The Best 90s Alternative Music Heavy Metal Bands

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for some good 90s alternative music? Check out our list of the best 90s alternative metal bands!


The 1990s was a great decade for alternative music and heavy metal bands. There were so many great bands that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. But, if we had to choose, these are the best 90s alternative music heavy metal bands.

Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains is an American rock band from Seattle, Washington, formed in 1987 by guitarist and vocalist Jerry Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney. They were joined by bassist Mike Starr in 1989, before the recording of their debut album Facelift (1990). Since its formation, the band’s lineup has consisted of Cantrell, Kinney and lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist William DuVall. Starr was fired from the band in 1993, and was replaced by Mike Inez.

The band’s second album Dirt (1992) reached the top five of Billboard’s 200 Albums chart and was certified quadruple platinum. Facelift, Dirt, and Alice in Chains’ EP Jar of Flies (1994) have all been certified diamond by the RIAA. The band has had 16 top ten songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, eight of which peaked at number one. Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s not only being labelled as grunge but also as heavy metal. The band has sold over 30 million records worldwide with two No. 1 albums on Billboard’s 200 Chart: Facelift (1990) and Dirt (1992).

The group achieved one Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance for their hit single “Would?”, four MTV Video Music Awards, three American Music Awards, two ASCAP Pop Music Awards, nine Kerrang! Awards and four Grammy nominations but never won a Grammy despite having been nominated several times throughout their career.


Soundgarden is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington in 1984. The band’s lineup consists of Chris Cornell (vocals, rhythm guitar), Kim Thayil (lead guitar), Matt Cameron (drums), and Ben Shepherd (bass). Its members have included some of the most influential musicians of the 90s alternative music scene.

The band was one of the architects of grunge, a style of alternative rock that developed in Seattle in the early 1990s. The band’s sound was influenced by classic rock and heavy metal, as well as by punk and grunge. They achieved success with their fourth album, Superunknown (1994), which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and won two Grammy Awards. The singles “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” both won Grammy Awards for Best Hard Rock Performance.

The band experienced difficulty after Cornell left to form Audioslave in 2001, but released their fifth album, King Animal (2012). This album was Cornell’s final release before his death in 2017. Soundgarden has sold more than 10 million albums in the United States, and nearly 20 million worldwide.


Nirvana was an American rock band formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. It was founded by singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic. drummer Dave Grohl joined the band in 1990. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting and best-known being Grohl.

The band established itself as part of the Seattle music scene, releasing its first album, Bleach, for the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. They developed a sound that relied on dynamic contrasts, often between quiet verses and loud, heavy choruses. After signing to major label DGC Records in 1991, Nirvana found unexpected success with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the first single from their second album Nevermind (1991). As Nirvana’s frontman Cobain found himself referred to in the media as the “spokesman of a generation”, with Nirvana being considered the “flagship band” of Generation X.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is an American rock band formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. The band’s line-up currently consists of founding members Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar) and Mike McCready (lead guitar), as well as Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitars) and Matt Cameron (drums).irling guitars, strong rhythms, and often lyrics critical of the establishment.

Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots were one of the most successful bands of the early 1990s. With a string of hits like “Sex Type Thing,” “Crackerman,” and “Vasoline,” the band found themselves at the top of the charts and in the hearts of alternative music fans everywhere. Despite their commercial success, Stone Temple Pilots were always a bit of an outsider in the heavy metal world, with their sound being more influenced by classic rock and grunge than by metal. Nevertheless, they maintained a devoted following throughout their career and continue to be revered by many as one of the best alternative bands of all time.

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins is an American alternative rock band from Chicago, Illinois. Formed in 1988 by frontman Billy Corgan, the band includes a lineup of James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlin. The band has undergone many line-up changes throughout their career with the current members being Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Mike Byrne, and Nicole Fiorentino. Smashing Pumpkins has been nominated for ten Grammy Awards and won two. They have also been nominated for three Brit Awards and have won one. In 2013, Tyler Bates joined the band as the new touring guitarist.

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails is an American industrial rock band formed in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio. The band consists of producer and multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor, as well as English musician Atticus Ross. Over the course of their three-decade existence, Nine Inch Nails has been nominated for thirteen Grammy Awards, winning twice for the songs “Wish” and “Happiness in Slavery” in 1992 and 1996 respectively.

The group has released two EPs and nine studio albums. Their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine (1989), was a commercial and critical success. With their second album, The Downward Spiral (1994), they produced what is considered to be one of the most influential records of the 1990s. It included the single “Closer”, which reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, circulated heavily on radio stations, and became Nine Inch Nails’s signature song. Newer singles like “The Perfect Drug” and “The Hand That Feeds” also enjoyed chart success.

Reznor announced plans for a new Nine Inch Nails album in 2016; it was released on June 23, 2018 as Bad Witch. On September 13 of that year, Nine Inch Nails finished their Cold and Black Infinite North American Tour with a show at The Palladium in Los Angeles—their largest headlining show to date with over fifteen thousand people in attendance.

Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington in 1994. The band was founded by Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl as a one-man project following the dissolution of Nirvana after the suicide of Kurt Cobain. The group got its name from the UFOs and various aerial phenomena that were reported by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II, which were known collectively as “foo fighters”.

The band began with Grohl as the only official member, but by the recording of their self-titled debut album in 1995, the lineup had expanded to include bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith. Guitarists Pat Smear and Franz Stahl joined the band in 1997. The band released five more studio albums: There Is Nothing Left to Lose (1999), One by One (2002), In Your Honor (2005), Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007), and Concrete and Gold (2017). They have also released one live album, Live at Wembley Stadium (2008), and four compilations: Greatest Hits (2009), Skin and Bones (2006), Medium Rare (2011) and Saint Cecilia EP (2015).

The Foo Fighters have won twelve Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Album four times. They have also won an AACTA Award for Best International Group at the 7th AACTA Awards ceremony in 2013. Dave Grohl is the only constant member of the band, with Pat Smear being the most recent addition.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1983. The group’s musical style primarily consists of rock with an emphasis on funk, as well as elements from other genres such as punk rock and psychedelic rock. When played live, their music incorporates elements of jam band due to the improvised nature of many of their performances. Singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer are the current members of the band. Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the best-selling bands of all time with over 80 million records sold worldwide, they have been nominated for 16 Grammy Awards, winning six, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

Similar Posts