The 5 Best Grunge Bands from the ’90s

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The grunge era of the early 1990s was a golden age for alternative rock music. Grunge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden defined a generation with their raw, powerful sound.

If you’re a fan of grunge music, then you’ll definitely want to check out our list of the 5 best grunge bands from the ’90s. From Nirvana to Pearl Jam, these are the bands that defined a generation.


Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. The band’s lineup consisted of founder Kurt Cobain (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Krist Novoselic (bass guitar), and Dave Grohl (drums, percussion). Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, in its first year of eligibility.

About the band

Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting and best-known being Dave Grohl, who joined in 1990. Though the band dissolved after Cobain’s suicide in 1994, their music maintains a popular following and continues to influence modern rock and roll culture.

Their best songs

Nirvana was undoubtedly the most successful and influential grunge band of the ’90s. They popularized the genre with their seminal album Nevermind, which was released in 1991. The album featured such classic grunge songs as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are.” Nirvana’s follow-up album, In Utero, was equally successful, cementing the band’s place as one of the most important rock bands of the ’90s.

Nirvana’s music was characterized by its raw energy and emotion. Lead singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain was a gifted songwriter with a knack for writing catchy melodies. But Cobain also had a dark side, which is reflected in some of Nirvana’s more depressing songs, such as “Heart-Shaped Box” and “Pennyroyal Tea.”

Besides Nirvana, there were other great grunge bands active in the ’90s. Here are five of the best:

Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam was another hugely successful grunge band from the ’90s. Their debut album, Ten, was released in 1991 and featured such hits as “Alive” and “Jeremy.” Pearl Jam’s follow-up albums, Vs. and Vitalogy, were also huge successes. Like Nirvana, Pearl Jam’s music is characterized by its raw emotion and powerful melodies.

Soundgarden was one of the earliest grunge bands, formed in 1984. They didn’t achieve mainstream success until their fourth album, Superunknown, which was released in 1994. The album features such classic grunge songs as “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman.” Soundgarden’s music is heavier than both Nirvana’s and Pearl Jam’s, with a louder sound and more distorted guitars.

Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains was another great grunge band from the ’90s. They achieved mainstream success with their second album Facelift, which was released in 1990. The album featured such classics as “Man in the Box” and “Would?” Alice in Chains’ music is characterized by its dark lyrical themes; many of their songs deal with drug addiction and depression.

Mudhoney is often considered to be one of the pioneers of grunge music. Their first album, Superfuzz Bigmuff Plus Early Singles, was released in 1988 to critical acclaim. Mudhoney’s music is dirty and raw-sounding; it influenced many later grunge bands (including Nirvana). The band continues to be active today; they released their ninth studio album last year.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam was one of the most popular grunge bands in the ’90s. They released their debut album, Ten, in 1991 and it quickly went platinum. The album included hits like “Alive,” “Even Flow,” and “Jeremy.” Pearl Jam was known for their powerful live performances and their politically charged lyrics. They became one of the most successful bands of the ’90s and are still touring today.

About the band

Pearl Jam is an American rock band that formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. The band’s lineup consists of founder Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar) and Jeff Ament (bass). Since 1998, the band has also included drummer Matt Cameron (’90s-present). Boom Gaspar (keyboards) has also been a session/touring member with the band since 2002.

The band’s fifth and current studio album, Lightning Bolt, was released on October 15, 2013. Pearl Jam will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a part of the Class of 2017.

Their best songs

1. Even Flow
2. Alive
3. Jeremy
4. Go


When people think of grunge music, the first band that comes to mind is Nirvana. However, there were many great grunge bands in the ’90s. One of those bands was Soundgarden. Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by singer Chris Cornell and guitarist Kim Thayil.

About the band

Soundgarden was an American rock band from Seattle, Washington, formed in 1984. The band included Chris Cornell (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Kim Thayil (lead guitar), and Matt Cameron (drums). Soundgarden was one of the seminal bands of the 1990s grunge movement.

The band released six studio albums, three live albums, and eight singles. Their 1991 album Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. In 1994, their album Superunknown won two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album and Best Hard Rock Performance. In 1996, the song “Black Hole Sun” won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Soundgarden disbanded in 1997 but reunited in 2010 and released their final album King Animal in 2012. Cornell died in 2017; the cause of death was ruled a suicide by hanging.

Their best songs

Soundgarden is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band’s full-time drummer in 1986, while bassist Ben Shepherd replaced Yamamoto in 1990. The band’s fifth member was touring keyboardist Alan Pasqua, who performed with the band during the touring for Down on the Upside.

With their debut album, Ultramega OK (1988), Soundgarden became one of the pivotal responsible for the development of grunge music. The band released Badmotorfinger in 1991 and its album Superunknown (1994) debuted at number one on Billboard 200 and remains one of the greatest albums of all time. In 1997, the band broke up due to internal strife over its creative direction.

