Tag Archives: Alice in Chains

Top 10 Metal Albums of the 1990s

The 1980’s gave the Heavy Metal genre recognition after a full decade of being looked as a despised “noise” that started with Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath. I can honestly say that even with the pure metal and cheesy hair metal, the 1980s was best decade for the genre. After Iron Maiden & Judas Priest started the metal boom in the beginning of the decade, metal in general started expanding into new diversity around the world to trash metal, progressive metal, black metal, speed metal, hair metal, and so many more. So many bands that came out this decade are still remembered as one of the best. Unfortunately the 1990s metal isn’t as powerful or as recognized as the 1980s. At this time around, metal was facing a new genre of music called Grunge and Alternative Rock that took the musical spotlight from everyone. Plus the evolution of the genre throughout the 1990s went sour when they reached the awfulness of Nu Metal and big names like Metallica sold out with different, tasteless musical directions. But that’s not to say that metal in the 1990s were at all bad because we had new bands that went into the positive direction of metal when transforming into folk metal, sludge metal, technical metal, and other metal that sounds and feels as impacting as metal in the 1980s. If you don’t believe me, check out past Top 10 Albums list for each year of the the 1990s.

With that being said, I certainly enjoyed the good side of heavy metal in the 1990s. Not to mention that I got into Heavy Metal in this decade so I can’t overlook at this decade’s metal and stick in the past in the 1980s. Here’s the best Heavy Metal albums of the 1990s! 


Number 10.  –  Burn My Eyes – Machine Head

Before experiencing this album I would have never dreamed that modern thrash metal can be this good, because I was pretty much an old-school purist (then). I guess that liking some contemporary modern metal (nu-metal included) and knowing the grunge scene also helps, but this release took me by storm anyway. Firstly you will have to go a long way to beat it. Producer Colin Richardson has done an excellent job at capturing Machine Head’s aggression while getting a very tight performance out of each individual member. Most notably that of Logan Mader. His riffs and solos keep this album interesting, mixing up each song so that it never finishes the way that it started. This prevents the songs from getting boring or even growing old even after 9 years. Sadly not much has been heard of Logan since his controversial sacking from the band apart from a short stint in Soulfly and now with his sub standard new band Medication. Burn My Eyes is full of everything you want from a metal album. Heavy riffs, ripping guitar solos, pounding double kick thrash beats; gut wrenching vocals and 11 of the best metal songs ever to be put into a single album. I long for the day when they can return to making music they way it should always be.

Number 9.  –  Agalloch – Pale Folklore

Agalloch are always listed as folk metal and black metal, but it is important to only keep these terms in the back of your mind, for Agalloch have a sound that is not that simple.  In fact, I’ve heard the band referred to as Grey Metal.  And it makes sense, partly because their music is difficult to classify, but mainly because the term fits their foggy autumn sound so well.  Maybe it is because they are from Oregon, far away from the European Black/Folk Metal scenes, that they have been able to craft such a unique sound for themselves.  Or maybe not, it doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that the metal world has been blessed with a new champion of creativity and intelligence. There’s also that folky texture that has become one of Agalloch’s trademarks, though it’s not as obvious as the acoustic interludes present throughout The Mantle—alternately, it’s more inherent and subdued.  The comparatively short instrumental The Misshapen Steed sums up Agalloch’s direction on this album for me: it’s quieter and more haunting than Agalloch’s next albums, but the enchanting and menacing qualities are still there, even if they take longer to make an impression. Hallways of Enchanted Ebony and As Embers Dress the Sky would make a list of Agalloch’s best songs, undoubtedly, and are the standouts on this release.  The Melancholy Spirit is harder to get into than those two but is also excellent.  The album’s weaknesses come in a few spots in the Skyline trilogy, which has its iffy moments, and Dead Winter Days is probably Agalloch’s most average song, but not bad by any means. This isn’t my favorite Agalloch album, but I do love it, even with its faults.  Everything this band does seems to have an underlying genius to it, and if dark, folky, and especially nature-worshiping music suits your fancy, the patience it takes to get into this album is well worth it.

Number 8.  –  Paegan Terrorism Tactics – Acid Bath

It sucks that a band like Acid Bath comes in with something new and refreshing then disband so soon, leaving us listeners to desire more. In comparison to When the Kite Sting Pops, this album is more groovy, consistent, and “mature” than the last album, which could be full blown chaos at times. This album doesn’t inspire the same level of terror the last one did, this album approaching darkness from the same angle that Alice In Chains usually did, through morbid and introspective lyrics, though this band is much darker than Alice. Dax Riggs’ favorite lyrical topics of drug addiction, abortion, bone dust, and grave flowers make a come back, and while his lyrical depictions are interesting. Acid Bath wasn’t just a run of the mill Louisiana sludge metal band. They were a fantastically crafted band that mixed the best of romance and macabre into a wonderful music mix which sounds a little like The Cure meets Cathedral. Acid Bath is bleak and dark as hell, but they are also melodic and sometimes gorgeous . Paegan Love Song is an anthem and Bleed Me an Ocean keeps up the intensity. This album is a grower. Upon a few listens each of these tracks will stand out and all prove strong on their own. New Death Sensation is haunting and offers an eerie listen. Venus Blue is amazing and is followed by the equally amazing and brutal 13 fingers which riffs like crazy. My only complaint is that 16 minute wait of silence which is attached to the Dead Girl track. That alone brings this down half a star, but it’s a minor complaint while taking in the album as a whole. Listen to this if you like grunge or metal or appreciate the darker side of life. You won’t be disappointed.

