Chris Cornell – Higher Truth (Album Review)


Chris Cornell has one of the most distinguishable voices in Rock music. Over the last thirty years, he has proven he is not afraid to venture into the unknown, redefining his sound and pioneering some of the most memorable and successful bands to date. Whether it is as a frontman for Soundgarden, Audioslave, side projects such as Temple of the Dog, or as a solo act, Cornell has implemented his songwriting and four octave range into creating something definitive and timeless.

With his fourth studio album, Higher Truth, released September 18th via Universal Music, Cornell takes a softer, stripped down approach that focuses more on lyrics and intent than on production. This enables him to distance himself from the 2009 Timbaland-produced album, Scream. The core of the album is rooted in acoustic arrangements against bluesy, gritty vocals depicting personal and intimate tales of woe, love and life. There is a distinctive Folk-Rock vibe that introduces itself time and time again when listening to Higher Truth, but Cornell, along with producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Neil Young), have added mandolins, piano and rhythmic percussion along the way.

Opening track, “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” sets the tone with a hint of Bluegrass plucking mandolin that eventually soars with Cornell’s powerful vocals as it builds towards the chorus. While the roar of Cornell’s voice does make desired appearances, it is not the centerpiece of Higher Truth. There is a large degree of simplicity and restraint in songs like “Dead Wishes” with its sweet acoustic strumming and soothing vocals, as well as “Worried Moon,” which relies on minimal instrumentation and a mellow and soulful sentiment before adding layers and dynamics in the chorus.

“Before We Disappear” is a solid acoustic rock track that provides one of the catchier choruses on the album and showcases the emotion that Cornell’s voice effortlessly possesses as it pierces straight into the listener. There is a fragility and sweetness in songs like “Let Your Eyes Wander,” which sounds like a lullaby, and “Only These Words.” Cornell also circles back to the theme of lost love in the ballad ‘Josephine,’ which entwines his beautiful vocals with an acoustic guitar and string section, bringing a melancholy characteristic to the song.

Later on, “Murderer of Blue Skies” sets itself apart by experimenting with its arrangement when it reaches a singing electric guitar solo section that allows Cornell to show his range and strength as a vocalist.  This section elicits the classic Chris Cornell yowl and some of the best melodies the album has to offer. Then there is “Our Time in the Universe” which is the one track that seems slightly out of place with its Middle Eastern influence. Yet, it is also interesting in that it offers some variety, which might seem lacking on Higher Truth.

Despite a certain degree of predictability, the album is a genuine collection of simple, melodic and sonically pleasing tracks that allow fans to become completely enthralled in the beauty of Cornell’s voice and the intimacy of his lyrics. Higher Truth is honest and heartfelt piece of work. With that said, it is an album that can be listened to straight through with a connection and appreciation for the intent behind each song. CrypticRock gives Higher Truth 4 out of 5 stars.

chris cornell album cover

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