The Different Styles of Grunge Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Grunge music is a type of rock that emerged in the mid-1980s and became widely popular in the early 1990s. The different styles of grunge music can be broadly divided into two categories: the hard-edged, guitar-based sound of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and the more experimental, eclectic style of bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.

Grunge Basics

Grunge is a rock music genre that emerged in the late 1980s. It was influenced by punk rock and heavy metal, and often incorporates elements of those genres. Grunge typically uses distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and vocals.

What is grunge?

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was originally used to describe the music of bands from Seattle, Washington, such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Grunge became popular internationally in the early 1990s, with grunge fashion and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video leading the way.

Grunge music is characterized by its heavy guitar sound, often with distorted or feedback-laden guitars, and its raw, angsty lyrics. Grunge bands are also known for their DIY ethic and for their distaste for the commercialism of the mainstream music industry.

Where did grunge come from?

Grunge music is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the mid-1980s in the American state of Washington, particularly in the Seattle area. characterized by a dirty and sound and themes of angst and alienation. Grunge was also noted for its merger of punk and metal elements, resulting in a sound that was heavier than either genre.

Grunge Styles

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock and a subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the Pacific Northwest U.S. state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns. The early grunge movement revolved around Seattle’s independent record label Sub Pop and the region’s grunge bands. By the early 1990s, its popularity had spread, with grunge bands appearing in California, then emerging in other parts of the United States and in Australia.

Seattle Sound

The Seattle Sound is a subgenre of grunge music that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The term was coined by music critic Dave Marsh to describe the sound of the Seattle-based bands he was writing about in his column for Billboard magazine. These bands were influenced by punk rock and heavy metal, but they also incorporated elements of pop and alternative rock into their sound.

The Seattle Sound became popular in the United States and Europe in the early 1990s, but it is often associated with the death of grunge music due to the high-profile suicides of two of its major figures: Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. Nevertheless, the Seattle Sound continues to influence the work of contemporary artists.


Post-grunge is a subgenre of grunge that emerged in the mid-1990s as a derivative of grunge, being musically similar but with a more commercially accessible tone. By the early 2000s, post-grunge moved away from its grunge roots, with many of its bands no longer playing in a grunge vein and instead emulating the pop sensibility of alternative rock.

Grunge Bands

Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Musically, grunge is often characterized by heavily distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and vocals. Grunge bands generally have a heavy, aggressive sound that is often compared to that of heavy metal.


Nirvana was a grunge band formed by singer and 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 drummer being Dave Grohl, who joined the band in 1990. Though they initially gained recognition as part of the Seattle grunge scene, Nirvana was hailed as one of the leaders of a generation of young people who were disaffected with established institutions such as corporations and government.

The success of Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind led to popular mainstream exposure for grunge music. Cobain, Novoselic, and Grohl were celebrated as rock heroes in mainstream magazines such as Rolling Stone and Time. Cobain became particularly reluctant to deal with the resulting fame and success, preferring to stay out of the public eye. In February 1994, he committed suicide at his home in Seattle.

Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam is an American rock band, formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990. The band’s lineup consists of founder Eddie Vedder (lead vocals), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Jeff Ament (bass guitar), and Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar). drummer Matt Cameron. Pearl Jam is considered one of the main driving forces behind the 1990s grunge movement.

The band achieved massive success with the release of their 1991 debut album, “Ten”, which peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 charts and produced the singles “Alive”, “Even Flow”, and “Jeremy”. The album was certified thirteen times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Their second album, “Vs.”, was released in 1993. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 950,000 copies in its first week, and went on to become the band’s most successful album to date, with sales of over nine million copies in the United States. It produced three hit singles: “Go”, “Animal”, and “Daughter”.

In 1996, Pearl Jam released their fourth studio album, “No Code”. The album was met with mixed reviews but still managed to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 and sell more than 850,000 copies its first week.

Following a tour stop in Denmark in August 1998, Vedder gave a speech critical of Ticketmaster, which had been charging service fees as high as 27% for some concert tickets. Ticketmaster subsequently stopped doing business with Pearl Jam. In response to this victory against Ticketmaster’s monopoly power, Vedder said, “What we did was legal but it wasn’t necessarily right.” He further explained that he felt compelled to take action because “[w]e realized we had a little bit of power…and sometimes you have to use it.”

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, who later recruited bassist Mike Starr and lead vocalist Layne Staley. The initial lineup was unstable and, apart from the ongoing contribution of Cantrell, was largely uninvolved in the recording of the band’s earliest albums. Starr was replaced by Mike Inez in 1993. William DuVall joined the band in 2006 as co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, replacing Staley, who died in 2002.

The band’s studio album Facelift (1990) was their breakthrough debut; it was certified platinum and has been cited as an influence on a variety of subsequent rock music. The success of Dirt (1992), Alice in Chains’ second album, which debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified quadruple platinum, made them one of the world’s most successful rock bands of the early 1990s. In 1994, Alice in Chains rose to international fame after appearing on MTV Unplugged alongside members of Pearl Jam and other noted alternative rock musicians of the era; their MTV Unplugged performance is often credited with helping break grunge into mainstream music.

The band found further success with their fourth album Black Gives Way to Blue (2009), which debuted at number five on Billboard 200 and received Grammy Award nominations for Best Hard Rock Performance for its lead single “Check My Brain”, Best Rock Album for Black Gives Way to Blue itself, and Best Recording Package for Clutching at Straws artwork. Their fifth album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013), also debuted at number two on Billboard 200. Alice in Chains has sold more than 30 million records worldwide because they are awesome!

Grunge Legacy

Although grunge music died out in the mid-1990s, its influence is still felt today. Grunge was a movement that emerged from the underground music scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was characterized by its raw, unpolished sound and DIY aesthetic. Grunge music was also known for its sparse, minimalistic song structures. Many of the bands who helped define the grunge sound are no longer active, but their legacy continues to be felt in the music of today.

Grunge’s influence on music today

Grunge’s impact was far-reaching and its legacy is still evident in music today. Bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains rose to prominence in the early 1990s with their gritty, hard-rock sound. These bands brought grunge to the mainstream, and their success would pave the way for other grunge bands to find mainstream success in the years that followed.

Grunge would go on to have a lasting impact on rock music as a whole. Grunge bands took a more DIY approach to their music, shunning the polished sound of many hair metal bands of the 1980s. This DIY approach would influence many subsequent rock genres, including emo and indie rock. Grunge’s dark, introspective lyrics would also influence subsequent rock genres, particularly alternative metal.

Today, grunge’s influence can still be heard in many modern rock bands. While grunge is no longer as prevalent as it once was, its legacy continues to shape the sound and style of rock music today.

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