UNITED STATES - For fans of Soundgarden, King Animal is akin to the light at the end of a long, seemingly endless dark tunnel.
Finally, the wait is over.
Last week, the Seattle quartet - frontman Chris Cornell, 48, guitarist Kim Thayil, 52, bassist Ben Shepherd, 44, and drummer Matthew Cameron, 49 - released their first new studio effort of original material in 15 years.
Going by the rave reviews it has garnered so far from CNN.com, Rolling Stone and Washington Post, King Animal, an amalgamation of light punk, old school metal, heavy folk and lasciviously groovy riffs, marks the crusty hard rockers' return to fine form.
Best known for their seminal 1994 album Superunknown, which spawned the hits Spoonman, The Day I Tried To Live and hypnotic ballad Black Hole Sun, Soundgarden infamously broke up in 1997 due to internal conflicts.
In a recent interview with rock magazine Revolver, Thayil recalled their split good-naturedly, stressing that it had nothing to do with drug use.
"I've read all kinds of things in the past few years, that 'substance abuse' was the problem," he said.
"And it's like, no, that was a particular aspect of Nirvana, that was a particular aspect of Alice in Chains.
"That wasn't our thing... There was absolutely no substance abuse problem there, other than maybe drinking more than a six-pack and smashing things."
Nirvana and Alice in Chains were Soundgarden's influential contemporaries from Seattle.
The iconic trio are often credited for helping to foster the 90s alternative rock movement.
Cornell, who went on to form the now-defunct alt-rock supergroup Audioslave after Soundgarden, said it boiled down to their inability to balance creative mindsets with commercial realities.
"I think what caused us to split apart, rather than just take a hiatus, was that Soundgarden had become a business," he told Revolver.
"And that business had somehow, in a sense, started to be able to dictate to us what, where and how we were going to do things, whether we were into it, or comfortable with it or not."
He told Billboard.com separately that it was necessary to be away from his bandmates.
"I just read some quotes where Dave Grohl is talking about the Foo Fighters taking a hiatus of an undetermined length and Dave was saying, 'I want to be in this band forever, that's why we need to take a break'.
"That's perfectly described," said Cornell, adding that the same reasoning applied to why it took so long for a Soundgarden reunion.
Now, with those unhappy memories far behind them, the band have reignited the passion that once made them tick as a unit.
"We've got such a good creative chemistry and it seemed like it was still there after all these years apart," said Cameron in an interview with music publication NME.
"There was no added pressure of saying 'Let's make a record after so many years'. We tried to keep it as laidback and relaxed as possible."
Thayil agreed and described heading back into the studio to record their first album in 15 years as "relatively easy".
"We went to the place where we rehearsed for live performances and started writing there," he said.
"The songs came pretty quick. Chris had a lot of completed songs, and the rest of us had bits and pieces that we all fleshed out together."
On Been Away Too Long, the thumping first single taken off King Animal, Cornell growls: "I got nowhere to go ever since I came back, just filling in the lines for the holes and the cracks."
Welcome home, guys.
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