Infobox Album |
Name = Superunknown
Type = Album
Artist = Soundgarden

Released = March 8, 1994
Recorded = July 1993 – September 1993 at Bad Animals Studio, Seattle, Washington
Length = 70:13
73:30 (international edition)
Label = A&M
Producer = Michael Beinhorn, Soundgarden
Reviews =
*Allmusic rating|4.5|5 [ link]
*"Entertainment Weekly" (A) [,,301370,00.html 3/11/94]
*"Q" rating|5|5 11/93
*Robert Christgau (A-) [ link]
*"Rolling Stone" rating|4|5 [ 7/31/97] |
Last album = "Badmotorfinger" (1991)
This album = "Superunknown" (1994)
Next album = "Down on the Upside" (1996)
Misc = Singles
Name = Superunknown
Type = Studio
single 1 = Spoonman
single 1 date = February 15, 1994
single 2 = The Day I Tried to Live
single 2 date = 1994
single 3 = Black Hole Sun
single 3 date = 1994
single 4 = My Wave
single 4 date = 1994
single 5 = Fell on Black Days
single 5 date = 1994

"Superunknown" is the fourth album by the American alternative rock band Soundgarden, released on March 8, 1994 through A&M Records. The band began work on the album after touring in support of its previous album, "Badmotorfinger", released in 1991. "Superunknown" captured the heaviness of the band's earlier releases while displaying a more diverse range of influences.

"Superunknown" was a critical and commercial success and became the band's breakout album. It debuted at number one on the "Billboard" 200 and reached high positions on charts worldwide. Five singles were released from the album: "The Day I Tried to Live", "My Wave", "Fell on Black Days" and the Grammy Award-winning songs "Black Hole Sun" and "Spoonman", the latter two of which helped Soundgarden reach mainstream popularity. In 1995, the album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. The album has been certified five times Platinum in the United States.


The album's recording sessions took place from July 1993 to September 1993 at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle, Washington. The band worked with producer Michael Beinhorn. Regarding the change in producer from previous collaborator Terry Date to Beinhorn, guitarist Kim Thayil said, "We just thought we'd go for a change.""Let's Make a Grunge Album!". "Raw". December 8, 1993.] The album was mixed by Brendan O'Brien.

Soundgarden began work on the album about two months after finishing its stint on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour.Masters, Drew. "Soundgarden". "M.E.A.T." magazine. March 1994.] The individual band members would work on material on their own and then bring in demos to which the other members of the band would contribute."Soundgarden". "Making Music". May 1994.] Vocalist Chris Cornell said that the band members allowed each other more freedom than on past records. [Thompson, Dave. "I Slept With Soundgarden and Other Chilling Confessions". "Alternative Press". March 1994.] Thayil observed that even though the band spent as much time writing and arranging as it had on previous albums, it spent a lot more time working on recording the songs. Soundgarden took the approach of recording one song at a time. [Peiken, Matt. "Soundgarden's Matt Cameron: Breaking New Ground". "Modern Drummer". June 1994.] The drum and bass parts were recorded first for each song, and then Cornell and Thayil would lay down their parts over top.

Cornell said that getting to know Beinhorn contributed to the length of time Soundgarden spent working on the album."Garden of the Unknown". "Melody Maker". November 27, 1993.] The band spent time experimenting with different drum and guitar sounds, as well as utilizing techniques such as layering. Cornell said, "Michael Beinhorn was so into sounds. He was so, almost, anal about it, that it took the piss out of us a lot of the time...By the time you get the sounds that you want to record the song, you're sick and tired of playing it.""Black Hole Sons!". "Kerrang!". August 12, 1995.] Soundgarden took a break in the middle of recording to open for Neil Young on a ten-day tour of the United States. The band then brought in Brendan O'Brien to mix the album. O'Brien was recommended by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. Thayil called the mixing process "very painless" and bassist Ben Shepherd said it was "the fastest part of the record."

