Sound — 7
It was already established in Soundgarden's previous album that they were not a grunge band, but rather a bizarre alt-metal band that revived the Zeppelin/early-Sabbath sound that had almost disappeared throughout the 80's completely. With Superunknown, Soundgarden burst out into the mainstream with their raw and sludgy sounds. It was definitely their magnum opus and is, in my own opinion, one of the greatest metal albums of all time. With Down On The Upside, it's a completely different story. They have abandoned some of the more metal elements from Superunknown and try for a more mainstream alt-rock sound, which surprisingly is actually pretty good. The album starts off with "Pretty Noose," which is more of a harder Pink Floyd sound-a-like than it is a Masters Of Reality-era Black Sabbath sound-a-like. While it definitely is the highlight of the album, it could have definitely used more of a sludgy sound than psychadellic. The album goes on to the next couple of tracks: "Rhinosaur," "Zero Chance," and "Dusty." These songs still maintain that psychadellic feel while embracing a more alt-rock feel to them. In fact, these songs I can call true grunge; it shows that Soundgarden could mature and change as a band and move into mainstream grunge without any trouble. Then the album moves on to "Ty Cobb" which is probably the most out of place song on the album. It doesn't sound psychadellic nor does it sound like grunge. It sounds more like if the band tried to pull off a cover of a Blink-182 song. It's not necessarily a bad song, but it definitely is, compared to the other songs on the album, the worst song. The rest of the album is basically straight on grunge. There are times where the album will have its Superunknown moments, but those times are scarce and unrecognizable until you hear the album again and again. I'm not exactly putting the album down for this; it does try some new things sound-wise and they definitely do work.
Lyrics — 6
While the overall sound itself is not very Zeppelinish, Chris Cornell's vocals still are. His vocals blare through songs like "Pretty Noose" and "Overfloater" and are all around enjoyable. However, his vocals don't seem to match at times, considering that Down On The Upside lacks the Zeppelin/Sabbath sound it had in Superunknown. The lyrics however, work in every single area. They are a tad depressing at times, sure. But that's just the way grunge is. By reading the lyric booklet that came with the album, it is apparent that Chris Cornell didn't take the time to write some random BS down.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, this is the black sheep within the entire Soundgarden discography. That's not necessarily bad though. Down On The Upside definitely showed signs of the band maturing when it was first released. It is to them as the Black Album is to Metallica; maturing as a band while diving into uncharted waters and creating an original, different, and cool sound.