Between their original five-album run and their well-received 2012 reunion record, King Animal, Soundgarden simultaneously helped define grunge, codify alt-metal and become history-making rock superstars in the process.
The Seattle crew fronted by the late great Chris Cornell weren't the most prolific band of their milieu, but they were certainly one of the most consistent, unique and particularly compelling to fans with a penchant for heavy metal.
With that mind, we asked our readers to pick their favorite Soundgarden song and the results were fascinating. A certain sun of the black hole variety didn't even make the cut, but the top five vote-getters are all amazing picks and are ranked accordingly below.
"Burden in My Hand" is a standout from Soundgarden's 1996 LP, Down on the Upside, with a Seventies hard-rock feel that's catchier, brighter and, at least musically speaking, more feel-good than most of the music they'd released up until that point. It proved that Cornell and Co. could move beyond their alt-metal origins without losing the creative identity and hard-hitting oomph that defined their sound, and although it's not the most obvious pick, we're happy to see it crack the top five.
The third track on Soundgarden's 1994 album, Superunknown, is a straightforward grunge song of the Nirvana variety, with more reserved instrumentation, introspective lyrical themes and a more restrained vocal delivery than many of their previous standouts. Cornell said that he wrote "Fell on Black Days" about experiences he had when everything was going well in his life and all of the sudden he felt paranoid, scared and unhappy — an abrupt interruption that's personified by guitarist Kim Thayil's messy wah-wah solos that come screaming through the mix.
The third track on Badmotorfinger already earned a high spot in our fan poll for Cornell's top five vocal performances, but it absolutely deserves a slot on this roster, as well. There's always been healthy debate about whether or not Soundgarden are a metal band, but "Slaves and Bulldozers" is unquestionably a straight-up doom-metal banger with a piercing guitar solo, a suffocating bass line and, yes, some of Cornell's most physically intoxicating screamed passages.
The second single from Badmotorfinger isn't the heaviest track on the album, but the massively crunchy riff and haunting harmonies during its Sabbathian chorus do leave a crater-like impact. Lyrically, "Outshined" is known for its standout line, "I'm looking California/And feeling Minnesota," which Cornell wrote about a time when he was looking bright and sunny on the outside while feeling bitterly cold and damaged on the inside. Simple, but incredibly universal.
"Jesus Christ Pose" manages to distill everything Soundgarden did best into six minutes of musical ferocity. A lead lick that gnashes like a junkyard dog in heat, a drum pattern that sounds like a truck engine revving, a bass line that whips like a rattler's tale and an animalistic wail from Cornell that dangles between utter derangement and masterful control. The instrumentation never stops building in intensity until it ends, resulting in what's quite possibly the greatest and heaviest grunge jam of all time.