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Soundgarden in Full Sonic Bloom : SOUNDGARDEN




* * * 1/2

Even before people knew there was a Seattle scene, Soundgarden was being touted as stars of the future. Well, it took them seven years of recording, but they finally get it right with this unruly beast of an album.

"Superunknown's" effect is diffuse and poetically hazy, as opposed to their friendly rivals Pearl Jam's immediate, galvanizing approach. Soundgarden's roots remain firmly in the Zeppelin-Sabbath realm, but with its sheer invention and willingness to experiment, the band comes on as the Beatles of grunge. Or its Pink Floyd. At times even its Residents.

In this sprawling collection of blues-tinged hard-rock, starburst solos explode against black skies, a snarly guitar line corkscrews nastily through the length of one song, and there's an actual raga-rock interlude.

The quartet is too restless to allow a single voicing or sonic configuration to remain intact for long. Some weird bass eruption will pop up, or a new instrument will suddenly drop into the mix, enhancing a mood of menace and disorientation. That apocalyptic tone is carried more eloquently by the music and Chris Cornell's typically astounding voice than by the lyrics, which are basically enigmatic footnotes to the articulate sound.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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