Number 7.  –  Ænima – Tool

When this came out it was either lauded as an ingenious masterpiece that was so far out there and unique that it towered over everything that Metal or Rock music had to offer at the time or it was dismissed as a pretentious affair, a presumptuous put-on that tried to pass itself off as an artful and refined musical statement. Latter sentiment was obviously fueled by later comments by Keenan, who as geeky introvert mused on the unfairness of the medias preference to favor generic and meaningless music in favor of what he termed “art” and that being reflected by the charts as well as the hordes of of people who seemed to radiate the message “hey, I listen to Tool, the shining beacon of the music industry which makes me one sophisticated son of a bitch”. The songs have all a dark atmosphere sorrounding them, this is a quite dark album. The drumming is interesting, but it is really the guitars that hold the song together. Most of the songs have multiple layers of structure, the most superficial being composed by the catchy riffs, while the deepest is composed by the deep lyrics and general atmosphere (you probably only reach this layer after some listens). Excellent album, which is a bit long no doubt but you can skip the somewhat weaker last 2 tracks. Highly reccomended for people looking for high quality and different sounding albums, whether it is progressive rock or alternative or metal.

Number 6.  –  When the Kite String Pops – Acid Bath

This is the album that started this new movement of sludge metal. For the fact that over 37,000 copies in the US with no publicity should tell you why this album is so massive. If the album cover that used the painting — made by notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacywhile in prison awaiting execution, didn’t intrigue you, then listening to it will. Like most metal, Acid Bath seems obsessed with the macabre, the gruesome, and the bloody, and in the case of this classic, almost entirely focused on the mind of the serial killer. The group tackles murder without any slasher movie excitement in glorification, nor third person analysis, but instead by going directly in the soured mindset, and showing often poetic and always graphic lyrical images of mutilated death, sexual assault, and about as many other horrible scenes they can muster. From the vague and tone-setting misanthropy thriving in The Blue, to the bloody sexual climax in Cassie Eats Cockroaches, the goal is always to indulge the listener in the darkest of the dark, with no safe spot to be found. Musically, variety is the main attraction point, and is the reason the album sticks out so much as a unique one. Songs here are well constructed, and played with focus and technical skill that never feels show-offy. The recording is clean and powerful by most metal standards, with everything taking up its own space and retaining a powerful guitar driven assault. It’s held back slightly by its meaty run time and a few lyrics that border on corny, but overall that doesn’t detract from an album that embodies it’s genre, while staying fresh and full of ideas 20 years from its release. 

Number 5.  –  Still Life – Opeth

As with many people, Opeth were my introduction to extreme metal, and also one of the first prog bands I really enjoyed, along with The Mars Volta and Tool. Still Life was my first experience of the band, and remains my favourite album of theirs, and one of my favourite albums of all time. Still Life represents the band at the peak of their career, between two styles. The dark, atmospheric sound of the early albums is still here, but the lengthy prog-influenced sounds of the more recent albums are displayed here for the first time. Still Life is possibly also the band’s most complex album, guitar-wise at least, with many time changes, heavy/acoustic switches and technical riffs and solos in most of the songs here. While Opeth are often criticised for staying on the same riff for too long, on this album they always seem to do something different at the exact moment you feel they should move on, with the possible exception of “Serenity Painted Death”, which thankfully has some of the better riffs on the album to save it anyway. The acoustic sections onStill Life are sublime, with “Benighted” and especially “Face Of Melinda” being beautiful, almost entirely distortion-free songs, with Mikael Akerfeldt’s clean vocals a huge step up from My Arms Your Hearse. The soft parts also work magnificently in contrast with the heavier areas, in particular on the insane opener “The Moor”, packed full of huge riffs, harmonies and time changes but also some brilliant melodic parts. “Moonlapse Vertigo” has some of Opeth’s catchiest guitar sections while “White Cluster” has some of their most technical, but my favourite song on here has to be “Godhead’s Lament”. Having the band to discover the folk style was the best thing for the best otherwise they would remain mediocre. It shows the spirit and soul that most Metal albums are seriously lacking but it enthuses upon so much creativity at the point where it’s artistic.  Opening with a maelstrom of swirling riffs and masterful drumming, it goes on to provide a storming display of the band’s best heavy work and also one of their most beautiful acoustic passages. The songs here are lengthy yet never dull, and perhaps more than any Opeth album since, offers new sounds on each listen. I have heard albums that do prog, metal and acoustics better than Still Life, but none that manage to blend the three as fantastically as Opeth on this release.

Number 4.  –  Focus – Cynic

The base of Cynic is in a highly technical breed of thrashy death metal with an emphasis on melody and texture provided by keyboards and other nontraditional metal instruments such as the Chapman stick. Vocals come in three distinct flavors: snarling male growls not entirely unlike what one would hear on a dusty copy of ‘Seven Churches’, sporadic operatic female clean vocals, and synthesized male vocals with a ‘robotic’ tone. The most logical adjective to use is, of course, ‘progressive’, as Cynic never ceases to change the direction or tone of their music. This album rarely settles down, with consistently shifting textures that trade off and overlap in what can only be described as organic manner. Frequently a technique will be employed where instrumentalists will slip one by one into the next movement until they have all collected before performing such a maneuver again, making this an oddly flowing listening experience. ‘Focus’, while not aesthetically for everyone, is an undeniably seminal work in the dimension of metal and progressive music. While only a certain segment might enjoy what is presented on this album, what is presented is an utterly necessary compendium of sounds that must be appreciated for what they allowed to be created more than what they are in and of themselves.

