Of the many artists and celebrities that have died throughout my life, this is one of a handful that is hard to take. He wasn’t just a solo artist anymore or messing around with other projects, he went back to the roots and was on tour with Soundgarden. Although the band only stopped in Memphis for the Tennessee crowd, the fact that they were playing together again and planning to release another album makes Cornell’s death really sting. If I had known the Memphis show was my last chance ever to see this band live, I would have been in the front row.
As a child of the 1990s, I grew up surrounded by some of the formative music of our time, though I had no idea until many years later. I actually didn’t know the awesomeness of Soundgarden or Nirvana or Alice in Chains until I reached college and started expanding my music tastes. Through my teenage years I was all into that screamo stuff and only the heaviest of metal, looking down on anything that didn’t set out to make your ears bleed. I had no idea that the foundation of my favorite tunes formed with bands I left by the wayside.
I would venture to say that without the grunge bands paving the way to take metal to the mainstream, we wouldn’t have some of the defining qualities helped the metal genre further sink its teeth into the minds of the masses. Of course, metal existed before grunge defined at least half decade of music, and bands like Soundgarden ride the line between sludgy groove metal and grunge.
The new metal genres that grew from the influences of record labels looking for the next Nirvana blew the old stuff out of the water. Sorry, Metallica and Black Sabbath, I will always love you. I just can’t imagine life without djent and metalcore.
The formation of later styles came about much like a mosh pit, with grunge, punk, rock and metal styles pushing and shoving against each other, retaining individuality and bleeding the brutality and innovativeness of the more progressive styles that continue to emerge today.
The guttural screams that shape many recent metal bands took the vocals of artists like Cornell just a step further to create the sounds that draw the underground masses.
Cornell and Soundgarden appeared with Dillinger Escape Plan, an especially formative band that pushed the creative metal and punk envelope. Reports of Cornell’s last night in this world say the band played a cover of Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying as the encore. It was the last song Cornell would sing for us, and what a way to go.
Even though Cornell’s death came as a shock to fans, family and friends, I hope the world can appreciate the work he left behind and the formation of styles that spun out from the greatness of bands like Soundgarden.
We will continue to rock on, Chris Cornell, and wherever you are now, I hope you do too.
Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.