The 1989 release of Soundgarden's sophomore album, Louder Than Love, marked a major turning point for the insurgent Seattle rock band. For one, it signaled the group's entry into artier waters; the music was unapologetically heavy, but it also reflected their interest in post-punk, as well as a finely honed sense of sarcasm. The band's first major-label record, it also brought countless record-industry ears to Soundgarden's hometown; with all the attention came newfound fame, something singer Chris Cornell and his bandmates would wrangle with and be conflicted about for the rest of their career.
"Louder Than Love kind of broke open rock radio a little bit, created the beginnings of what made the meteoric rise of Nevermind possible," Cornell told us in 2006. "Stations around the U.S. played 'Get on the Snake,' a song that's very aggressive and doesn't even really have a chorus. So we went from the top of the indie heap to being thrown into the heavy-metal thing. And the word 'embarrassing' came up a lot. Suddenly we had to deal with this existential dilemma: I'm looking at a picture of my band in this magazine, but when I turn the page it's Poison. What does that mean?"
If they were uncomfortable with how they were being presented and misinterpreted, Soundgarden were still very much at home onstage. An incendiary live act from the start, the band's shows around Louder Than Love saw them captivating their growing audience with increasing charisma and power. Below, see amazing photos, both live shots and portraits, from the era.