Number 3.  –  Dirt – Alice in Chains

Dirt is one of the darkest, depressing, harrowing albums ever made. It’s full of so much despair and pain, it contains so much anguish that it’s sometimes really hard to listen to. It’s seen as THE heroin album, because of what Layne was going through and how vivid the lyrics were and the imagery they evoked. The album is definitely about Layne’s addiction, but I think the songs go beyond that. They go much deeper and it isn’t quite as one dimensional as that, even though at the album’s heart it’s about addiction I think the songs deal with deeply personal and emotional issues that go beyond Layne’s addiction. Sometimes, the lyrical content is incredibly vivid and other times it’s so cryptic and hard to decipher. It’s one of the most absorbing albums ever, I feel exhausted and drained after listening to it. The best thing about Grunge, for me, was the different styles the best bands had. From Nirvana’s Punk Rock sensibilities, to Pearl Jam’s classic rock leanings, to The Afghan Whigs’ soul influences. Each band from the scene had something different to offer. Alice In Chains were the band whose aesthetic was closest to Metal and I think Dirt is not only the darkest album to come out of the movement, but it’s one of the darkest albums ever. Dirt is Alice In Chain’s masterpiece, their career defining album and it’s one of the best and most essential albums of the decade. It’s actually chilling, Layne invites us into his hellish nightmare and completely changes our perception of music. It’s an album that floors me, it leaves me absolutely speechless

Number 2.  –  Rust in Peace – Megadeth

Is there any doubt in your mind that this could not be number 1? Why not? This is the prime of Megadeth and even the best songwriting I’ve ever seen from the band. Everything I said that was good about “Killing is My Business…,” “Rust in Peace” is actually twice the awesomeness. It had the most innovative and the most groundbreaking guitar-riffs ever put in singular album. There isn’t a single bad song in “Rust In Peace;” the experience from beginning to end, each time you play “Rust in Peace,” is a fulfilling Metal experience. Ever since I’ve encountered this album, I haven’t encountered another Heavy Metal album that even approached to the effectiveness of this very album. It has a great balance of being so political and be so imaginative by putting the then US President, George H.W. Bush to be in this gigantic conspiracy of extraterrestrial activities. With an insane concept like that for an album, Megadeth spared no expense with what they were capable of in making this album. Even still to this day, I wonder how did they even pull off  these songs that you don’t ever hear from any other Heavy Metal band. “Rust in Peace” is a classic, it’s a phenomenon, and most of all… it’s legendary!

Number 1.  –  Sound of Perseverance – Death

And so we come to Death’s last, and during their run in the 1990s from Human, to Individual Thought Patterns, to Symbolic, to finally their last album, they were the best 4 consecutive albums that a single band has ever had! I could have put those four albums in the list of the best metal albums of the 1990s, but that wouldn’t be fair for the rest of Metal bands in the 1990s because they weren’t superior to Death in comparison. Death’s 1995 album Symbolic had been an astounding release and Chuck had evolved each album in a fairly linear direction away from straight forward death metal, and with that album appearing to take the sound as far as it could go without falling out of the genre altogether. With only the occasional riff or lead reminding you that this is the same “band” that released albums like Human and Symbolic. The progressive element has been amped up to much higher levels and the more traditional death metal riffs are far less prominent, none of which is surprising when you consider the members of the band were never hired to play to death metal in the first place. The more progressive metal style of The Sound of Perseverance is not the only thing that makes this album stand out from the rest of the Death discography. Chuck’s vocals have a much higher tone than on previous releases, approaching black metal-like screams while remaining completely intelligible. The new vocals somehow create such a passionate roar as we simultaneously hear many of the high-pitched riffs that’s out for blood. The musicianship is truly impressive and from a purely technical perspective, there are not too many albums out there that could match it. Every track has moments of sheer brilliance with crushing riffs, exquisite leads and some fantastic drumming from the very impressive Richard Christy. The majority of the album’s highlights occur in the first half with Scavenger of Human SorrowBite the Pain, Voice of the Soul, and the wonderful Story to Tell containing the most fluent and consistently enjoyable structures overall. It’s not surprising to me that there are many out there that consider this the finest Death album, as it would undoubtedly have drawn a whole new crowd to the band. Everything just comes together here, and sounds better than ever, from the mystic atmosphere to the driving grooves that had come to define Schulidner’s guitar wizardry.  Not to mention the fantastic songwriting, filled with memorable hooks and powerful vocals, with what is probably the best riffing the band had done up to this point. This is a culmination of all of Death’s previous works, and their ultimate album that left the metal world a huge bang to remember.

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Top 10 Albums of 2009

Number 10.  –  Fever Ray – Fever Ray

A thing to note is that I am not impacted by The Knife because I’m probably in the minority that has not listened to the band prior to this album. That’s probably for the best, as it allows me to review it unaffected by other impressions. The album is very atmospheric, it’s dark, it’s moody. The first time I listened to it, I was on the bus to go to buy Animal Collective tickets. Since then, everything’s changed, my misconceptions have been cleared up somewhat, the show’s date came and went (without a concert) and now I’m here listening to this album again. The first time was a time of excitement, this second time is post-disappointment. The record is the same, unchanged. The tracks flow one into the other, with If I Had a Heart a nice introduction into the album, then becoming When I Grow Up with a completely different, albeit related feel to it. The music is gentle yet foreboding and, for me, is most reflective of the cover art, which sees Karin as a mystic (or is that a witch?) in a night-time rural scene, with twisted tree roots and billowing clouds creating a sense of menace.  The artwork’s hint of a mythical world, with wizards, ghouls and goblins, reminds me strongly of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I used to play as a kid, and the a lot of the music on Fever Ray wouldn’t sound out of place in such imagined worlds either

Number 9.  –  The Fauns – The Fauns

For a group made up of three guitarists, The Fauns make a surprisingly gentle noise. This is the softer side of shoegazing where swirling atmospherics wash over the speakers. Added to this is Alison Garner’s light, aching vocals to caress each song, making them even smoother. Jangly affairs like ‘Understand’ (actually a cover version of a song by 1980′s indie act Brian) are multi-layered and mesmeric, ‘Come Around Again’ revolves around a subtle hook and ‘Fragile’ is simply lovely as its slow percussion, effects and Garner’s tender tones build into a fabulous glacial melody. The only problem is the lack of urgency on the album where even the faster tracks like ‘Black Sand’ are blurred around the edges. The Fauns arrive at a time when shoegazing is more in demand than ever but I’m not sure that they bring anything particularly new to the genre. That said, if you like your music to float rather than to grind, you could do a lot worse.

