We remember it like it was yesterday. March of 1994. It was a glorious month for what would become some of the most groundbreaking (Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven, NIN’s The Downward Spiral) or talked about/divisive (Motley Crue’s lone Vince Neil-less/John Corabi-fronted self-titled outing) records of all time. We were there for each new release Tuesday (Back in our day records were released on Tuesdays) and, teetering on that pinnacle Grunge before the wheels would soon come off, were especially excited for Soundgarden’s follow up to Badmotorfinger, Superunknown. Like its’ predecessor, Superunknown is pretty much a banger yielding two of Soundgarden’s biggest songs to date and now Magnetic Eye Records is celebrating the album with this newest entry into their Redux series!
But how do you make a classic better? Howzabout you assemble a kickass group of, more or less, current artists and let them loose across the massive 15-track album sandbox and just have at it? Sounds good to us! For the most part, everything is slowed down throughout to molasses levels of sludgery with HUGE grooves to give this record a new shiny sheen and a different perspective as to what continually makes Superunknown one of Soundgarden’s greatest.
We’ve heard “Let Me Drown” so, so many times but never like this! With Ufomammut’s new version you can still hear those familiar melodies but here they’re soaked into a sort of intense mysticism with a gnarly low end on this burgeoning hypnotic monster that’s expanded to almost eight minutes. And this is just the first song, people! “My Wave” as done by High Priest (Who, coincidentally, just put out one of our most favorite records of 2023), is a massive wall of sound that absolutely crushes in a bigger way than ever before with Justin Valentino honoring the late, great Chris Cornell with his anthemic croon.
Let it be known that we HATE the singles from Superunknown. They were all over terrestrial radio (Remember that?) back in the day and the videos dominated the tube when MTV was still known for stuff like that. Here, Marissa Nadler takes on “Fell On Black Days” and makes it listenable for the first time in decades to us so there’s a triumph there, right? If those tracks were your jam originally then you’re gonna LURVE this and for us, we especially dig the trippy vibe Nadler is laying down along with the ethereal glow in the vocal department. Later on, Spotlights takes on the other big single with a refreshing version of “Black Hole Sun” that both fits their aesthetic bringing the heavy, crunchy, and pummely to the chorus while also honoring the OG during the more tender moments.
Somnuri has a new record releasing soon (Stay tuned to our review even sooner but pre-order now right here) and, having heard it, we’d like to think their version of “Mailman” is a good representation of what’s to come from that record with vocalist Justin Sherrell running the gamut of Chris Cornell range while his guitars similarly bring the majesty of both Cornell and Kim Thayil. The title track was always one of our faves and Valley of the Sun does a fantastic job of keeping the spirit of the original mostly intact with a killer rhythmic rumble that accents the original pairing of Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd. Frayle absolutely owns, okay? Their last record was something to write home about (Speaking of “write”, we did just that in our review right here) so it’s no surprise that they get the chance to cover the tripped out weirdness of “Head Down” and do it so well that it almost transcends the original.
Elsewhere on the album, “Spoonman” as a single was tolerable mostly because it was swallowed by “Fell…” and “Black Hole Sun” but Horseburner’s take here is a riotous Rawkin’ good time, Beastwars takes “The Day I Tried To Live” into an ’80’s throwback with the screaming solos but put through a Badmotorfinger-era filter, and “Kickstand” is transformed into a spaced out Doom monolith thanks to Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows. Witch Mountain brings a bluesy boom to “Limo Wreck” while “Fresh Tendrils” is a mighty showcase for The Age Of Truth’s vocalist Kevin McNamara who slays here.
The legendary Dozer handles “Half” and brings those original Cornell warped vocals to the forefront amidst a cacophonous sonic barrage and then Darkher closes out the record with a haunting version of “Like Suicide”. Oh, but before all that listeners get Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and frequent Cornell collaborator Alain Johannes joining Marc Urselli’s Steppendoom for “4th of July” which also features Stoned Jesus’ Igor Sydorenko as well as throat singers Albert Kuvezin and Utelo for a weird and wonderful update on the dirge-y original.
Superunknown (Redux) from Magnetic Eye Records arrives on July 14th. To secure your copy in a digital or physical space, head here now! And for more from Magnetic Eye Records, follow them across their socials when you head here, here, or here.