Music and lyrics

The songs on "Superunknown" captured the creativity and heaviness of the band's earlier works, while showcasing the group's newly evolving style. Steve Huey of Allmusic said that the band's "earlier punk influences are rarely detectable, replaced by surprisingly effective appropriations of pop and psychedelia." [Huey, Steve. [ "Superunknown"] . Allmusic.] Cornell labeled that album as more "challenging" and "versatile" than the band's previous releases."Interview With Soundgarden". "Mesa Boogie". 1996.] The songs on the album are more experimental and diverse than the band's previous recordings, with some songs having a Middle-Eastern or Indian flavor (for example "Half", sung by Shepherd). Some songs also show a Beatles influence, such as "Black Hole Sun" and "Head Down". In a 1994 interview with "Guitar World", Thayil explains this: "We looked deep down inside the very core of our souls and there was a little Ringo sitting there. Oh sure, we like telling people it's John Lennon or George Harrison; but when you really look deep inside of Soundgarden, there's a little Ringo wanting to get out."Gilbert, Jeff. "Sleepless in Seattle". "Guitar World". May 1994.] Drummer Matt Cameron said that the experimentation on the album was "just a matter of refinement."Neely, Kim. " [ Into the Superunknown"] . "Rolling Stone". June 16, 1994. Retrieved on May 3, 2008.]

Soundgarden utilized alternative tunings and odd time signatures on several of the album's songs. "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun" were performed in drop D tuning while "Mailman" and "4th of July" employed C tuning. Some songs used more unorthodox tunings: "My Wave" and "The Day I Tried to Live" are both in a E-E-B-B-B-E tuning. Soundgarden's use of odd-meter time signatures was varied as well; "My Wave" uses 5/4, "Fell on Black Days" is on 6/4, and "Spoonman" is rare for its unusual mix of 4/4 and 7/4 time signatures, while "Black Hole Sun" is 4/4 and uses 9/8 in the guitar solo. Thayil has said the band usually did not consider the time signature of a song until after they had written it, and said that the use of odd meters was "a total accident." [Rotondi, James. "Alone in the Superunknown." "Guitar Player". June 1994.]

Lyrically, the album is quite dark and mysterious, as much of it is often interpreted to be dealing with issues such as substance abuse, suicide, and depression. Cornell was inspired by the writings of Sylvia Plath at the time.Lanham, Tom. "In Search of the Monster Riff". "Pulse!". March 1994.] Commenting on the album's lyrics, Thayil said that "a lot of "Superunknown" seems to me to be about life, not death. Maybe not affirming it, but rejoicing--like the Druids [put it] : 'Life is good, but death's gonna be even better!" Cameron said that the lyrics on the album are "a big fuck-you to the world, a plea to 'leave us alone.'"True, Everett. "Journey into the Superunknown". "Melody Maker". March 19, 1994.] Cornell stated that "Let Me Drown" is about "crawling back to the womb to die,""Soundgarden: The Badass Seed". "Rip" magazine. April 1994.] "Fell on Black Days" is about realising "you're unhappy in the extreme," "Black Hole Sun" is about a "surreal dreamscape," "Limo Wreck" is a "'shame-on-decadence' song," and "The Day I Tried to Live" is about "trying to step out of being patterned and closed off and reclusive." [Foege, Alec. "The End of Innocence". "Rolling Stone". January 12, 1995.] Conversely, "Like Suicide" was literal, written by Cornell after a bird flew into a window of his house. He found the suffering animal and subsequently put the bird out of its misery by hitting it with a brick.

The song "Spoonman" is notable for featuring a performance by Artis the Spoonman, a street entertainer in Seattle.Prato, Greg. [ "Spoonman > Review"] . Allmusic. Retrieved on August 1, 2008.] The title of the song is credited to bassist Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam. [(1994) Album notes for "Superunknown" by Soundgarden, [CD booklet] . New York: A&M Records.] While on the set of the movie "Singles", Ament produced a list of song titles for the fictional band featured in the movie. Cornell took it as a challenge to write songs for the film using those titles, and "Spoonman" was one of them. An acoustic demo version of the song appears in the movie.

