Members: Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd
Genre: Heavy Metal, Alteranative Metal, Grunge
Formed: Seattle, Washington
Albums: Ultramega OK (1988); Louder Than Love (1989); Badmotorfinger (1991); Superunknown (1994); Down on the Upside (1996); King Animal (2012)
Awards: 2 Grammy Awards
Hits: "Black Hole Sun", "Burden in My Hand", "Blow Up the Outside World", "Live to Rise"
Other: "Black Hole Sun" won the VMA for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video.
The band that helped define one of the 90s signature sounds began back in the 80s. 1984, to be precise, when Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, and Hiro Yamamoto got together in Seattle. Scott Sundquist was added later as a full time drummer to free up Chris Cornell to font the band on vocals. The name Soundgarden was chose based on a local Seattle public art installation near Magnuson Park called "A Sound Garden". The sculpture consists of a set of tubes mounted on weather vanes that create a moaning sound as the wind passes through.
Soundgarden's debut album Ultramega OK dropped in 1988. Cornell looks back at the album as mistake, as it strayed from the sound they'd been creating in Seattle and alienated some of their original fan base. While Ultramega OK was released on an independent label and wasn't a huge commercial success, it and their touring earned them the notice of a major label, and Soundgarden's follow-up album Louder Than Love, was released by A&M Records. Unlike its predecessor, Louder Than Love did chart, but only peaking at 108 in the US.
As the band's lineup changed, so did the quality and consistency of its material. 1991's Badmotorfinger was a step in the direction the band would become most famous for, charting at #39 in the US and eventually going 2x Platinum. Soundgarden's fortunes changed with Badmotorfinger, as it arrived just as a band called Nirvana suddenly exploded in popularity and brought attention to Seattle's music scene.
Soundgarden's mainstream breakthrough came with 1994's Superunknown. The album went to the top of the US charts and hit top 5 on many international charts. It spawned a number of hit singles, but none so popular as "Black Hole Sun". This song remains the band's most popular and recognized effort. It was on top of the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for seven straight weeks, and earned the band a Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performance. Overall Superunknown would sell over 5 million copies in the US alone.
Work on a follow-up to the successful album stressed the band, and those stresses increased as they went on tour in support of Down on the Upside. It culminated in the final stop on the tour, when Kim Thayil walked off stage in February 1997. The next month Soundgarden formally disbanded. In the intervening years, each member pursed some solo projects, but the band reunited officially in 2010. They released a new album, King Animal, in 2012. Well received by critics and fans alike, it was a return to form for the band that had spent 12 years away.
Soundgarden continues to tour, bringing the sound that helped define grunge in the 90s to fans all over the world. They are more than just a piece of music history, though, and provide a powerful stage performance for all their fans. Don't miss them when they rock an arena near you.