Number 8.  –  Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix –

hat you have here is some good old-fashioned guitar-synth pop. But goddamn if it isn’t some of the most intricately arranged and most achieved pop music out there. For the majority of the songs here, there is an incredible sense of completeness. There’s almost a sort of minimalism at work, as there is hardly any element here that feels extraneous. The songs are tight, impeccable little 3 minute exercises in music sensibility, and it’s so good. It’s hard to point another record that works so completely within the confines of pop music that achieves such an effect so marvelously. The second half of the album doesn’t stand up to the first in large part because the tracks on the album’s second half sound as if they were distilled from “Lisztomania”. A big part of this can be attributed to the vocal melodies being catchy, but lacking in diversity. Or it could be because the lead singer has trouble changing the range in emotion of his voice from track to track. Despite the variations on a theme that is the album’s second half, this is the only logical starting place for Phoenix and should please indie pop and dance pop fans alike.

Number 7.  –  Sigh No More –
Mumford & Sons

The best way to describe the music in Sigh No More is like going on a road trip through such beautiful scenery or a sad poem with a glimmer of hope from its expressive riffs. I feel like this was Mumford and Sons best album so far, which had such amazing tunes like Dust Bowl Dance, Winter Winds, White Blank Page, and their smashing hit Little Lion Man. It’s all very earthy but not in a camped up new-age ‘medieval-fare’ kind of way. Musically, Mumford don’t seem to wear their musical predilections on their sleeves like so many folky bands do and it comes through as a kind of quiet integrity both in the gorgeous lyrics and the top notch musicianship. There are the triumphant, blood quickening tempos wildly crashing into almost rock-like rhythms. Others will make you weep with their stillness and the cold beauty of their lyrics. The bright twang of acoustic steel underpinned with galloping but tastefully done banjos and Dobros, all the ingredients one would think for a hillbilly showdown yet so unlike that stereotype that I found myself re-assessing completely what these instruments mean in modern music and what can be done with them. A stunning debut! Heartfelt, passionate and downright sad in many places.

Number 6.  –  Cage The Elephant –
Cage The Elephant

We’ve all probably heard Cage the Elephant’s single Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked a couple of times and it’s really the most pleasant thing to listen to in recent years.  Part of it is because the band sounds like a solid mix between The Whigs and The White Stripes, but it’s uncertain if the group could release a whole album full of quality songs until we’ve checked out their self-entitled album that given us more of what we were expecting.  Somewhat surprisingly, Cage the Elephant have produced one of the most enjoyable albums I have heard all of 2009.  This debut is just pure fun from beginning to end.  One highlight called In One Ear immediately provides an indication how Cage the Elephant views their music while others like Tiny Little Robots and Back Against the Wall were still in my head long after Cage the Elephant spun to a stop.  This group certainly answered my doubts about releasing a very good album and I’m betting they can follow it up with something equally enjoyable.

Number 5.  –  Farm – Dinosaur Jr.

No band should be this strong in their third decade. It defies all conventional logic — just another act of Dinosaur Jr. defiance, it seems. Their reunion album Beyond was the album that proved that they still got it and then 2 years later they came up with one of their best efforts! Music doesn’t require perfect vocals. This is one thing that dinosaur jr. seems to emphasize with every single album. It is speed and guitars that make up the core of every of their songs. Dinosaur jr. has never truly been the same after their break up and ”farm” should not be compared to ”you’re living all over me”. It lacks the element of grunge, but truthfully who cares? I don’t and I can say with absolute certainty that other fans will agree. Farm doesn’t have the edge-pushing guitar effect work of You’re Living All Over Me or the variability of some other albums like Green Mind, but what it does have is just about the most solidly rocking and infectious songwriting of their career.  On top of that, the gorgeously distorted and compressed guitar tone is a treat to hear, especially in head phones where you can hear the thick tone dribble into your eardrum like honey.  This is one of my favorite albums of the last couple years, and one of my favorite Dinosaur Jr. albums.  Well worth a listen. A good album, but do not listen to it constantly like I did. Try it out and come back to it once in a while and I guarantee you that you will not regret getting it.

Number 4.  –  Black Gives Way To Blue –
Alice in Chains

For those who say that this band should have remained dead because Layne Staley is no longer around are forgetting the fact that the rest of the band want to carry on with new projects for the band but Layne’s isolation with Mad Season & his personal demons got the best of him. Never would I imagine there would be any similar wave & songwriting again because Layne’s death in 2002. Black Give Way To Blue could have been a major disaster because William DuVall is taking Layne’s place as lead singer, but surprisingly enough, Black Gives Way To Blue turned out to be the best comeback album of the entirety of the 2000s decade. The album feels much heavier than anything AiC have ever done before. They were always more of a heavy metal band than a grunge band, but if there was ever any doubt before there can be done now, Black Gives Way to Blue is definitely a metal album, I’d go as far as to say it really lacks what grunge influences were in the band’s music at the height of grunge. I strongly believe that if somehow this album was released in 1993, it would and could be Alice in Chains’s second best album and one that would be regarded a sure contender for the title of best Alice in Chains record and top alternative metal album. In fact, the child in me still thinks this is some kind of miraculously hidden album which was lying asleep in their rehearsal room and now that they’ve found another fantastic singer they thought they could finally release it. This is up to Layne’s memory, the Dirt/Jar of Flies times and it serves as a great introduction into the beautiful and sorrowful world of Alice in Chains. The riffs have groove, the vocals are hypnotic (both from newcomer DuVall and Cantrell) and the songs could rival anything off Dirt even. This is a monolith of alternative metal. I’m so glad they are back! Also these songs’ live presentation is on par with the glorious past. This is disturbingly great!

