Top 10 Best Modern Rock Genres

Check out some of the greatest underground bands of all time in this mammoth playlist, and see if you nomination made the top 10.

Ultimate Guitar

What are the best modern rock genres?

Tough call, right? Well, that's what we asked UG readers to nominate this week and they did a sterling job of picking apart modern rock music and sharing their opinion on what is best.

It's been a tough article to write up - everyone's perspective on these genres will be different. If you think you can offer a better definition, or would like to share YouTube examples, go ahead and join the debate in the comments. We think it'll be a lively one.

Otherwise, go ahead and enjoy - this playlist has some of the most credible underground artists we've ever posted about, so there's a lot to discover and enjoy here.

10. Sludge

Sludge was originally a blend of doom metal and hardcore punk, and can easily cross over into stoner metal. Band like the Melvins pioneered the sound, but artists including Eyehategod, City of Caterpillar and especially Neurosis took it forward towards something better known as post-metal.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

9. Post Rock

Usually instrumental, and often introspective, this genre rocks through the entire spectrum if delicate clean sounds to the most crushing walls of sound possible. But there are few quiet/loud dynamic changes here; every transition is slow and hard earned. Acts like Mono and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are some of the best known, though Pelican is a good example of a more leftfield variant.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

8. Alternative Metal

This is a tough one - almost all metal is alternative, so it seems a little unfair to give credit to it to just a couple of artists. Apparently the voter for this category suggested Breaking Benjamin, so we'll post them here as an example and you can come to your own conclusions about how this should be defined in the comments.

YouTube preview picture

7. Funk Rock

Rock almost lost its groove when digital recording and click tracks were invented. Thankfully, artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus were around to keep that funky backbeat alive.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

6. Stoner Rock

Here's how to make a stoner rock guitar sound: record a huge guitar amp, and boost 400 Hz with an EQ. Make it as wooly and muddy as possible. Once upon a time, this would have sounded plain wrong - then bands like Kyuss arrived and made it seem normal. The first Queens of the Stone Age album is considered by some to be the gold standard in stoner rock, given that it was written by former Kyuss member Josh Homme.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

5. Modern Blues

Rock came from blues, and there's still plenty of artists who stick to its original roots. Jack White is probably the only mainstream representative, though the next category in Garage Rock is often indistinguishable.

YouTube preview picture

4. Garage Rock

There's so many garage rock bands now that it's fruitless trying to list them all. Just mix catchy guitar hooks with a solid beat, then throw some fuzzy vocals over it. I mean, having a good song will help, but that's pretty much it.

YouTube preview picture

3. Alternative Rock

It's weird to call this 'alternative' when it's really just a modern take on classic rock. Think of it as an accessible version of rock with plenty of songwriting integrity. Bands like Foo Fighters and 30 Seconds to Mars lead the mainstream charge, but there's plenty of alternatives - particularly in Britain where alternative rock takes on a more progressive edge with acts like Amplifier.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

2. Progressive Metal

The genres that so often captures the hearts and minds of guitar-loving UG readers. Dream Theater are perhaps the guitar geek's dream band with John Petrucci's shred-tastic guitar solos, but Tool's emotional progressive metal sound has become one of the most influential in metal history.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

1. Stoner Metal

What happens when you get metal head musicians really damn stoned? They slow down a little, get some groove on, and sometimes give their head banging anthems an intellectual twist. Phil Anselmo's Down are a popular example, but the underground classic act are Sleep. Their album "Dopesmoker," shared in full below, is one riff which loops for an hour with the band jamming around it. Why? They were signed to a major label, then spent the money on weed and spent a year recording the same riff as heavy as possible. The label refused to release it, but its notoriety made it an underground hit - plus it sounds incredible loud. Enjoy.

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

What do you think of the top 10 modern rock genres? Which artists have you discovered, and what do you disagree with? Give your fellow UG readers a musical education in the comments, and hit "like" if you're a fan of any of the bands on this page.

