Soundgarden ignited the grunge movement that radically changed rock & roll. The band’s raw power came out of the Northwest and flew in the face of a synthetic, disconnected world to give countless fans what they had long desired: a voice and a sense of belonging.
In 1984, bassist Hiro Yamamoto formed Soundgarden with his high school friend, guitarist Kim Thayil, and his roommate, singer/drummer Chris Cornell. In 1986, the band appeared on the legendary Deep Six compilation with six Seattle grunge pioneers, and Matt Cameron joined the ranks of Soundgarden on drums.
This lineup recorded seminal grunge works, including its debut EP Screaming Life, the second studio release of the foundational indie record label Sub Pop. With Louder Than Love in 1989, Soundgarden became the first band from that scene to release an album on a major label. The following year, Ben Shepherd stepped in on bass, and the band ascended into the mainstream with Badmotorfinger (1991), the six-time Platinum Superunknown (1994), and Down on the Upside (1996). Soundgarden disbanded in 1997, later reuniting in 2010. Tragically, Soundgarden came to an end in 2017 with the passing of Chris Cornell.
A unique combination of alternative, metal, and punk – with noise and progressive experimentalism sprinkled in – Soundgarden’s compelling sound earned it a lauded place in music history. Cameron’s ability to balance groove with power in odd time signatures is unrivaled. Shepherd’s bass fills whatever role is needed: melodic counterpoint to Cornell’s vocals, rumbling foundation to Thayil, or rhythmic complement to Cameron. Thayil’s combination of metal-influenced drop tuning, virtuosity, and noise allow his riffs and solos to soar. Above it all, Chris Cornell’s four-octave voice effortlessly moves between hauntingly ethereal, gut-wrenchingly powerful, and seductively inviting.
Soundgarden’s foray into the mainstream paved the way for Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and other grunge bands, setting the stage for major labels to seek out alternative sounds as diverse as Britpop, industrial, and riot grrrl.