Number 3.  –  Static Tensions – Kylesa

It sure took Kylesa a while to get that edge to separate themselves from the rest of the Sludge metal genre but for nearly a decade, they found their edge to start their reign of good albums in their discography. The first thing you notice in “Static Tensions” is how different it sounds compared to previous Kylesa material: it is clear the band have found their own, original take on this kind of music. They have massive Sludge Metal/Hardcore Punk influences in most of the vocals , as well as in the heavy, crunchy, and extremely loud guitars; but the original aspect of the music is probably the rhythm section, which often incorporates more exotic percussive patterns that replace simple drum fills. However, the drummer in this band does not hesitate in blasting bursts of velocity, making Kylesa basically sound like the more drugged out, intense and in-your-face cousin of Mastodon. The great thing about this new style is that slower, clean moments are not rare, and still hint at that Psychedelic feel that is just as powerful as in the more intense moments, especially thanks to the clever addition of female vocals and the hazy production chops.  “Static Tensions”, in it’s most intense passages, reminds not only of the Hardcore flashes but also of clever, well structured Sludge Metal. Despite this raw blend, Kylesa manage to be extremely accessible in every single song, proving amazing songwriting skills. It is pretty rare to find a band that can successfully write catchy melodies, be adventurous, and surround you with total, blissful distortion, all at the same time.  With only forty minutes “Static Tensions” is by far the most solid Kylesa album. Although each song maintains a similar style (the clean moments though are all different from one another), they never bore all together, and together shine as one. Of course, there are specific highlights, like the amazingly face-bashing first track “Scapegoat”,  the more dualistic (soft and aggressive) nature of “Running Red”, the hypnotic atmosphere of “To Walk Alone”, or the straight-forward catchiness of “Almost Lost”. Each and every one of these songs has a different character, many of them present a different structural form, and all together they form a quite functional family of tough boys.

Number 2.  –  Merriweather Post Pavilion –
Animal Collective

If there’s anything that came from the indie scene that is a clear landmark to the genre (outside of Arcade Fire’s Funeral or Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea) it has to be this very album. Merriweather Post Pavilion is not only Animal Collective’s most likable, straightforward pop album, it’s also a lush, dreamlike experience, with endearingly cluttered arrangements and themes of family and brotherhood. It is a treasure of neo-psychedelia, it is one of the few post-2000 albums that actually challenges and surpasses the psych of the sixties in many ways, while still being unique in its own right. Almost every song on this album is powerful, well arranged, catchy, and loveable. “In the Flowers” sets the tone for the album with the line “If I could just leave my body for a night”, before erupting into a frenzy of synthesizers and quick drums. “My Girls” is an irresistibly catchy pop song that wouldn’t be out-of-place on top 40 radio (they seem to be cashing in the “indie” dollar for all it’s worth, but Animal Collective is much better than that). “Also Frightened”, “Summertime Clothes”, “Taste”, “Lion in a Coma”, and “No More Runnin'” are immensely unique in the realm of psychedelic pop, as well as unique amongst each other, making the album flow really well. Avey Tare’s vocals are at their very best on many of these songs. “Brother Sport” couldn’t have ended the album in a better way, the progressive tantrum of synths and loops at the end is impressive.

With many things in my life that I love, I hated Merriweather Post Pavilion the first time I listened to it. Actually, I didn’t even listen to the whole thing, just a short excerpt of My Girls on Youtube, because somebody recommended me the album. I was disgusted. “What is this shit?” I thought to myself. “Sounds like a mess of shitty synths and a terrible vocalist.” I exited from the website and went on my business for the day. I took me a while to actually listen to the album start to finish too, the songs were strange and hostile to my ears. And when I did finally listen to it I said, “Wow, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.”, and set it aside. Merriweather Post Pavilion certainly got better with age.  This record is a guide to life as an adult. Responsibility, arriage, and children, but also confusion and death — all swirling in the deranged hippy rave that is your life from now on. The entire feels like some odd trip through a purple swamp, with animals and plants and monsters hissing, screaming, singing with you on your strange journey.

Number 1.  –  XX – The xx

Some albums are best listened to in certain way. Whether it’s seasons, settings or times. Some albums are best listened to in the summertime, in a park, around midday. Others are best listened to where you stare at your own four walls and wonder where it all went wrong. xx is an album best listened to around autumn, driving around in your car, late at night. The early hours, in fact. It just has that smooth, dark, sexy sound that’s brilliant for driving around aimlessly to. Driving around with just you, the music and your thoughts. It has that thoughtful, personal, introspective quality to it. It’s amazing to think that this is their debut album, because it’s so incredibly accomplished. When they made this, they were all in their early 20s, but it has a certain maturity to it. I can’t even begin to think where they could possibly go from here. How on earth are they going to top this? This is about as good as debut albums get. Even if they don’t ever do anything this good again, at least I’ll always have this. I remember when I first listened to it, I’d just moved house and it was summertime. The exact wrong time to listen to this kind of album, because summery is the one thing it’s not, but I adored it anyway and I just connected immediately to it and waited for autumn. When I first listened to it, the thing that first struck me was the vocals. Particularly the female singer’s voice, I absolutely adored it. I kept listening and listening, the more I listened, the more I fell in love with her. I kind of put off seeing what she looked like, because she was never going to look as good as she was inside my head but when I eventually saw her I was a bit dumbfounded. How could that gorgeous, sexy voice come from her?! Needless to say, I don’t find her attractive, but every time I listen to her, she’s just about the most attractive woman in the world to me. Seriously, one of my favorite vocal performances and it’s just so suited to the music and the male vocals add a nice juxtaposition to the music. I love how both voices bounce off of each other. I adore the lyrics as well and the way they’re delivered is just perfect. The album has this intimacy to it, xx is like a window into the lives of two lovers. It’s just so easy to connect to. How can you not connect to lines delivered as perfectly as the way they sing “Sometimes… I still need you” on ‘Heart Skipped A Beat’? I find it impossible.  Musically, it has this really moody, melancholy, subtle, understated, intimate beauty to it. It’s almost haunting at times. The beats are fantastic, the guitar lines are great, the vocals are just orgasmic, the drum machine is fantastic and reminiscent of Young Marble Giants who are clearly a huge influence on The xx and it’s perfectly produced – glossy, smooth and accomplished. xx is incredibly minimalistic, but brilliantly atmospheric and evocative. No one knew before the xx’s self-titled debut that the silence laid between beats and spacey guitar could be used as a band’s most potent, emotive instrument. For an album that’s simplistic and spacy, it take a real talent to make it sound good rather than lazy and ironically enough it given its listeners a big bang to end the 2000s decade as we were entering a new one.