201 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Next weeks list: Best guitarist who lost the tips of his fingers in an industrial accident. Go!
    Anchang from Sex Machineguns Lost his right middle finger in an industrial accident xD
    How about worst Wednesday question of all time? Although I suppose the list would have to exceed 10.
    This is why I said sludge and stoner should have been counted as one genre, and stoner rock and metal are pretty much the same thing.
    Yeah cuz Queens of the stone Age are totally like Sleep...
    Queens and Sleep have their similar moments, along with Kyuss. To put Stoner Rock and Stoner metal into two different categories is nitpicking
    This is just such a weird idea for a list
    I thought it was pretty good - it forced the users out of their comfort zones, and made them actually produce different results than the go-to candidates that we almost always see on every other "best" list (Queen, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Black sabbath, Guns n' roses, etc.)
    Not a bad list at all. As people have previously said though, this was a pretty naff question. What are they going to ask next week. Best guitar colour? Best Limp Bizkit video?
    I agree with the guy who said they should do best rhythm section.
    What about " Best song intro " ? And whatever the instrument involved (if there's only one). That would be cool.
    best instrumental track would be good, or maybe best song over 10 minutes or something
    over 20 mins.
    They would all be Dream Theater.
    Nope...the live version of The Day the Music Died is over 20 minutes, the original version of Inagodadavida (probably butchered the spelling but you get the idea), is well over 20 minutes as well.
    Rush - 2112 Sleep - Dopesmoker Pink Floyd - Dogs Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Karn Evil 9 The Allman Brothers Band - Mountain Jam Miles Davis - Pharaoh's Dance Om - On The Mountain At Dawn Kraftwerk - Autobahn Sunn O))) - Wind & Fog top ten no order, no Dream Theater (personally I think their over 20 mins songs, Six Degrees, Octavarium etc are boring as ****.)
    Opeth-Black Rose Immortal. I like Dream Theater but i like Opeth more.
    "Best Song Outro" would be a good list, Dream Theater's Octavarium and The Best of Times, Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, Metallica's Fade to Black, there's a lot out there to choose from.
    @Satrianifan they would all be guitar solos or instrumentals parts, lol add Pearl Jam's alive to that, Rush's Working Man, Pantera's Floods (The Arpeggios, I love those at the end)
    Primus, Rush, Tool, King Crimson, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers... Yeah, that could be interesting.
    Still better than "Best Metallica Song" every week
    In all honesty, the genres mentioned on the list do no justice to the question. Alternative, garage and progressive metal, for example, are not new at all. I do agree that this was a good question though, at least it pushed UGers beyond the eternal "Led Zeppelin - Pink Floyd - Deep Purple" circlejerk.
    No Explosions in the Sky mention under post rock?? Was also hoping to see Electric Wizard under stoner metal. Dopethrone is one heavy record
    I would think the biggest post-rock band right now is Explosions in the Sky. Can't wait to see them open for NIN at the end of the month.
    Thats gonna be a great show. Explosions are amazing live. Passionate dudes.
    Lol, Down and Sleep in the same category. I guess AC/DC and the Jonas the same genre as well.
    Shoegaze didn't get on the list? I'm dissapointed...
    I'd vote for shoegaze even if the question was "what football team do you love?", but shoegaze isn't exactly modern... MBV's "Isn't Anything" came out in 1988, for example.
    Yeah, but most of the genres that actualy got there are like 20 years old. Alternative rock, funk rock, sludge, stoner rock, prog metal... If all those could get there, why not shoegaze? And there is a lot of new and great bands lately and I'm pretty sure the genre is more alive than for example funk rock.
    I would say it's a little risky setting stoner rock and stoner metal apart as completely different genres but hey ho, just glad to see both down and kyuss on here! Next week do another 'best song by a certain band' one as we haven't done one for ages. Soundgarden or AIC maybe?
    Terrible Wednesday Question. There are so many genres now I can't keep up, I'm not sure why each band needs its own genre.
    Exactly. Im sick and tired everytime a new band comes out a new genre is created. Its ridiculous
    link no1
    They may aswell just rid the world of genres at this point. Whoever started this 'fad' that every band needs it's own stupid sounding 34 word genre needs shooting.
    It doesn't matter much until your library of music starts to exceed 500 bands and you want to find one band similar to another. Let's look at bands with the same parent genre. Death Metal: Children of Bodom vs. Opeth Progressive: Dream Theater vs. Tool Black Metal: Dimmu Borgir vs. Dawn Are any of those pairs similar? That's why we have subgenres. You don't need to memorize them if you don't care, but don't undermine the utility of them. If you want to find a band similar to, say, Cathedral, you'd look for Doom/Stoner bands, not just "metal."
