Soundgarden was anything but 'superunknown,' when it unleashed its epic album of that name 20 years ago today on March 8, 1994. The Seattle quartet had existed for a decade: they were among the first acts to record for Sub Pop and a leading band in the Seattle scene that would grow to worldwide prominence in 1991 as its "Badmotorfinger" completed a triple salvo with Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Pearl Jam's "Ten."
But while "Badmotorfinger" rocked the airwaves with "Rusty Cage," and "Outshined" and ultimately went platinum, the band's 1994 follow up blew up far larger. Upon release, the massive, intricate "Superunknown" vaulted directly to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and was certified five-times platinum. The album, which introduced enduring rock favorites including "Black Hole Sun," "Fell On Black Days," "The Day I Tried To Live," stands as the biggest album of Soundgarden's career. "Spoonman," and "Fell on Black Days" earned the band Grammys for best metal performance and best hard rock performance.
"Superunknown," as the title suggests, is a 70-minute-and-13-second CD-filling treatise built on singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd sonically shining light into the dark recesses of the human soul, exploring the unknowable and unseeable. And it marked somewhat of a departure from the band's previous signature hard-charging sound. The drop d tunings, the varied time signatures, and Chris Cornell's wail are still there, sure. But so is a strong tinge of psychedelia, and chillingly effective restraint in places (reminding us how quieter can be perfect and haunting).