And speaking of the 2000’s decade, stay tuned for the upcoming Top 10 Albums of the 2000s as we wrap up this entire series before we enter the next decade!

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Top 10 Grunge Albums

I don’t think that there’s ever been a moment in music where bands associated in this genre had so much success. Back when grunge was at its peak in its popularity, music fans everywhere where buying labels coming out of Seattle like Subpop. Never had there been brand recognition of having a band’s name on a cover could make so many eager to own. It was the time for people to move on from the bland, and tiresome ways of the 80s and move on to the evolution and innovation happening in music at the time. And it’s even more amazing that out of all the part of the music in the 1990s, we’re still discussing about this short-live musical movement. It really was the last ultimate era of music before other musical genres took it’s popularity and mainstream success. After counting down the top 10 best grunge bands of all time, it’s now time to rank the ten greatest albums of the grunge movement!

Number 10.  –  Temple of the Dog –
Temple of the Dog

While formed and set to be a tribute to fellow Grunge rocker and fellow Junkie, Andrew Wood, the former lead vocalist of Mother Love Bone. It was his untimely death of a drug overdose that not only spawned this release but also the formation of Pearl Jam as well. Essentially this is made up of the members of Mother Love Bone but with the vocals of a one Chriss Cornell. This is the most passionate and emotionally charged album of the entire grunge movement of the early 1990’s. Its also one of the decades greatest releases over all. With a handful of guest vocals spots from soon to be Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder there was no way this wasnt gonna kick so major ass. Vedder and Cornell sharing the mike is just as moving if not more so than that of Jerry Cantrell and Layne of Alice In Chains. Its  avocal pairing unlike anything I have ever heard before. Moving doesnt even come close enough to being the right word for description. Without a weak song in the bunch, its really the deserved classic ‘Hunger Strike’ with both Cornell and Vedder sharing the mic that serves as the albums focal point. It might be the best song to ever come out of Grunge. Its perfect and brilliantly conveyed.  And as much as I know it would never happen, and for reasons I totally understand and respect, Temple Of The Dog had they remained a group, I feel would have been called the best and most important of all the genre. I mean think about it. Stone Gossard wa sand still is the most talented guitarist and all around musician to emerge from Seattle since Hendrix. With Cornell singing, there is nothing those two couldnt do.

Number 9.  –  Ten – Pearl Jam

Out of all of the major Seattle grunge era bands that came to occupy mainstream popularity, Pearl Jam’s music was probably the most technically/instrumentally accomplished and relied the most on a certain degree of improvisation. A testament to this are Mike McCready’s blazing solos and Dave Krusen’s crackling drum fills. McCready is something of a secret weapon as he bridges the stylistic gap between the album’s modern rock and classic rock influences. This helps to make “Ten” perhaps the most accessible out of all the breakthrough grunge albums; it strikes a good balance between Nirvana’s abrasion, Soundgarden’s cosmic sensibility, and Alice in Chains’ heady darkness. he album was so inviting to so many people that the band later regretted having such a produced sound and reissued a stripped down version of the debut in 2009. However, Parashar’s production is one of the many essential idiosyncrasies of the album that, for better or worse, made it WORK, and gained the band recognition beyond its wildest dreams. After “Ten”, Pearl Jam were arguably never so natural and unselfconscious on record ever again. There is little to no affectation in the music, which is what helps to solidify the album’s status as a true 90′s classic.

Number 8.  –  Vitalogy – Pearl Jam

Vitalogy, along with Soundgarden’s “Superunknown,” was really the last big album before the short-lived Grunge movement went to shams. But for only those three years of such a musical phenomenon shows how special this time of music really was. In fact Vitalogy contains some of Pearl Jam’s strongest songs in their entire catalog. It’s a good Pearl Jam album that just barely falls short of greatness. This is an unremittingly dark, harrowing, atmospheric record. It’s also fantastic – as Pearl Jam started to navigate away from their “grunge” roots, they also expanded their musical palette, allowing for the sort of restless experimentation they’d employ to terrific effect on later albums. Vitalogy gets a lot of flak for its left-field tracks – the minute-long chant “Pry, To”, the ominously funky “Aye Davanita”, and particularly the closing sound collage, “Hey Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me”. I’d argue that not only are these tracks instrumental in establishing the album’s feel and success, they never drag down the flow – the only one of any real length is “Foxymophandlemama”, and that’s tidily shunted off to the end of the album, should you decide to, I dunno, stop the record before it’s creepiest and most challenging track commences. In the meantime, PJ contribute some of the best tracks of their career – you’ll get the band’s best punk rave-ups in “Whipping” and the astonishing “Satan’s Bed”, eviscerating rockers with “Not For You” and “Corduroy”, and even some of the band’s best ballads (“Nothingman” is the most beautiful song this band’s ever recorded, bar none). A triumph in Pearl Jam’s discography, laden with searing invective and gallows humor, and far more richly textured than anything they’d released prior.