After more than a decade apart, Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and released a new album, King Animal, in 2012 to critical acclaim and strong commercial success. The following year, the band was nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Alice in Chains

About the band

Alice in Chains is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell and original lead vocalist Layne Staley. The initial lineup was rounded out by drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr, who was replaced in 1993 by Mike Inez. Although widely associated with grunge music, the band’s sound incorporates heavy metal elements. Since its formation, Alice in Chains has released six studio albums, three EPs, three live albums, four compilations, two DVDs, 32 music videos, and 35 singles. The band is known for its distinctive vocal style, which often included the harmonized vocals of Staley and Cantrell.

Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the Mad Season album (1994) and the highly successful tours that followed. The band has sold more than 30 million records worldwide[1] and been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards.[2] Three of the band’s studio albums have charted at number one on the Billboard 200: Facelift (1990), Dirt (1992), and Alice in Chains (1995). The band has had 14 top ten songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart; eight of them peaking at number one: “Would?”, “Rooster”, “Down in a Hole”, “No Excuses”, “I Stay Away”, “Heaven Beside You”, “Again”, and “Get Born Again”. Since its formation, Alice in Chains has been praised by music critics as one of the most influential rock bands of their generation.[3][4][5][6][7] In 2010 they were ranked No. 87 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.[8]

Their best songs

Grunge died when Kurt Cobain did, at least that’s what everyone thought in the years following the Nirvana frontman’s suicide. But while the style of music that Cobain championed may have gone out of fashion, it didn’t die with him. In the years that followed Cobain’s death, a number of great grunge bands would emerge and keep the sound alive. Here are five of the best grunge bands from the ‘90s.

Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains was one of the most successful grunge bands of the ‘90s. The band found success with their debut album, Facelift, which was released in 1990. The album featured the singles “Man in the Box” and “Would?” Alice in Chains would go on to release three more studio albums in the ‘90s, Dirt, Alice in Chains andJar of Flies, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The band is also notable for being one of the few grunge bands to survive the death of a lead singer. Lead singer Layne Staley died in 2002, but Alice in Chains has continued to tour and record with new lead singer William DuVall.

Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots were one of the most successful grunge bands of the ’90s. They achieved mainstream success with their debut album, Core, which was released in 1992. The album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified eight times platinum by the RIAA. Stone Temple Pilots continued to enjoy success throughout the ’90s with the release of their next two albums, Purple and Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop. The band went on hiatus in 2002 but reunited in 2008 and have been touring and releasing music ever since.

About the band

Stone Temple Pilots is an American rock band from San Diego, California, that originally consisted of Scott Weiland (lead vocals), brothers Dean DeLeo (guitar) and Robert DeLeo (bass, backing vocals), and Eric Kretz (drums). Since the band’s formation in 1989, its line-up remained unchanged until the firing of Weiland in 2013. Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington joined the band in early 2013 but exited in 2015 due to creative differences. They began making music together in high school and performing under the name Mighty Joe Young. The group released its first EP, Core, in 1992. This attracted a lot of attention leading their first album, Purple, to be released on June 7, 1994 by Atlantic Records to critical acclaim; it went double platinum by the end of that year.[1][2] The success of the singles “Sex Type Thing” and “Creep” helped propel the album to number one on Billboard 200 chart.[3]

The band achieved mainstream success with its second album, Purple (1994), which contained four singles that peaked within the top 11 of Billboard Hot 100: “Vasoline”, “Sex Type Thing”, “Crackerman”, and ” Interstate Love Song”. The album went platinum eight times over.[4][5] Stone Temple Pilots were also ranked at number 40 on VH1’s countdown of Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.[6]

The group’s third album, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996) was also very successful; it sold more than two million copies,[7][8] debuted at number four on Billboard 200,[9] and spawned three hit singles: “Big Bang Baby”, “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart”, and “Lady Picture Show”. Although none of these singles reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 chart,[10][11] they all enjoyed considerable success on Mainstream Rock Tracks chart where each of them peaked at number one or number two.[12][13][14][15] In 1999, Stone Temple Pilots returned with No. 4 (1999), which debuted at number seven[16] on Billboard 200 while spawning two hit singles: “Down” and “Heaven & Hot Rods”.[17][18] Despite chart success later that year with No. 4’s fourth single “Sour Girl”—which reached number nine on Mainstream Rock Tracks chart—the band was plagued by drug addiction problems throughout much of 1999–2000 which ultimately derailed their career. Stone Temple Pilots eventually broke up due to creative tension between Weiland and the DeLeo brothers; however, they briefly reunited for a tour during 2008–2009 before permanently disbanding again afterward amid conflict between Dean DeLeo and Scott Weiland.[19]

Their best songs

Stone Temple Pilots were one of the biggest bands of the ’90s, thanks to their combination of grunge and classic rock influences. Here are five of their best songs:

“Interstate Love Song”
“Big Empty”

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