There was a moment in the late 80s when a new generation of rock musicians born in the underground began to make a mark for themselves. By the early 90s, the faux-bravado of hair metal had been swept aside, and the noisy new Seattle grunge sound presented itself as a dirty, real alternative to the gloss on MTV.
These days some might think grunge is the reserve of Nirvana cover bands, but last week, Dave Grohl reminded us that the punk spirit of grunge is still alive and well. "If you mean loud a-s guitars, loud a-s drums, and screaming a-s vocals, that never went away," said Grohl.
When the Nirvana drummer says something like that, it's fair to take notice. But perhaps he didn't need to; the resurgence of classic 90s acts over the past few years has given us new albums and tours from Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and dozens more acts who either represented grunge or were inspired to form in its shadow.
We asked Ultimate Guitar readers to nominate and vote for the best grunge acts of all time. Thousands of votes later, the results have been collected and counted.
Ladies and gentlemen, the top 10 grunge bands of all time.
This Australian outfit got their big break in 1994 when they won a demo competition on a major radio station. Their sound has since evolved from traditional grunge to increasingly complex orchestrations with a classical influence, but with record sales in excess of 6 million and dozens of music awards, they're still widely respected for their contribution to the genre.
9. Screeming Trees
Mark Lanegan is known to modern rock fans as a frequent guest singer on several Queens Of The Stone Age record (including their next release), but made his name fronting Screaming Trees. They distinguished themselves with additional psychedelic elements to their songs, but broke up in 2000 after reportedly finding it hard to write a successor to hit album "Dust".
8. Dinosaur Jr.
Known for generating walls of wailing feedback at live shows, Dinosaur Jr. were a high influence on underground American rock acts through the 80s. By 1990, the major label debut was effectively a solo record by band leader J. Mascis, with minimal contributions by other bandmates, and after 1997 he dropped the band name altogether - until a full reunion in 2005.
7. Temple Of The Dog
This unusual lineup was formed by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden after writing songs about the death of beloved singer Andrew Wood of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone in 1990. He recruited Wood's former bandmates and other future superstars such as Eddie Vedder, and they recorded a single album in tribute to their friend. When their respective bands hit the big time in the coming years, Temple Of The Dog became renown as a supergroup ahead of its time. Sadly, they've never reformed in this lineup.
6. Robin Daggers
Either I'm hilariously misinformed or this is a fictional act from a TV show. Well, you voted for it, so here it is.
It's pretty hard to pin any single genre on Melvins. They venture into droning metal, stoner rock and hardcore punk - but it's fair to say they were an overwhelming influence on grunge artists. Frontman Buzz Osborne even introduced Dave Grohl to Kurt Cobain, the latter of whom was also a Melvins roadie for a period.
It's no wonder that the top four acts are all from Seattle, because many cite this region (and the label Sub Pop) as the birthplace of grunge as we know it. Soundgarden were the first of their contemporaries to sign to a major label back in 1988, and split roughly a decade later. As you know, their return in 2010 led to their sixth studio album "King Animal".
3. Pearl Jam
When Pearl Jam formed in 1990, many accused them of cashing in on the alt-rock trend. The band didn't care; their music spoke for itself, and the shunned opportunities to conform to major label practices like making music videos. To date, they've sold around 60 million records worldwide, and their integrity remains intact.
Kurt Cobain's widely-reported suicide may have secured their fate as the best-known grunge band in history, but they were so much more than the actions of one desperate man. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the tipping point for alternative rock music to take over the mainstream, and a final nail in the hair-metal coffin. Music hasn't been the same ever since.
1. Alice In Chains
From the peak of success to the pit of tragedy, Alice In Chains have seen it all, and several times. The death of distinctive singer Layne Staley in 2002 was tragic yet almost inevitable after years of drug addiction. In 2005, despite the band being separated at the time of Staley's death, they picked themselves back up and started to perform as a lineup again. A triumphant reunion album with replacement singer William DuVall won over fans old and new, and a new album has just been confirmed with a release date in May.
Those are the top 10 grunge bands of all time, but which are your personal favorites? Are there any great underground acts who deserve recognition? Tell us about them in the comments.