The Best Grunge Music Bands of All Time

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


From Nirvana to Pearl Jam, these are the best grunge bands of all time according to experts and fans.


Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. The band became popular in the early 1990s with their grunge style of music. Their album, Nevermind, was released in 1991 and topped the charts worldwide. The album featured the hit single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which helped to popularize the grunge music genre.

Lead singer Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was the singer, guitarist and primary songwriter for the rock band Nirvana. He was born on February 20, 1967 in Aberdeen, Washington. Kurt and his family moved around a lot when he was a kid, living in several small towns in Washington state. When Kurt was 9 years old, his parents divorced and he stayed with his mother while his father got custody of his sister.

Kurt developed an interest in music early on, and his mother encouraged him to pursue it. He started out playing the drums, but soon switched to guitar. In 1985, he formed Nirvana with bassist Krist Novoselic. The band released their first album, Bleach, in 1989. Their second album, Nevermind, was released in 1991 and became a huge success. It contained the hit singles “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are.”

Nirvana became one of the most successful bands of all time, but Cobain struggled with personal demons throughout his life. He battled heroin addiction and depression, and he even attempted suicide several times. On April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 27 years old.


In Utero
Nirvana recorded In Utero during early 1993 at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, with producer Steve Albini. The album’s conception was effected to make a deliberately less-commercial and less polished follow-up to the band’s breakthrough Nevermind (1991). The music was Nirvana’s response to the massive success of Nevermind; Cobain said he wanted to “calm down a bit” and avoid making another album like it. As such, In Utero features an abrasive, less radio-friendly sound than Nevermind; Albini had encouraged the band members to be more natural and spontaneous in their songwriting and performances.

MTV Unplugged in New York
MTV Unplugged in New York is a live album by American grunge band Nirvana. It features a career-spanning set list, including tracks from the band’s major studio releases Bleach (1989), Nevermind (1991), and In Utero (1993), as well as numerous covering artists’ songs—most notably Lead Belly—and one original song, “All Apologies”. The show was directed by Beth McCarthy Anderson and first aired on MTV on December 16, 1993.

Nevermind is the second studio album by American rock band Nirvana, released on September 24, 1991. Produced by Butch Vig, Nevermind was the group’s first release on DGC Records— home of similar Seattle-based bands such as Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains—and the first to feature drummer Dave Grohl.

Bleach is the debut studio album by American rock band Nirvana, released on June 15, 1989 by Sub Pop. The main recording sessions took place at Reciprocal Recording Studios in Seattle between December 1988 and January 1989. Despite the modest success of its singles “Love Buzz” and “Big Cheese”, Bleach was not a major commercial success upon release and received mixed reviews from critics.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. The band’s line-up comprises founding members Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), as well as Matt Cameron (drums).

Lead singer Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder (born Edward Louis Severson III; December 23, 1964) is an American musician, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist, one of three guitarists, and the primary lyricist of the American rock band Pearl Jam. He is also involved in soundtrack work and contributes to albums by other artists. In 2007, Vedder was ranked at number 7 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “Greatest Singers of All Time” and was included in Time’s “100 Greatest People of the 20th Century”.


Ten (1991)
Vs. (1993)
Vitalogy (1994)
No Code (1996)
Yield (1998)
Binaural (2000)
Riot Act (2002)
Pearl Jam (2006)
Backspacer (2009)
Lightning Bolt (2013)

Alice in Chains

Lead singer Layne Staley

Layne Thomas Staley (August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002) was an American musician who served as the lead singer and co-lead vocalist of the rock band Alice in Chains, which he co-founded with guitarist Jerry Cantrell in Seattle, Washington in 1987. He also played guitar for the band Mad Season during their 1995–1996 tenure. During his formative years, Staley was greatly influenced by his parents’ collection of soul music records. Industrial music acts such as Skinny Puppy also proved to be a major influence on him. In the early 1990s, Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell while working at Music Bank rehearsal studios, and the two quickly established a friendship and bonded over their mutual interest in punk rock and heavy metal. The duo eventually decided to start their own band.


Alice in Chains rose to fame in the early 1990s as part of the grunge music scene. The band’s debut album, Facelift, was released in 1990 and helped put the Seattle music scene on the map. The band’s second album, Dirt, is considered by many to be one of the best grunge albums of all time. Other notable albums include Alice in Chains (1995), which was the band’s first album after the death of lead singer Layne Staley, and Black Gives Way to Blue (2009), which was the band’s first album with new lead singer William DuVall.


Soundgarden is a grunge music band that formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984. The band members are Chris Cornell (vocals, guitar), Kim Thayil (guitar), Matt Cameron (drums), and Ben Shepherd (bass). The band was one of the most successful grunge bands of all time, selling more than 10 million albums worldwide. Soundgarden was also one of the first grunge bands to sign with a major label (A&M Records).

Lead singer Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell was an American musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist, primary songwriter and rhythm guitarist for the rock band Soundgarden and as lead vocalist and songwriter for the supergroup Audioslave. He was also known for his numerous solo works and soundtrack contributions since 1991. He died in 2017.


While many of the best grunge music bands achieved great commercial success, Soundgarden was one of the few to find both critical and popular acclaim. The band’s debut album, Ultramega OK, was released in 1988 to positive reviews but little commercial success. It wasn’t until 1991 and the release of their second album, Badmotorfinger, that Soundgarden began to gain a wide following. The album featured the hit singles “Rusty Cage” and “Outshined,” both of which helped to further increase the band’s popularity.

In 1994, Soundgarden released their third album, Superunknown. The album was a massive commercial success, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over nine million copies in the United States alone. The album featured such classic grunge tracks as “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun,” both of which won Grammy Awards.

Following the release of Superunknown, Soundgarden continued to tour and release new music. Their 1996 album, Down on the Upside, was another commercial and critical success. However, by 1997 tensions within the band were high and Soundgarden ultimately decided to disband.

Though they are no longer active, Soundgarden remains one of the most iconic grunge bands of all time.

Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots was an American rock band from San Diego, California, that originally consisted of Scott Weiland, brothers Dean DeLeo and Robert DeLeo, and Eric Kretz. Since the band’s formation in 1989, its line-up remained unchanged until the firing of Weiland in 2013. Linkin Park took over as the new vocalist of the band, with Jeff Gutt.

Lead singer Scott Weiland

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 May 2013. In 2015, Bennington left STP to focus solely on Linkin Park; he was replaced by Jeff Gutt.


Core (1992)

Core is the debut album by American rock band Stone Temple Pilots, released on September 29, 1992 through Atlantic Records. The album, which peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200, was certified 8× platinum by the RIAA on December 18, 2001. It remains the band’s best selling album.

Purple (1994)

Purple is the second studio album by American rock band Stone Temple Pilots, released on June 7, 1994 through Atlantic Records. The album saw the band’s strongest commercial success; it debuted at #1 on US Billboard 200 and spent three weeks there in October 1994, selling 144,000 copies in its first week of release. It is STP’s most commercially successful album to date and was certified 6x platinum by the RIAA on December 18, 2001.

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