Soundgarden is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band's full-time drummer in 1986, while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990.
Soundgarden was one of the seminal bands in the creation of grunge, a
style of alternative rock that developed in Seattle, and was one of a
number of grunge bands signed to the record label Sub Pop. Soundgarden
was the first grunge band to sign to a major label (A&M Records, in
1988), though the band did not achieve commercial success until they
popularized the genre in the early 1990s with Seattle contemporaries
Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains.
Soundgarden achieved its biggest success with the 1994 album
Superunknown, which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and
yielded the Grammy Award-winning singles "Black Hole Sun" and
"Spoonman". In 1997, the band broke up due to internal strife over its
creative direction. After several years working on projects and other
bands, Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and their sixth studio album, King
Animal, was released two years later.
As of 2012, Soundgarden had sold more than 10.5 million records in the
United States, and an estimated 22.5 million worldwide. VH1 ranked
Soundgarden at number 14 in their special 100 Greatest Artists of Hard
Soundgarden was one of the early bands of the 1980s Seattle music scene
and is regarded as being one of the originators of the genre later known
as grunge. The development of the Seattle independent record label Sub
Pop is tied closely to Soundgarden, since Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan
Poneman funded Soundgarden's early releases, and the band's success led
to the expansion of Sub Pop as a serious record label. Nirvana frontman
Kurt Cobain was a fan of Soundgarden's early music, and reportedly
Soundgarden's involvement with Sub Pop influenced Cobain to sign Nirvana
with the label. Soundgarden was the first grunge band to sign to a
major label when the band joined the roster of A&M Records in 1989.
Soundgarden, however, did not achieve initial success, and only with
successive album releases did the band meet with increased sales and
wider attention. Bassist Ben Shepherd has not been receptive to the
grunge label, saying in a 2013 interview “That’s just marketing. It’s
called rock and roll, or it’s called punk rock or whatever. We never
were Grunge, we were just a band from Seattle." They were ranked No. 14
on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
Regarding Soundgarden's legacy, in a 2007 interview Cornell said, I
think, and this is now with some distance in listening to the records,
but on the outside looking in with all earnestness I think Soundgarden
made the best records out of that scene. I think we were the most daring
and experimental and genre pushing really and I'm really proud of it.
And I guess that's why I have trepidation about the idea of reforming. I
don't know what it would mean. I guess I just have this image of who we
were and I had probably a lot of anxiety during the period of being
Soundgarden, as we all did, that it was a responsibility and it was an
important band of music and we didn't want to mess it up and we managed
to not, which I felt is a great achievement.
Soundgarden has been praised for its technical musical ability and the
expansion of its sound as the band's career progressed. "Heavy yet
ethereal, powerful yet always-in-control, Soundgarden's music was a
study in contrasts," said Henry Wilson of Hit Parader. Wilson proclaimed
the band's music as "a brilliant display of technical proficiency
tempered by heart-felt emotion." Soundgarden is one of the bands
credited with the development of the genre of alternative metal, with
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic stating that "Soundgarden made a
place for heavy metal in alternative rock." Ben Ratliff of Rolling Stone
defined Soundgarden as the "standard-bearers of stoner rock" during the
1990s. The band inspired and influenced a number of bands, such as
Between the Buried and Me and The Dillinger Escape Plan.