Release and reception

"Superunknown" was the band's breakout album. Upon its release in March 1994, "Superunknown" debuted at number one on the "Billboard" 200 album chart. [ [,,301554,00.html "Changing of the Garden"] . "Entertainment Weekly". March 25, 1994. Retrieved on May 2, 2004.] The album granted Soundgarden international recognition. "Superunknown" achieved quintuple Platinum status in the United States, [cite web
title=Gold and Platinum Database Search
] triple platinum status in Canada,cite web
url=| title=CRIA Database Search| publisher=Canadian Recording Industry Association| accessdate=2008-04-04
] and Gold status in the United Kingdom, [cite web| url=| title=Superunknown Certified Awards| publisher=British Phonographic Industry| accessdate=2008-02-19] Sweden, [cite web| url=| title=Superunknown Certified Awards| publisher=IFPI Den Svenske Hitlista| accessdate=2008-02-19] and the Netherlands. [cite web| url=| title=Superunknown Certified Awards| publisher=NVPI| accessdate=2008-02-19]

"Rolling Stone" gave "Superunknown" four out of five stars. Reviewer J.D. Considine said "Superunknown" "demonstrates far greater range than many bands manage in an entire career." He also stated, "At its best, "Superunknown" offers a more harrowing depiction of alienation and despair than anything on "In Utero"." Considine criticized "Black Hole Sun" and "Half", stating that the former is "not a very good song" while the latter "is the virtual definition of a B-side." [Consideine, J.D. [ "Soundgarden: "Superunknown"] . "Rolling Stone". July 31, 1997.] Jon Pareles of "The New York Times" said that "Superunknown" actually tries to broaden its audience by breaking heavy-metal genre barriers that Soundgarden used to accept." He added that "Soundgarden...want [s] something different from standard heavy metal." [Pareles, Jon. [ "RECORDINGS VIEW; Lightening Up On the Gloom In Grunge"] . "The New York Times". March 6, 1994. Retrieved on March 23, 2008.] David Browne of "Entertainment Weekly" gave the album an A. He said, "Soundgarden is pumped and primed on "Superunknown", and they deliver the goods." He praised it as a "hard-rock milestone-a boiling vat of volcanic power, record-making smarts, and '90s anomie and anxiety that sets a new standard for anything called metal." [Browne, David. [,,301370,00.html "'Garden Party"] . "Entertainment Weekly". March 11, 1994.]

"Superunknown" included the hit singles "Spoonman", "The Day I Tried to Live", "Black Hole Sun", "My Wave", and "Fell on Black Days", all of which had accompanying music videos. All five placed on the "Billboard" Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts. "Black Hole Sun" was the most successful song from "Superunknown" on the rock charts, reaching number one on the Mainstream Rock charts and number two on the Modern Rock charts. "Black Hole Sun" was released in the summer of 1994 and became arguably the band's most recognizable and popular song. Its surreal music video received heavy airplay on music television. The video received the award for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards [cite web| url= |title=1994 MTV Video Music Awards | |accessdate=2008-02-20] and in 1995 it received the Clio Award for Alternative Music Video. [cite web| url= |title=Clio Awards Search Archive | |accessdate=2008-02-20] Soundgarden won two Grammy Awards in 1995; [Pareles, Jon. [ "The Grammys: A Blend of Old and New"] . "The New York Times". March 2, 1995. Retrieved on May 2, 2008.] "Black Hole Sun" received the award for Best Hard Rock Performance and "Spoonman" received the award for Best Metal Performance.cite web| url= |title=37th Grammy Awards - 1995 | |accessdate=2007-12-08] "Black Hole Sun" was also nominated for Best Rock Song.

In 1995, "Superunknown" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. RS500|336

Imagery and design

The cover artwork (known as the 'Screaming Elf') is a distorted photograph of the band members above an upside-down burning forest. Concerning the artwork, Cornell said, "Superunknown" relates to birth in a way...Being born or even dying--getting flushed into something that you know nothing about. The hardest thing is to nail down a visual image to put on a title like that. The first thing we thought of was a forest in grey or black. Soundgarden has always been associated with images of flowers and lush colors and this was the opposite. It still seemed organic but it was very dark and cold...I was into those stories as a kid where forests were full of evil and scary things as opposed to being happy gardens that you go camping in." The album also saw a limited release on 12" colored vinyl (blue, orange, and clear), as a double-LP in a gatefold sleeve.

In a 1994 "Pulse!" magazine interview, Cornell said that the inspiration for the album's title came from his misreading of a video entitled "Superclown". He added, "I thought it was a cool title. I'd never heard it before, never saw it before, and it inspired me."


