By Lliam Easterbrook
[senior features writer]
In 1996, just before Seattle alt-rockers Soundgarden decided to call it quits after over ten years as a band, they were on top of the rock and roll world. Pearl Jam had intentionally stepped away from the limelight, Kurt Cobain was dead, and Alice in Chains was riddled with drug addiction and singer Layne Staley’s Heroin-induced reclusiveness.
That’s not to say Soundgarden was the last band in line after the Grunge dust settled to carry on the Seattle scene, but they were, for all intents and purposes, the only band left still willing to take that torch.
Released this past Black Friday, Live Before the Doors features five songs from various soundchecks on the I-5 leg of their 1996 tour. (The live compilation Live on I-5 was released earlier this year).
What we hear on Live Before the Doors is Soundgarden preparing for a show. The band is tight and easy, just jamming, working out any kinks—albeit kinks that sound like splintering wood, grinding gears, and machinegun fire.
Singer Chris Cornell, a self-described alcoholic through the 90’s (he’s gone on record stating he needed “a glass of vodka every morning just to get a dial tone”), seems to still be suffering from vocal damage he sustained in 1994. He’s often off key, seemingly unable to harness his unbelievable range.
The mourning vocal instabilities he seems to be experiencing don’t take away from the performances (he sounds cleaner and more controlled on Live on I-5).
Even at soundcheck Cornell still sings better than most, and with more power than a sandblaster aimed headlong at the milky skin of an infant. Yeah, I just said that.
Not since Motorhead has a band blended punk and metal to such a unique and genre-bending degree. But Soundgarden go one step further, binding psychedelia, pop, and garage rock to their punk-metal aesthetic.
The highlight of the EP is the cover of “Waiting for the Sun,” the Doors’ broodingly psychedelic trip from Morrison Hotel. Soundgarden take an already eerily atmospheric song and make it heavy and thrashy while delicately maintaining the ethereal mood of one of the Doors best songs.
Play it loud. Play it proud.
About the Author: In sum: rock 'n rolller-riding on a board.
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