Soundgarden’s fans would probably have been pleased just to have the group reunite and tour simply playing songs from their back catalogue. But with the 2010 “best of” compilation Telephantasm: A Retrospective going platinum on its first day of release, it was no surprise that was later announced the group would be recording a brand new album.

The album beings with the appropriately named “Been Away Too Long” — and to hear the band, it’s almost like they never have been away. Soundgarden has lost none of their punch; the music is solid, aggressive hard rock, and however much Chris Cornell has kept his vocal cords in shape through his various other bands, side projects, and solo work, he’s still best matched with these powerhouse musicians.

Just listen to the beginning of “Non-State Actor,” which lays down the base with Kim Thayil’s riffing, Cornell then coming in with a throat-shredding yowl (which he drops in at other spots as well). The brooding “Blood on the Valley Floor” is also good and heavy. It’s not all full throttle; on numbers like “Bones of Birds,” the band shows they can slow things down without undermining their inherent power. Cornell has the knack of being able to sing quietly while giving up none of his strength (of course sometimes he fools you too, starting out in a lower register and then building to an impressive scream).

The band does have a new maturity; they’re not quite as freewheeling as in the ‘90s (let alone the ‘80s). But if they’ve grown up, they haven’t grown old, and it’s a safe bet these are songs the band’s going to have a lot of fun with live. Soundgarden’s fan should be pleased to hear the group sounding so energized.

As is typical these days, there are various versions of the album available. The regular album has 13 tracks. The Deluxe edition has four bonus tracks, all demos, and if that’s your into you should opt for the edition available through Best Buy outlets as it has five bonus tracks, including all the ones available on the Deluxe edition. And if you’re a total Soundgardener, you’ll have to pick up the German Deluxe edition sold through amazon, as it has a demo that’s not available on the Best Buy version.

Label: Universal (to purchase King Animal in CD format click here)