The band began touring in January 1994 in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, areas where the record came out early."Soundgarden: No Hype Allowed". "The Music Paper". July 1994.] The band had never toured these regions before. [Smith, Chris. "Down in a Hole". "Raw". August 17, 1994.] This round of touring ended in February 1994, and then in March 1994 the band moved on to Europe. The band began a theater tour of the United States on May 27, 1994. ["Soundgarden Won't Be Staying Superunknown". "USA Today". March 11, 1994.] The opening acts were Tad and Eleven. In late 1994, after touring in support of "Superunknown", doctors discovered that Cornell had severely strained his vocal cords. Soundgarden canceled several shows to avoid causing any permanent damage. Cornell said, "I think we kinda overdid it! We were playing five or six nights a week and my voice pretty much took a beating. Towards the end of the American tour I felt like I could still kinda sing, but I wasn't really giving the band a fair shake. You don't buy a ticket to see some guy croak for two hours! That seemed like kind of a rip off." The band would make up the dates later in 1995. [Atkinson, Peter. "Soundgarden: From Superunknown to Superstars". "Jam". May 24, 1996.]

Track listing

All songs written by Chris Cornell, except where noted:
#"Let Me Drown" – 3:51
#"My Wave" (Cornell, Kim Thayil) – 5:12
#"Fell on Black Days" – 4:42
#"Mailman" (Matt Cameron, Cornell) – 4:25
#"Superunknown" (Cornell, Thayil) – 5:06
#"Head Down" (Ben Shepherd) – 6:08
#"Black Hole Sun" – 5:18
#"Spoonman" – 4:06
#"Limo Wreck" (Cameron, Cornell, Thayil) – 5:47
#"The Day I Tried to Live" – 5:19
#"Kickstand" (Cornell, Thayil) – 1:34
#"Fresh Tendrils" (Cameron, Cornell) – 4:16
#"4th of July" – 5:08
#"Half" (Shepherd) – 2:14
#"Like Suicide" – 7:01
#"She Likes Surprises" – 3:17
#*"She Likes Surprises" only appears on the international versions of the album, and is also included as a bonus track on the U.S. 12" LP release.


"Tighter & Tighter", "No Attention", and "An Unkind", all of which later appeared on the band's 1996 album "Down on the Upside", were attempted during the "Superunknown" recording sessions. ["Hard Stuff, Soundgarden in the Studio". "Livewire". 1993.] [Zogbi, Marina. "Upshot on 'The Upside' from Kim Thayil". "Metal Edge". August 1996.] Cameron said that the band wasn't pleased with the recording of "No Attention" that came out of the sessions. [Rule, Greg. "Matt Cameron of Soundgarden: Balance of Power & Grace". "Drum!". September 1996.] The song "Flutter Girl" was written during the recording sessions but did not appear on the record. Instead, it eventually appeared on a promo called "Poncier" and later as a much different version on Cornell's solo album, "Euphoria Morning".


*Chris Cornellvocals, guitar
*Kim Thayil – guitar
*Ben Shepherdbass, vocals on "Half", backing vocals on "Spoonman", drums and percussion on "Head Down", guitar on "Half"
*Matt Cameron – drums, percussion, mellotron on "Mailman"
*Artis the Spoonmanspoons on "Spoonman"
*Michael Beinhornproduction, piano on "Let Me Drown"
*Gregg Keplinger – drums and percussion on "Head Down"
*Natasha Shneiderclavinet on "Fresh Tendrils"
*April Acevez – viola on "Half"
*Justine Foy – cello on "Half"
*Soundgarden – production
*David Collins – mastering
*Jason Corsaro – engineer
*Adam Kasper – assistant engineer
*Brendan O'Brienmixing

Chart positions



External links

* [ "Superunknown" on the Unofficial Soundgarden Homepage]

succession box
before = ""The Spaghetti Incident?"" by Guns N' Roses
title = Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
years = March 6, 1994 - March 12, 1994
after = "The One Thing" by Michael Bolton
succession box
before = "Jar of Flies" by Alice in Chains
title = RIANZ number-one album
years = March 20, 1994 - March 26, 1994
after = "Ingénue" by k.d. lang
sucession box
before = "Toni Braxton" by Toni Braxton
title = "Billboard" 200 number-one album
years = March 26, 1994 - April 1, 1994
after = "The Sign" by Ace of Base

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