Top 10 Grunge Bands Of All Time

The greatest grunge acts of all time are listed here, after thousands of votes from UG readers. But who made it to the top spot?

Ultimate Guitar

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.

10. Silverchair

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.

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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".

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. Melvins

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.

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4. Soundgarden

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".

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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.

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2. Nirvana

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.

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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.

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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.

275 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Top 4 was predictable and deserved. When I got to number four and saw Soundgarden, I was like.."knew it, now to see the order!" Number three..Pearl Jam. "Cool, now it's between Alice and Nirvana" Number two.....Nirvana. "Phew, Alice got the top spot, yes!" Love both of them, but I prefer AIC. I must admit though, I was kind of expecting to see Mudhoney on here.
    kind of surprised to not see Mad Season on here actually. oh well
    AIC , Mad Season.... same general sound.. kinda sorta. t least they got a mention in the description
    Solid List. The top 5 was predictable though.
    everyone knew it was basically who out of nirvana, sound garden, aic and pearl jam for number one. i wouldve liked to see neil young but its arguable. predictable but accurate list
    Naaah... Based on how many of these lists are popularity contests, I expected Stone Temple Pilots to be in #5 - but fortunatly, the spot is the Melvins, who actually don't get that much attention, even from grunge-fans...
    STP is not Grunge; I'll never understand why they always get portrayed as a grunge band...
    really? i would have never put the melvins up there, i consider them way more punk than grunge. but maybe thats just me.
    Nope , The Melvins are the more Pure Grunge band in this list , remenber GRUNGE(Noise Rock + Hardcore Punk + Hard Rock + Heavy Metal) = A sound slower than punk,agressive,apathic and disgusting,mud,dirty,sludge , things that The Melvins have 100% in they sound!!!
    A little disappointed to not see STP up here, I like them alot.
    Ah sh*t completely forgot about them! Thy're one of my favourite bands..but I guess they diversified themselves and detatched themselves too much from the genre to be a part of this list.
    I like the list. I kinda wish Mudhoney or Mother Love Bone was on there but this is still a damn good list.
    Very happy AiC are top, I personally prefer Pearl Jam over Nirvana, but I'm not gonna argue with that top 5.
    Dude, even though I too think that Nirvana should be over AIC, that's just my opinion - the site has decided by vote, and that's all there is too it. Just because you don't agree with the #1 spot on the list, doesn't mean that the whole list sucks. Also, AIC is a great band, with great lyrics, great riffs, and a brilliant sense for both the sludgy, ground-thomping heavy riffs, and the finer, more fragile, and delicate melodies. The biggest reason I would put Nirvana over Alice in chains is simply because that they had a greater personal impact on me than the latter. Anyway, point is, you are taking this way too personal, and should calm down. Your opinion is not the center of everything.
    Glad to see Alice in Chains got the top spot, they definitely deserve it. Nirvana are way too high, though, surely they had a huge impact on the grunge genre, but are still very overrated imho.
    A while ago I read a brilliant comment from someone, that sort of went like this: "Soundgarden drank the Metal from Sabbath, Pearl Jam read Neil Young's playbook, Nirvana took their energy from the Hardcore Punk of the time and Alice In Chains, well, they mixed their very own beverage."
    I agree that aic is very orginal but at the same time they are very influnced by some metal bands. And all the other bands have there own unigue sounds too, and having unique influces is part of that.
    I'm tired of seeying this over and over again. X are too high, Y are too low. No they're not, this IS their popularity among UG voters. Again some moron is stating his opinion as fact. Seriously just get the fvck out..
    What did you not understand about imho = in my humble opinion? Chill out, buddy, if you get this mad over opinions I can see you're having a hard personal life.
    I thought it was 'in my honest opinion'. You learn something new everyday
    It's one of those acronyms that no one truly knows the origin of. For all we know, it could be "In My Horse's Opinion", which isn't too far-fetched cos I've met some know-it-all horses.
    so Braykah says some totally unfounded bull shit about nirvana (who are one of the prime creators of an entire genre) and gets the gold medal, THEN spiff-corqi gives you people GOLD, COMEDY GOLD, and you don't give him at least a thumbs up? wtf
    Nirvana were NOT one of the originators. They were a few years too late for that.
    Not sure if you just added that, but I'll take the swears back. Oh great you can only edit your last reply .
    I Think this entire list is great, from AIC being number 1, to Silverchair being there, Frogstomp is worth a decent listen, as is Freakshow.
