"I've got nowhere to go since I got back," wails Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell on "Been Away Too Long," the lead single off of Soundgarden's first new album since 1996's Down on The Upside, but it appears that (finally) Soundgarden found somewhere to go. For the band, it's full steam ahead into the battle to reclaim hard rock from the awful likes of Nickleback and Three Days Grace. "Been Away Too Long" embodies everything that is good about Soundgarden's sonic stylings and makes the most of Kim Thayil's droning guitar sludge, Cornell's powerful vocals, Matt Cameron's inspired drumming (I'm still convinced he's the best drummer to emerge from the whole Seattle scene), and longtime bassist Ben Shepherd's thick bass lines. Finally, a high profile rock song worth listening to in the vein of 90s grunge has arrived.
Thick and hard hitting, "Been Away Too Long" has a tempo that belies the perceived lethargy of the band. Soundgarden announced that they had reassembled back in 2010, but it took them two full years to put together their comeback album King Animal. Moving at a quicker tempo, and a shorter play length, than most of their previous (and chart topping) singles, "Been Away Too Long" is indicative of the band's sense of urgency and new found energy. The few new songs that long suffering Soundgarden fans have been treated to since their return, "Black Rain" (a re-recorded outtake from the Badmotorfinger days) and "Live to Rise" (the signature song of Marvel's The Avengers' film and soundtrack) were mid tempo slow burners that rekindled the thick smolder and drone that form the heart of Soundgarden's overall sound, but "Been Away Too Long" launches into the high octane type of slamming and fast played wall of guitar sound that is sure to rekindle the flame of the slam and bang of Soundgarden's early 1990s mosh pits. The song is so good, it's almost enough to make me forgive Cornell for working with Timbaland and breaking up Soundgarden (and Audioslave) in the first place.
The aptly titled "Been Away For Too Long," if any indication of what the rest of King Animal is going to sound like and play off of, is the harbinger of the return of everything that was great about the new rock revolution of the early 90s. Now if the reunited and reinvigorated Alice in Chains could get their follow up of Black Gives Way to Blue released in time to allow for a monster of a tour with Soundgarden (which is sure to follow King Animal's release), there might just be hope for the future of rock.