It's been twenty years since Superunknown was released, a very strong album let loose amongst a crowd of other strong albums in the early '90s and yet it never seems to be lost and muddled within the crowd. It shines just that little bit brighter than the others and sets itself apart from the others. It's that album that's just to the left of your vision, just a little bit different to the other seminal grunge albums. In fact, I'd say it's the last seminal rock album able to hold its own with the big releases of the '70s and '80s.

It's lazy, even as a casual listener, to label this album as just 'Grunge' after a listen. When someone does I get this feeling that the listener has ignored all the different musical styles and influences, that they've somehow missed all the colourful nature of the music. Don't get me wrong, Superunknown is certainly an album of its time and has so many elements of the '90s at its forefront, not just musical elements but also in its production, and that does help characterise it. However, it has one small eye focused towards paying homage towards albums that came before it while one eye is fixed keenly on a different path, a path less trodden by Soundgarden's contemporaries. At no point does Superunknown indicate a band that wanted to create an album that fitted perfectly with the pack and only sounded relevant in that context.

The music of Superunknown is a particular highlight. Soundgarden have always been very adept at shifting dynamics and conveying moods throughout their albums, and in reality they still are if King Animal and the single 'Live to Rise' are anything to go by. On Superunknown they were exceptionally good at conveying, in fact, the music is far more convincing and does a better job at conveying those moods than Chris Cornell's cryptic lyrics do. Rather than being relegated to the role of accompaniment the music is Soundgarden's way of indicating to the listener. The bright guitar work of Cornell and Kim Thayil in 'My Wave' certainly helps to reinforce the (slightly) positive message in the lyrics while the guitar work in 'Fell on Black Days'and 'Mailman' lend an added heaviness to the songs, as if the gloom and depression has been amplified tenfold. The anger of 'Let Me Drown' wouldn't be half as effective without those forceful guitars engaged in full-on attack mode, drumming home the point to the listener with Matt Cameron's drums pushing the song forwards.

As an album opener it's pretty effective too, instead of allowing the listener to slowly make their way into the album Soundgarden throttle their audience, it's an assault on the senses that excites the listener straight away providing a musical dose of adrenaline. All the while Soundgarden balance that ferocity and anger with a drone-like and hypnotic riff that never dilutes the anger and frantic tempo of the song, it just mesmerises you into wanting to keep listening. It's also one of the songs that places Superunknown into a wider world rather than just placing the album firmly in the grunge or alt rock world. 'Fresh Tendrils' is one of those songs too, it takes its cues from more than a couple of musical worlds while the title track is a straight-up rock song with a sprinkling of contemporary flourishes. Considering how strong these songs are too, they show that Superunknown can knock on the door to play with the Back In Black's, the Led Zeppelin III's of this world all the while being able to mix with Nevermind or Ten. It's genuinely an important album in the history of hard rock.

Superunknown really is a fantastic album. Each song, when taken away from the context of the album and considered on their own merits highlights a band who were able to craft individual pieces to a certain standard; you don't need to hear 'Spoonman' after 'Black Hole Sun' to appreciate it, nor do you have to hear 'Fell on Black Days' after 'My Wave' to appreciate its bleak nature. However, listen to them together and you realise that the whole is, somehow, better than the sum of its parts. While you can appreciate them individually, when the songs are presented together as a whole they present a meandering journey through differing musical styles and contrasting moods. Chris Cornell's vocals shift through the dynamics, tender and soft at one point then powerful the next and his lyrics capture a sense of despair and bleakness regardless of how cryptic they can be. Kim Thayil and Ben Shepherd know when to carry a song forward instrumentally, when to sit back and when to completely take over. Matt Cameron's drumming holds everything together but his rhythmic versatility allows Soundgarden to stretch themselves out, without his understated flair while keeping time Soundgarden may not have been able to be as ambitious. Cameron manages to elevate his drum parts to a level where the listener has to listen to them and consider them as more than just a way of keeping time, much like Neil Peart, without having to include a truckload of fills and cymbal crashes. Go listen to 'Fresh Tendrils' if you really don't believe me. Masterpiece might be an adjective too far for the moment, but it's hard to deny the importance and brilliance of Superunknown.