    Children of Bodom are no where near to being Death metal.
    Some people call CoB "Melodic Death Metal")
    They must be the same people who think Amon Amarth is viking metal because they sing about vikings.
    Not a bad list. I love seeing Down "Nola" mentioned here... it's easily one of the best metal albums of the 90's and is terribly underrated.
    Does UG not know what alternative metal is or something? Not only are they at a loss for examples, but they put alt metal gods Tool in progressive metal.
    I'd call tool kind of a forerunner to post-metal especially the stuff on 10,000 days.
    I agree - Tool is progressive alternative metal, not progressive metal. Also agree about Alternative Metal category.
    Hardly any of these subgenres are "modern". Prog metal can be traced back to the 70s with Rush, Uriah Heep, and King Crimson. Garage rock has pretty much existed as long as rock itself. And funk rock... yep. Same idea. But it does raise the point that all "innovation" in creating new genres is coming strictly as metal and part of the metalcore movement. Almost every day there seems to be some new subgenre of metalcore or death metal. It's frankly gotten out of hand.
    Agreed, what is with all the classifications and labels these days anyway?? And next week vote for best Alt-Nu-Black-Grind-Blues-Thrash-Progressive-Techno-Dance-Roc k-Death-Speed-Grunge-Power Groove by left handed midgets (sorry Little People) Albums...circa 76 through 78
    What if the band is officially Alt-Nu-GRAY-Grind-Blues-Thrash-Progressive-Techno-Dance-Rock -Death-Speed-Grung-Power Groove by Right-handed little people? Do they get a different Grammy?
    My vote is for 'Look at all the Little Johns' by Dwarfish Sods of '78
    This was perhpas the worst Wednesday question. Lol
    And you definatly don't say this because that your numerous suggestions where downvoted to oblivion...
    dude, VOLBEAT is a great band. Too bad u dont know about them
    I'm Danish FYI, I know about them, and I even heard them at Roskilde this year - sadly, they've disappointed me greatly in their later years. Their first albums were amazing, but they've become a parody of themselves. They've fallen into the downward spiral of attempting to recapture what made them successfull, and in the process their songwriting and sound has suffered, becoming bland and slick, which was very audiable at the performance. I knew they weren't in their heyday anymore, so when I arrived I decided to cut them some slack and not set my expectations too high, yet they still managed to leave me with a kind of "meh" feeling. Technically, they of course played great, but it felt more like listning to a radio, than attending a rock/metal concert. However, it was cool meeting them backstage though - They're much more down to earth in person.
    cool story bro...
    I have to agree with him. I saw them live, and it was one of the weirdest pits ever, moshing to Johnny Cash, but they just lost it, and are just rehashing all the things that made people love them
    Wow down AND EHG on a a UG list? never thought id see the day.
    Right? But everyone is crying "worst list." I thought it was pretty decent
    I don't have a problem with the list they have up. I just have issues with the labels.. to me its all Rock N Roll or Metal or Blues.. the reason I say this (and I'm probably twice the age as the oldest person on here...) if we look back to say the 60's look at Steppenwolf, back then that WAS heavy Metal... and trust me when we first heard "what is this that stands before me" ... man that scared the sh!t out of people... now a days Sabbath is "hard rock" compared to say Pantera, LOG, etc. and don't get me started on the real heavy stuff.. or Black Metal etc. its all about the times and peoples need to be set apart from the pack when in reality its all rock and roll man... some is just faster than others...the scales haven't changed...
    Ohh I feel the same way man. I don't mind some sub genres like funk rock or something like that because there is a difference between that and rock, but they've gotten carried away with it. Mainly in the last few years with all the different types of metal (in particular). It's all really the same to me. Is there really much difference between Djent and Metal? Seriously, Djent? They're just making words up now... Obviously there is a difference between it and metal, but at the end of the day a band like Periphery is still a metal band just like an Iron Maiden, As I Lay Dying or Judas Priest. It's all about creating a bunch of cliques so that people can group together and only like certain types of metal or rock or whatever and dislike others without ever hearing them. To me it's basically like high school but with music. But the good bands aren't just one genre, and those are the bands I listen to. Nothing against Asking Alexandria or Attila or any of those metalcore bands, but they're way to one dimensional for me to like.
