Grunge and Heavy Metal: The Best of 90s Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the best grunge and heavy metal bands of the 1990s, including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Metallica, and more.



Nirvana is one of the most influential grunge bands of all time. Hailing from Seattle, Nirvana was composed of singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic, and drummer Dave Grohl. Nirvana’s music was marked by Cobain’s anguished vocals and subject matter, which often dealt with depression, alienation, and suicide. The band’s breakthrough album, Nevermind (1991), featured the anthemic single “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which helped to make grunge mainstream. Nirvana’s follow-up album, In Utero (1993), was a critical and commercial success. However, tragedy struck when Cobain committed suicide in 1994 at the age of 27. Grohl and Novoselic continued to tour and release music with Nirvana bassist Pat Smear and drummer Chad Channing until the band eventually disbanded in 1997.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is one of the most successful and influential American rock bands of the 1990s. They emerged from the Seattle grunge scene with their debut album, Ten, in 1991. The album was a huge commercial success and spawned several hits, including “Alive,” “Even Flow,” and “Jeremy.” Pearl Jam continued to release highly successful albums throughout the decade, including Vs. (1993), Vitalogy (1994), No Code (1996), Yield (1998), and Binaural (2000). Pearl Jam is known for their powerful live performances, and they continue to tour extensively.


Soundgarden was one of the most successful and influential grunge bands of the 90s. Formed in Seattle in 1984, the band was fronted by Chris Cornell, who became one of the most iconic singers of the grunge era. The band’s music combined elements of heavy metal, punk and alternative rock, and their debut album ‘Ultramega OK’ was released to critical acclaim in 1988. Soundgarden went on to release a string of hugely successful albums including ‘Badmotorfinger’ (1991), ‘Superunknown’ (1994) and ‘Down on the Upside’ (1996), before Cornell left the band in 1997. Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and released their sixth studio album ‘King Animal’ in 2012.

Heavy Metal

If you’re looking for a list of the best heavy metal songs of the 90s, you’ve come to the right place. From Metallica to Pantera, these songs will get you headbanging. So crank up the volume and get ready to rock out.


Formed in 1981 by guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, Metallica was the band that defined heavy metal for a generation with their mix of thunderous rhythms, stone-cold riffing, andmachine-gun tempos. The group’s first two albums — Kill ‘Em All (1983) and Ride the Lightning (1984) — were groundbreaking works that displayed not only the power and fury of metal but also its increasing technical sophistication. With 1986’s masterful Master of Puppets, Metallica cemented their reputation as the genre’s most important band; the album was also notable for being both hugely popular and critically acclaimed, a rare combination in metal circles.


Formed in 1983, Megadeth is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. The band was founded by guitarist and vocalist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson, following Mustaine’s dismissal from Metallica. Megadeth has released fifteen studio albums, five live albums, two compilation albums, thirty-six singles, thirty-nine music videos, and six video albums. They have also received ten Grammy nominations.


Formed in 1981, Slayer is an American heavy metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band rose to prominence with their 1986 release, Reign in Blood, and is credited as one of the “Big Four” thrash metal bands, along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Slayer has released twelve studio albums, two live albums, a box set, six video albums, and thirty-nine singles. The band has received five Grammy nominations, winning one in 2007 for the song “Eyes of the Insane” and one in 2008 for “Final Six”.

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