Soundgarden‘s breakthrough album, Superunknown, turns 25 today.
Released on March 8, 1994, Superunknown became the band’s most critically and commercially successful record. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, has been certified five-times platinum, and is considered one of the defining albums of the grunge era, and of the ’90s as a whole.
With the album, Soundgarden went in more experimental directions, marrying their heavy influences and Chris Cornell‘s banshee-like vocals with alternative tunings and non-traditional time signatures on songs like “Fell on Black Days” and “Mailman.” The band also explored psychedelic elements with the songs “Head Down” and “Black Hole Sun.”
“Black Hole Sun” was the most successful single from Superunknown, and became Soundgarden’s signature song. Its video was also very influential, and reflected the visual aesthetic of the ’90s.
Superunknown also produced rock radio hits in “Spoonman,” “Fell on Black Days,” “The Day I Tried to Live” and “My Wave.”
Like a lot of grunge music, Superunknown was very lyrically dark, dealing with heavy subjects such as suicide, depression and death. Those lyrics became a focal point again following Cornell’s suicide in 2017.
Superunknown was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 1995 Grammys, while “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” won for Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Metal Performance, respectively.
A month after Superunknown was released, Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain died by suicide, effectively ending the grunge era. Soundgarden would release one more album, 1996’s Down on the Upside, before breaking up in 1997. They reunited in 2010, and released one last album, 2012’s King Animal, before Cornell’s death.
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