    To me, what made Alice better than most of the other "grunge" bands of the 90s, was their ability to write complete albums, rather than record lackluster songs as fillers (even their demos and 80s glam stuff was pretty cool). Pearl Jam started off strong, but dwindled down a bit, Soundgarden was inconsistent, Nirvana was all over the place, etc. The self-titled album really has some memorable songs on it that many disregard, maybe some people aren't a fan of overly sludgy and monotonous sounding vocals and guitars, but it was something different. Anyways, it's cool to see them on top over here!
    AIC had a ton of filler. They were hit or miss. Same with Soundgarden. Nirvana didn't have as much filler as the other two.
    Still a bit mad that The Breeders and Veruca Salt didn't make it. I'm a guy, but both of those "girly" bands have more good songs than most of the bands on this list.
    They had the biggest impact and Kurt was the best songwriter of the bunch. Even if you prefer another band sometimes you have to look at things objectively and respect the talent of a band or singer. The Beatles are not my favourite band in the world but I acknowledge that they probably were the greatest band of all time. Saying that Nirvana were overrated puts you in the category of a 15 year metalhead whom's only concern is on technical guitar playing. So no, Nirvana were not overrated.
    Well, that's your opinion. Also, saying Kurt was the best songwriter of the bunch doesn't exactly sound objective, and you don't have to be a 15-year old metalhead to think that Nirvana was overrated. So yeah, I'm calling major hypocrite on this.
    This whole labeling business is about trying to pigeonhole some brilliant and original musicians. But why are Nirvana never mentioned in lists of Top Punk Rock Bands instead those guys with numbers and colours in their names?
    Lets just agree thats its a good thing the Stone Temple Pilots didn't make the list because their music has aged poorly.
    mat hazelwood
    i still don't see AIC as grunge, yea they wore flannel and came from seattle but actually listen to a record and you can see theyre more metal than anything.
    Welcome to Grunge, two completely different genres melded into one scene. It splits between the more Hardcore Punk/Pixies influenced like Nirvana and the Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin/Neil Young influenced like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains.
    Very much happy that Alice got the top spot. Really wish Mudhoney and Mad Season had made the list, though.
    Definitely would have rather seen Sadgasm as the comedic choice, but still good list
    I have a feeling that there is two main reasons for that Alice in chains is at the number one spot: 1 - They're more technically advanced than Nirvana. This is quite a large factor, considering this is a guitarsite, and many guitarists often fall into the musical pitfall of labeling a band "better" than another because of technical superiority. 2 - People are beginning to jump on the "Nirvana is overrated" bandwagon. This is often a cause of misconception of the band's work, and that misconception is cause by one of the main curses Nirvana still to this day must suffer - When anyone says "Nirvana", the first thing anyone thinks of is "Smells like teen spirit". And when you compare SLTS to, say, "Would?", "Alive", or "Rusty cage", STLS appeares (rightfully IMO) vastly overblown. And I don't blame them. SLTS is grossly overrated. It's an amazing song, but on it self, it is not that great. But what people fail to realize is that there is more to Nirvana than "Nevermind". Most material outside the singles is the exact opposite of SLTS - it is vastly underrated. I'd bet over half the people who have ever viewed the SLTS video on Youtube can't name Nirvana's first album, can't name any other member than Kurt, and can't name any other songs of Nevermind than SLTS, Lithium, and Come as you are. My point is that when people say "Nirvana is overrated", what they're often saying is "Smells like teen spirit is overrated". And what people MUST understand is there is a heck of a lot more to Nirvana than SLTS. Check out songs like "Blew", "Negative creep", "Aneurysm", "Dive", "Lounge act", "Drain you", "Scentless apprentice", and all the other tracks that aren't singles. Nirvana's strength was not only that Cobain was a charismatic frontman, and that they toppled glam rock - their strength was that almost all their songs were incredibly memorable. Still to this day, even though I have personally progressed from Nirvana, I can remember all the parts of all their songs. Even though I love Alice in chains to death, I can't say the same about them. Can you remember how "Sunshine" goes? "God am"? "Brush away"? "Hate to feel"?". The more underrated songs from Alice in chains? I can't, but I can remember every Nirvana song I've ever heard. Simply because it's just memorable. Still, this is just my hubmle opinion. You're completely welcome to disagree, and I don't consider my opinion more "right" than anyone elses (that's why they're called opinions - they CAN'T be right or wrong). Oh, and sorry for the long comment - I have a bad habit of using way too many words to express my opinions...
    Spot on man. You saved me a bunch of time haha. Nirvana got grunge music onto the scene and turned the music world upside down.
    "Can you remember how "Sunshine" goes? "God am"? "Brush away"? "Hate to feel"?"." Yes, I can. I think you are jumping to incorrect conclusions there. You can't remember them because maybe you don't like those songs as much as you like Nirvana's underrated songs. I personally love "Sunshine" and "Hate to Feel" (some of my favourite Alice songs), and I don't have to think to hard to remember how any of those AIC songs go.
    As I said, it's my opinion. I like "Sunshine", "God am", and "Brush away", but my point is that they're not nearly as memorable as Nirvana's more underrated work, like "School", or "Stay away".
