it like? Well firstly I wanna thank NME.com for streaming the whole album a week early, for those of you in the States you too can check it out in full on the iTunes website. Right, to the music! I’m not gonna break down every track, cos that’s kinda crap, and there’ll be a thousand reviews out there that will do that for you. I’m just gonna give you a broad idea of what to expect when you spin it for the first time, the high-lights, the low-lights, and the general feel of the album as a whole.
So first impressions – good. it kicks off with the single, ‘Been Away Too Long’, most of you will have heard this already, uptempo, typically SG with a drum line that’s got Matt Cameron stamped all over it and a nice Kim Thayil change up towards the end. it couldn’t be anybody other than Soundgarden and the perfect way to get things started, even if the sentiment is a lil predictable, but after all this time we can forgive them that. The next track ‘Non-State Actor’ keeps the flow going. Ok, that bit about not breaking down every track, forget I said that! It’s a great track, with a rolling bassline that just get’s your head nodding like all the great SG anthems that went before it. Track 3 – ‘By Crooked Steps’, opens quietly with the bare bones of the main riff just playing in the distance, before exploding into your ears full bore with stammering time signatures that scream vintage SG. I like Chris’s vocals on this track, especially in the chorus, they definitely have a Down On The Upside feel about them. Ok, so track four, ‘A Thousand Days Before’. A good track, nothing special, but it might be a grower. Probably will be. Has an indian-feel about it, something Kim’s guitar tone always reminded me of anyway so it works really well. Next up, ‘Blood On The Valley Floor’, a slightly slower track with a nice lilting rhythm to it. Again, probably another grower that one. Track 6 – ‘Bones Of Birds’, this one stood out instantly. Another slower track, the main riff is what you hear first, and it just gives you that feeling in the pit of your stomach that every great Soundgarden track ever did. Think maybe ‘Fell On Black Days’, but not quite as good, but then what is? Next comes ‘Taree’. It’s a little similar to the track before it, Chris sounds good, the deep, rich textures to his voice really come through. He may not be able to push his voice into the stratosphere like he once did, but you never grow tired of hearing this guy sing. Next comes ‘Attrition’. A curious track. Completely un-Soundgarden, to my ears anyway. Short, uptempo, kinda run of the mill really. Ty Cobb it isn’t! It sounds to me like something maybe Pearl Jam left on the cutting room floor. Might be better live, but I wont be holding my breath. ‘Black Saturday’ follows. It opens up acoustically and slowly builds into something more typically SG, with a nice ‘Kim’ bridge in the middle that again rings of Down On The Upside, but essentially, never really getting there. Ok so for me, the least said about the next track the better. I don’t know how ‘Halfway There’ made it onto the album, it should have stayed a Chris Cornell solo track if anything. Weak, wet, watery, and not atall worthy. Luckily though, ‘Worse Dreams’ follows and gets them right back on track. It begins with Kim wailing in the distance, think ‘Searching With my Good Eye Closed’, then Matt joins him, firing off some nice rim shots to set the tempo. Ben joins the fray, adding a nice moody bassline into the mix that really provides the structure for everything else to hang from. The whole thing builds into a swirling cacophony of vintage SG, with trademark alternate time sigs and screaming guitars. A great track. So now we’re winding our way towards the end of the album. The quality remains high though, with ‘Eyelid’s Mouth’ keeping your head nodding with groovy appreciation, topped off with another wailing Kim solo that makes you wish the track lasted another minute or two. And that takes us into the final cut on the album, ‘Rowing’. This is a good track. Kicking off with Ben thrumming out a catchy lil rhythm that Chris builds upon with probably his strongest vocal performance on the entire album. It’s a slow build that finally explodes with another Kim tear up. A classic Thayil solo that reminds you of why you loved this band in the first place, eventually winding back down with that catchy chorus, and finally culminating the same way it began, with Ben and his subtle, twisting bassline bringing the album to a close. The perfect album closer.
And so the verdict? Well firstly I have to qualify everything I’ve said by reminding you that I have only heard this from a stream, a good one, but until I get the hard copy I reserve the right to change my opinion, I expect for the better. But this is a good album, and so far I’ve only heard it a couple of times but it’s definitely a grower. it’s getting better every time I listen to it. Is it what I hoped for? Well probably not. I was hoping for something maybe a little bit more progressive, more aggressive. Something that picked up from where ‘Down On The Upside’ left off. It isn’t really that. Again we have to remember how much time has passed since their last album, and with that in mind, this is a welcome addition to any SG fan’s collection. You can hear in the music how they have matured. It is clean, slick, professional, everything we probably should expect from a band that have essentially been around for twenty five years. But after all is said and numerous reviews written, The Knights Of The Sound Table are back, giving us music that is infinitely more interesting than most of the crap out there right now, and I for one am extremely grateful for it!