Number 7.  –  Houdini – Melvins

One of the most criminally overlooked bands ever, the Melvins have been making quality music since the grunge movement was in its infancy. During the Melvins’s days when grunge was at its peak, they were at their most creative. After their spacy, long album Lysol, Melvins went back to the wild songwriting in Houdini. Just a massive dose of heaviness. The first two songs are a real kick in the face, and “Honey Bucket” is like getting run over repeatedly by a car (but in the “good” way). I’ve just about played those tracks to death and still love ’em, but “Joan of Arc” has become my dark horse favorite. Everything here is great (even “Spread Eagle Beagle,” sometimes), and I still love that look of confusion that people give their CD players when “Pearl Bomb” comes on. I admire how these guys seamlessly combine and defy multiple punk and metal genres, and they have a real wicked sense of humor too. Don’t even get me started on King Buzzo’s cryptic lyrics. Thanks to Mr. Cobain’s string-pulling, the Melvins have found themselves with a Major Label Budget and put it to good use in making their songs sound even clearer and more thunderous than ever before. Everything the Melvins released on the superb Boner label rules (except for Joe Preston, though perhaps I’m bitter that the circumstances didn’t allow for it to be Lori Black instead), but this is one of those examples where major label-funded production and lack of interference allow a band to make their most uncompromising album yet. There were a few underground groups that snuck through and made remarkable albums for the big guys around 1992-96 (back when seemingly everything and anything could be released), but Houdini is one of the best of them all.

Number 6.  –  Dirt – Alice in Chains

Dirt is one of the darkest, depressing, harrowing albums ever made. It’s full of so much despair and pain, it contains so much anguish that it’s sometimes really hard to listen to. It’s seen as THE heroin album, because of what Layne was going through and how vivid the lyrics were and the imagery they evoked. The album is definitely about Layne’s addiction, but I think the songs go beyond that. They go much deeper and it isn’t quite as one dimensional as that, even though at the album’s heart it’s about addiction I think the songs deal with deeply personal and emotional issues that go beyond Layne’s addiction. Sometimes, the lyrical content is incredibly vivid and other times it’s so cryptic and hard to decipher. It’s one of the most absorbing albums ever, I feel exhausted and drained after listening to it. The best thing about Grunge, for me, was the different styles the best bands had. From Nirvana’s Punk Rock sensibilities, to Pearl Jam’s classic rock leanings, to The Afghan Whigs’ soul influences. Each band from the scene had something different to offer. Alice In Chains were the band whose aesthetic was closest to Metal and I think Dirt is not only the darkest album to come out of the movement, but it’s one of the darkest albums ever. Dirt is Alice In Chain’s masterpiece, their career defining album and it’s one of the best and most essential albums of the decade. It’s actually chilling, Layne invites us into his hellish nightmare and completely changes our perception of music. It’s an album that floors me, it leaves me absolutely speechless

Number 5.  –  Superunknown –

I was absolutley floored by the music I was hearing on this thing:  a relentless assault comprised of no less than 15 songs and over an hour of pure, apocalyptic aggression that, for me, launched Soundgarden from the languishings of “forgettableness” to the unquestioned stratosphere of rock greatness, all thanks to one album!  THAT’S how good this recording is, ladies and gentlemen.  It is a work that became so important to me that I gave it the honor of breaking in my brand new home stereo bought that same year, the stereo I still utilize to this day to play all the great albums from hundreds of legendary bands.  One of the many things that so impressed me about the album is how it never lets up.  The easiest way to break down an album of 15 tracks is to divide it up evenly into thirds.  This works pretty well for “Superunknown.”  The first five tracks are flat-out stunning.  By the time you get to “Head Down,” the start of the 2nd third, you’re almost out of breath. This “second section,” if you will, contains probably the most popular songs, songs which I mentioned before:  “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun,” two that are not only great hits for Soundgarden, but are truly fine pieces of music as well.  But it is perhaps the last two songs of this section, “Limo Wreck” and “The Day I Tried To Live” (tracks 9 & 10) which combine to produce the most impressive moment of all.  These two songs laid side-by-side next to one another are so utterly fantastic that your speakers would be overtly nodding in approval if they were so capable.  The very best of Led Zeppelin, Rush and other greats are impeccably called upon here to simmer together nicely for a brew that is tasty beyond measure. “Superunknown” is an achievement that few bands have matched and one that rightfully places them among the greatest bands of the 1990’s.

Number 4.  –  Jar of Flies –
Alice in Chains

I’m still amazing that with the music world focusing on LP’s alone, this still remains the only EP to be in the number 1 in the billboard charts. Alice In Chains hit something of a perfect stride here, an artistic monument unto their own uniqueness. I mean, find any other rock band who puts out a mostly mellowed experience and tell me if its as good. Of course it isn’t. In fact, if this thing contained only “Nutshell” and “No Excuses,” it would still get a perfect rating from me. Those two make up the genius of this EP. Both conjure up the usual atmosphere of Alice In Chains, but without the benefit of heavy guitars they usually ended up employing. I would argue the end result is actually heavier using mostly acoustic work and the seemingly up-beat nature of “No Excuses.” This song here is probably my favorite by the band, the vocal harmonization is golden and possesses some incredibly memorable lead playing. Hard to go wrong with either of those songs. The other tracks featured are no slouches, either. “Don’t Follow” and “Swing on This” are more blues driven and aren’t as memorable, but still good. Don’t forget “Rotten Apple,” which is quite dark and atmospheric, but it works perfectly. This stands to me as Alice In Chains’ definitive work. Even without the heavy guitars its their heaviest work, as ironic as that might seem. Even the more up-beat nature of some of these songs give way to a darker underlining, which runs hand and hand with their more well known full-length albums. A truly amazing piece of work, one that I doubt any of their peers could have possibly surpassed or even replicated.

