Mandatory Metal: 5 Essential Soundgarden Songs

Soundgarden, 1992; photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage

Heavy music is full of legendary bands boasting deep catalogs stacked with iconic songs — sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, or what to consider their best. With that in mind, we present the “Mandatory Metal” lists, which collect what we consider to be the definitive tracks from various members of the metallurgic pantheon. Up today, Soundgarden, those Seattle grunge pioneers who fused Chris Cornell’s Robert Plantian pipes and earworm melodies to forward-thinking weirdo-rock riffage and off-kilter time signatures to make some of the greatest heavy-music anthems of all time. Cornell died in May 2017, and while he and his most famous band have many classic cuts to their name, these songs — and there are some admittedly surprising picks — are their most essential, in our opinion. If you disagree, sound off on The Pit Facebook page.

“GUN”
ALBUM: LOUDER THAN LOVE

Nasty, sludgy and menacing, this Louder Than Love standout aims for the heart and hits the bullseye due in large part to Cornell’s unhinged vocals.
Sample lyrics: “Shoot shoot shoot till their eyes are closed/Push push push till we get some motion/Push push push till the bombs explode.”

“SLAVES & BULLDOZERS”
ALBUM: BADMOTORFINGER

Cornell’s performance blows minds every time on this snarling, soaring 1991 rager.
Sample lyrics: “Every word I said is what I mean/Everything I gave is what I need/Virgin eyes and dirty looks/On what I have and why I took/Counting all the hands I shook.”

“JESUS CHRIST POSE”
ALBUM: BADMOTORFINGER

With its squealing, off-kilter riff and frenetic pace, Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose” rips and roars with such fury that even a band as extreme as the Dillinger Escape Plan felt perfectly at home covering it.
Sample lyrics: “Arms held out, in your Jesus Christ pose/Thorns and shroud/Like it’s the coming of the Lord/And I swear to you/That I would never feed you pain.”

“FELL ON BLACK DAYS”
ALBUM: SUPERUNKNOWN

This raw, bluesy, bare-hearted Superunknown single takes on a whole other level of poignancy in light of Cornell’s suicide.
Sample lyrics: “Whomsoever I’ve cured, I’ve sickened now/And whomsoever I’ve cradled, I’ve put you down/I’m a search light soul they say/But I can’t see it in the night.”

“BLACK HOLE SUN”
ALBUM: SUPERUNKNOWN

Cornell didn’t even know what the lyrics to this smash grunge hit mean. Its cryptic themes couldn’t stop the infectious song from becoming Soundgarden’s definitive song.
Sample lyrics: “Black hole sun/Won’t you come’And wash away the rain/Black hole sun/Won’t you come.”