Various Artists

Superunknown Redux

Magnetic Eye
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Let Me Drown (UFOMAMMUT)
02. My Wave (HIGH PRIEST)
03. Fell on Black Days (MARISSA NADLER)
04. Mailman (SOMNURI)
05. Superunknown (VALLEY OF THE SUN)
06. Head Down (FRAYLE)
07. Black Hole Sun (SPOTLIGHTS)
08. Spoonman (HORSEBURNER)
09. Limo Wreck (WITCH MOUNTAIN)
10. The Day I Tried To Live (BEASTWARS)
12. Fresh Tendrils (THE AGE OF TRUTH)
14. Half (DOZER)
15. Like Suicide (DARKHER)

More power to Magnetic Eye Records: purveyors of reliably great "redux" versions of classic albums, populated by an astonishing array of contemporary riff worshippers. Following on from commendable projects saluting AC/DC, ALICE IN CHAINS, BLACK SABBATH, HELMET, JIMI HENDRIX and PINK FLOYD, "Superunknown Redux" does the same for SOUNDGARDEN's revered 1994 colossus, and with invariably compelling results.

The joy of these records is that few of the artists involved are interested in bashing out a simple carbon copy of their elected tune. Slanted heavily, but not entirely, towards bands from the stoner doom realm, this is a heavier and weirder take on some seemingly unfuckwithable material. There are those who play it relatively straight: UFOMAMMUT's opening "Let Me Drown" sounds somewhat as expected, but the Italians' swirly doom is the perfect vehicle for those soaring melodies. WITCH MOUNTAIN approach "Limo Wreck" in much the same way; sticking to the script, but casually torching it anyway. Ohio's VALLEY OF THE SUN give the title track a vigorous pummel, but its grandiose structure remains intact.

Just as SOUNDGARDEN's original work straddled multiple styles and moods, "Superunknown Redux" has diversity and imagination in spades. MARISSA NADLER's "Fell on Black Days" is a ghostly, psychedelic marvel; HIGH PRIEST's "My Wave" does gently peculiar things with its melodies and chord changes, and sounds truly blissed out as a result; and, inevitably, BEASTWARS take an iron cudgel to "The Day I Tried To Live", pumping liters of grimy aggro into the cherished grunge banger. Elsewhere, SOMNURI nearly manage a straight-ahead take on "Mailman" but get consumed by their own ferocity before it ends; FRAYLE turn "Head Down" into a woozily gothic death march; maverick weirdos SPOTLIGHTS make "Black Hole Sun" slowly eat itself, going heavier and hazier than the esteemed original. Brilliantly, Australian eccentrics JACK HARLON AND THE DEAD CROWS stretch "Kick Stand" from its original 94 seconds to a languorous, lead-heavy four minutes, while "Like Suicide" is transformed into a churning, obsidian hymn by the enigmatic DARKHER. Best of all, HORSEBURNER pump "Spoonman" full of rock 'n' roll steroids and undiluted THIN LIZZY juice and MARC URSELLI'S STEPPENDOOM somehow find a way to make "4th Of July" even heavier. "Superunknown Redux" is proudly tethered to the spirit of SOUNDGARDEN's original recordings, but in no way restricted by it. Great fun, in other words.

As is generally the case with Magnetic Eye's "redux" series, there is also an accompanying "Best Of Soundgarden (Redux)" album to explore. Featuring another giddy sprawl of stoner / doom / fuzz / psych alumni, including WITCH RIPPER, JOSIAH, HEAVY TEMPLE, BLUE HERON and another appearance from SPOTLIGHTS — their "Jesus Christ Pose" will upend your brain — it will have discerning folk scurrying back to their SOUNDGARDEN collections, freshly inspired.

Author: Dom Lawson
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