    Not as memorable in terms of popularity, yes. But here's where I think Alice takes the cake in my opinion: the songs are better crafted, with better lyrics, and better guitar work. How about the wailing leads on "God Am" and the poetic religious lyrics of it? I've never heard anything like it. "So Lord, I see you grinning, must be grand always winning. How proud are you being able to gather faith from fable?" - Pure beauty!
    I think Nevermind is overrated, but I don't know about Nirvana as a whole. For me, In Utero is the reason they deserve the #1 slot.
    People are "beginning to jump" on the Nirvana-is-overrated bandwagon? I remember people saying that when they were still active. So if by "beginning" you mean that it's been going on for 20+ years then yes, you're right. For the record I don't think that they're overrated.
    Needs "Sadgasm":
    On a serious note, a bunch of Grunge and alternative rock groups could have been mentioned, such as Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.
    Great to see Dinosaur Jr made the list! Their version of The Cure's 'Just Like Heaven' is one of my all-time favorite cover tunes.
    I grew up in the 80s...early I was right in the middle.of all of this. Alice and Soundgarden were the only grunge bands that had my respect. Still do. But this movement will always be the genre that killed my beloved "metal". For the time being...anyway.
    Pretty much... now you metal heads are stuck with Blood on The Dance Floor, Vampires Everywhere!, and Black Veil Brides..... sorry bout that xD
    I'm happy to see Silverchair on here, even if it did mean more deserving bands missing out. And good for AiC getting the top spot
    Let's discuss the List and present our own lists as signs of superior music taste!
    Darth Wader
    My list: 1. Nirvana 2. Pearl Jam 3. Alice In Chains 4. Soundgarden 5. Stone Temple Pilots 6. Bush 7. Soul Asylum 8. Temple Of The Dog 9. Screaming Trees 10. Hole
    I like this more than the actual list tbh. Only thing I would change here is I would swap AiC and Soundgarden, otherwise its spot on.
    But...Dinosaur Jr aren't even grunge. If you went up to J Mascis and said that they are a grunge band he'd probably laugh in your face. The same with the Melvins. If you watch any interview with Buzz about grunge he basically just laughs at it. An influence, most definitely but a grunge band? Definitely not.
    Melvins are not grunge. Dinosaur Junior are not grunge (both great bands but not grunge) Mudhoney, Green river, Monster magnet, Mother love bone, Stone temple pilots, smashing Pumpkins, Hole, seether, Babes in Toyland, L7, candlebox, Bush, Tad, 7 year bitch and just about Faith no More are Grunge... Sort it the Frak out.
    Faith No More are in no way grunge, they were one of the bands that had a hand in inventing the movement known as alternative metal, which is something separate from grunge even though bands such as Alice in Chains also have alt metal elements in their sound.
    Yeah but Melvins are awesome as shit. You cant just not have the Melvins in a list.
    Yeah, they rap sometimes in fnm. NOt very grungy at all. And seether and bush are post grunge
    I'd class L7 and Babes in Toyland as part of the post punk feminist Riot Grrl movement than the grunge scene.
    Mother Love Bone should have made the list rather than just a minor mention in the TotD section
    I think there are two different grunge sides, the Punk side and the Metal side. Nirvana are absolutely the kings of punk side, on the other hand, Alice in Chains reign on the Metal side, so in a guitar site like UG I'm not surprise to se AIC got the top spot, they deserve it Just my opinion...
    I couldn't agree more, danrilope. You totally nailed the two sides of grunge. I personally would have given nirvana the top spot and alice in chains the 2nd, mainly because nirvana is one of my favorite bands, but alice in chains is pretty ****in sweet too.
    Temple Of The Dog!!!!! I love Pearl Jam and Soundgarden but their was something special that I can't put my finger on with this album.
    good to see Silverchair on the list. Ben's my cousin, so I've always had a soft spot.
    While Nirvana is my personal favorite (not just on the list, but of all time), I do agree with Alice In Chains being placed at number one. They were more "grunge" than Nirvana, so they deserve the spot. Can't imagine why Mudhoney and/or Green River didn't make the list though.
    Smashing Pumpkins?
    I love Smashing Pumpkins, great, great band but they're really not a grunge band. They started being successful around the same time as a lot of grunge bands (the early 90's) but they'd have to be considered alternative rock. The only album that was even mildly grunge was "Gish" but they changed quickly on "Siamese Dream".
    They're a great band, but they are more Alt-rock. Also, they said themselves that they took distance to the grunge scene, because they knew people would end up mixing them in there, even though they didn't have anything to do with it.
    I think this is a great representation of the best this genre has produced since its inception in Canada in 1994. On a serious note, OH YEAH Alice in Chains at #1. Would? has to be THE grunge song. And the Melvins, ooh and... you know what? Today is gonna be a grunge day. Where's my flannel...?
    Actually it was 1996 when grunge was started in Canada, Geddy Lee even said so.
    This list is bad IMO Local h without a doubt should be up there and bush
    Maybe Local H but not Bush. Bush were more of a radio friendly Nirvana/Pixies clone. They had some good songs but were way too derivative to be in the same category as most of the bands that made the list.
    Stone Temple Pilots deserved to be in there, somewhere, but everything else is pretty much spot on - mostly AIC getting first place. I can't see any other band getting the gold medal on a grunge top 10.