    I find it interesting because it says something about various movements in music. You can trace influences and styles through times by delving into the various subgenres, i like to see how music changes and transforms as times go by. And you could also say that there is a massive difference between a blackmetal band and a progressivemetal band, they come from completely different places and is nothing like each other. Same goes for various other subgenres. And obviously it comes in handy when you are looking for new stuff to listen to. If you really want to hear some Djent its no use sorting through endless amounts of GrindCore bands.
    How about all time strangest music video: my vote for Parabola
    "Fertile Green" by High on Fire. Weed,sex with ghosts, pubic trees, and, of course, Jesus's time traveling twin brother.
    every blues artist is either turning in their grave or facepalming at that godawful jack white trash being classed atall as blues, it's nothing against him, but that is NOT blues
    Exactly. There are tons of actual amazing blues rock guitarists out there. Jack White is very talented, but he isn't a true blues guitarist in my opinion.
    Yeah, they should have used Joe Bonamassa or KWS for blues rock
    I think they used Jack White because as they said in the modern blues description, he's the most mainstream. His roots are the blues and he plays a more "modern" interpretation of the blues. Bonamassa and Sheppard are more traditional blues guitarist who just happened to have been born in this generation. Also, if you listen deeper into Jack White's discography he does play a lot of traditional blues, so I feel very comfortable as him being the pick. Plus, he's one of the few musicians nowadays that you don't have to be a musician to have heard of him. EVERYONE has heard of Jack White.
    Genres sucks. Why don't just make music in general instead of "sludge industrial neo-goth black punk thrash synthpop new age lounge bullshit crabcore metal"?
    No Grunge
    GRUNGE is not really modern considering it started in the 80s
    So is funk rock, stoner rock, and alternative - And that's not even the point. The point is that the list counts in WHEN the genres became commenly known, which for all genres here is from the 90's and up.
    Gloria, by Van Morrison is a garage rock staple and it was written in 1964. to say that these genres became known after the 90's is ridiculous. RHCP released 4 albums in the 80's. not very modern are they?
    In case you didn't notice, garage rock wasn't really that well known, or even really used a way to describe a band back then (almost all would get lumped into the rock'n'roll department). The term and genre was first popularized the 90's with the rise of alternative scene, and the rebirth of DIY in the mainstream. And yes, RHCP did make 4 albums before, but you're missing the entire point of what I wrote, which was that their golden era, and the time when they properly broke through to not just the US, but the world in general was in the 90's.
    I always found the Foo Fighters to be grungy. A mixture between grunge and alternative.
    Best rhythm section is a great idea! Also what about best album openers?
    I'd actually prefer some lists similar to this one, ones that push us to nominate different candidates than the usual circlejerk answers.
    Thrice Capades
    Capricorn. Damn fine song. Back when 30 Seconds to Mars was at their best.
    +1 This band deserves some credit for their first record. They really did make a fine album. This Is War wasn't too bad either, but I just can't get into the rest of their stuff.
    It is really confusing how they are so many Metal Genres. Its like everytime a new band comes out...a new Genre in invented
    Good list...I just wasn't thrilled with the question on wednesday, but the list is 10 thousand times better than I expected.
    I personally don't hear enough difference between the Breaking Benjamin and 30 Seconds to Mars songs to consider them different genres. I was surprised it wasn't a list dominated by [insert word]core.
    The incessant need to categorize is a curse of modern rock and metal. As musicians continue to push boundaries, the definitions of subgenres broaden to the point where they loses their ability to accurately describe the music. Then people feel the need to invent more genres to classify music, because the established genres don't actually explain anything. Not to mention bands that fall into multiple genres and the fact that newer subgenres are highly subjective, in terms of what they include. That's why I think it's silly to argue about subgenres of music, because a lot of people have their own take on them, and there's no end all-be all on the matter.
    Where is METALCORE ? Lol
    Darth Wader
    Stoner Metal and Progressive I realize why these Ultimate Guitar Lists are always so terrible!!!
    I was under the impression that modern rock was a genre. IMO this is one thing that's wrong with the music world today, the need to classify everything into a sub-genre. To me Metal, Rock, and Punk are all that's needed.