The secrets behind Chris Cornell's tone on Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun

April 6, 1994: Chris Cornell performs with Soundgarden in Utrecht, Netherlands (Image credit: Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images)

Soundgarden lead guitarist Kim Thayil once called Black Hole Sun the band’s Dream On, but this brooding, psychedelic rocker is no ordinary power ballad. Composed by the band’s frontman, Chris Cornell, the song uses 11 of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale in a highly effective manner that makes perfect melodic sense without any dissonance.

Contrasting guitar textures - upper-register arpeggios with warbling rotating speaker vibrato on the verses and heavy, overdriven lines and power chords on the choruses - reinforce the composition’s drama and tension without relying on the obvious “soft/loud” approach often overused by Soundgarden’s grunge counterparts.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.