Sound — 9
Soundgarden seems to attempt a more radio-friendly approach with "Superunknown", however they still keep their heavy grunge sound intact throughout most of the album. The band hired Michael Beinhorn (as opposed to previous producer Terry Date) to take the reigns, and much credit is due to Beinhorn for tweaking 'Garden's style to make for easier listening. There are still a handful of "Badmotorfinger"-esque songs so the style is not a complete shift to something new, but the softer sound produces some classic tracks. As always, 'Garden includes many songs checkered with austere time signatures. Also, listen for Seattle mini-celebrity Artis the Spoonman banging away on his spoons in the song written about him, "Spoonman".
Lyrics — 8
Frontman Chris Cornell is often credited with having one of the best voices in rock history. His vocals are in full force on this album, and his screaming/singing style fits in neatly with guitarist Kim Thayil's heavy chorus riffs. That being said, Cornell's lyrics are, as usual, subpar. Most of the songs he writes are generic and deal with the same issues he usually sings about (depression, relationships). However, the lyrics can be deemed passable because his voice makes the listener hang on every word he says. Bassist Ben Sheperd also contributes some writing, and he can be heard singing the song "Half".
Overall Impression — 9
At a time when Nirvana owned the rock world, Soundgarden seemingly waited on the wings, picking up Cobain and Co.'s leftovers. In an upset, I would personally listen to this album before picking up a copy of Nirvana's "In Utero", released 6 months before "Superunknown". Thayil cements his status as one of the best guitarists in history and Cornell puts out one of his best efforts lyrically (although that doesn't say a whole lot). Sheperd adds some interesting grooves, and drummer Matt Cameron bangs on the drums with plenty of skill and confidence, making "Super" the group's best album. The top songs you should download if you don't buy the full album are "Spoonman" (What I believe is Soundgarden's best song overall), "Black Hole Sun" (the group's most popular song), "The Day I Tried to Live", "My Wave", and the title track. Rolling Stone rated "Superunknown" as number 336 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all-time.