Number 3.  –  Superfuzz Bigmuff –

Back before there was grunge, this garage/hardcore punk band were the innovators of this wave that paved the way for grunge throughout the 1990s. When Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff was first released, in 1988, it was a six-song EP that became an epoch: the record regarded, in hindsight, as one of the first landmarks of grunge. Mark Arm and Steve Turner —Mudhoney/grunge’s founding fathers— had done time in that ultimate neo-grunge outfit, Green River, and after a falling out with the more theatrically/commercially minded future-Pearl-Jam members of the outfit, had gotten back together to start a band that hewed closer to their Stooges-loving roots. With its snarling riffs, Arm’s unreserved caterwauls, and a lyrical bent that dealt in sexual inadequacies, sexually-transmitted diseases, and, y’know, vomit, “Touch Me I’m Sick” delighted in its own spirit of degradation. It was backed with “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More,” in which the descending guitar scuzz and Arm’s reverbed-out screams combined to create an air of audio lechery. Album opener Touch Me I’m Sick is a great reminder that grunge (a word that seemed so edgy then, so dated now) didn’t have to be all darkness and despair.  Touch Me I’m Sick has almost a fun jaunt that starts Superfuzz Bigmuff with an almost smile. Superfuzz Bigmuff’ got the nod because every song either on the original release or the 32 song 2008 re-release encapsulates all of the band’s greatest qualities. It starts with ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ kicking off with distorted guitar, an “ooh” and “waaaaaaahhhh”, containing self depreciating lyrics of which Iggy would be proud. ‘Sweet Young Thing’ follows telling the story of a young girl, a prom queen perhaps? submitting to the temptations of alcohol, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to her parent’s horror. ‘Hate the Police’ and ‘Burn it Clean’ keep the momentum going. ‘You Got It’ with it’s machine gun drums and it’s scuzzy guitar has Arm’s screeching vocals seeming to tell the story of a pretty girl too ready to offer her body to others: ”you give it away like a free sample but I don’t want what anyone one can have”… Arm is too righteous to take advantage.

Number 2.  –  Apple – Mother Love Bone

Interesting that Mother Love Bone was at the bottom of the list of the best grunge bands and their one and only LP managed to make it at number 2 of the best grunge albums of all time. Despite the fact that I enjoy Pearl Jam, I do wish like hell that Andrew Wood would not have died and Mother Love Bone would have continued making music. Andy Wood is an exceptionally brilliant talent and I feel not only him but the band as a whole deserves more credit than they get. This is a truly great piece of music that anyone from an 80’s hair metal lover to a 90’s grunge fan will enjoy. Sure most people expected this album to sound like Pearl Jam or Soundgarden but what they’ve got is a more improved version of Gun n’ Roses. Really more akin to hair metal than the grungy alternative sound of most bands coming from Seattle in the late 80’s, Mother Love Bone is still a respected- even revered- band of grunge culture. Mother Love Bone will forever be remembered as the group that spawned Pearl Jam. However, there was so much more to the story of the short-lived band, that was fronted by the late Andrew Wood, who lost his battle with heroin. Mother Love Bone’s 1990 debut album, Apple, is an overlooked recording, that bridges the ’80s Hollywood big hair band scene to the Seattle grunge movement. With eventual Pearl Jam stalwarts, bassist Stone Gossard and guitarist Jeff Ament, leading the way, following their days in Green River, along with front man Wood, MLB kicked out a killer set of thirteen tracks that comprise Apple. The disc is strong from start to close, with “This is Shangrila”, “Stardog Champion”, “Holy Roller”, the acoustic “Stargazer”, “Capricorn Sister”, and “Crown of Thorns” highlighting the effort. It’s so unfair that an album as good as this one failed to achieve the recognition and success it deserved. I realize that the fact that Andrew Wood (vocalist) died before the album hit the streets was in part a major reason why Apple got so ignored. I truly believed this along with Faith No More’s The Real Thing, Apple was the most perfect transition album between ’80s and ’90s rock.

Number 1.  –  Nevermind – Nirvana

The one thing that makes Nirvana as popular as they are is that they’ve managed to create alternative rock that blends tremendously well to lullabies that tackles subject matter of rambunctious spirituality & rockstar lifestyle. The song list in this very album is completely legendary and it’s hard to find another alternative rock album that manages to live up to the awesomeness contained in this very album. Sure, hearing another person praise this album is like a cliche, but who cares, that’s why this album still sounds great since 1991! The thing that sucks is when I became a fan of this album, Kurt Cobain already killed himself which is why it sucks to be born too late and never experience them live or get into subjects of his fame when the band was still around. You can’t deny that Smells Like Teen Spirit is hands down the best opening song of all time that forever changed the way we listened to music and all the way to Something In The Way, it leaves you satisfied. Before Nevermind came along, Hair Metal was the most popular rock music in the mainstream, but as soon as this album hit shelves… BAM! The whole industry changed! This is the one album that changed the 1980s to the new era called the 1990s and I thank Nirvana for accomplishing that. The band had no idea how much impact they were making for the alternative rock genre that was called back then Grunge. Here we are now, twenty years later and it still entertains the living hell out of us. I memorize all the lyrics on each song and sing them out loud time after time again like a lullaby. I really can’t say the same with that many song list out there.  So many alternative rock bands throughout the 1980s (that were considered college rock) strived to accomplish what Nirvana succeeded. Kurt and the band started this musical movement called Grunge that paved the way for millions around the world to get into alternative rock as a whole, and still to this day Nevermind remains an all time great that came out of that genre! Nevermind will always remain on a high belt of music wether you hate it to shit, are indifferent, or love it like a child with his/her lullabies. Nevermind was revolutionary for what it did with the music industry at the time, but as far as the music goes itself, it’s great, and that’s final.

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Top 10 Grunge Bands

For a while I used to consider Grunge a genre, but now I’m like everybody else who just considers it alternative rock. So why make a list of a term that I don’t believe is a genre? Rather, I consider this a musical movement that paved the way for alternative rock to finally reach to the mainstream, which college rock (1980’s alternative rock) has never succeeded. This was a new wave of music that really destroyed the hair bands throughout the 1980s decade. The moment we listened to or watch the music video of Smells Like Teen Spirit… BAM! The whole industry changed. This hard rock wave that came from Seattle, Washington got the whole world buzzing. Nirvana’s Nevermind started a new era that gave the 1990s it’s own identity, for better or worse. Just like thrash metal, grunge had the big four bands with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains that got the world’s attention and reached high on the billboard charts. Grunge was one of the many musical innovations that the 1990s is most known for. It’s funny that we think of grunge whenever we discuss about music in the 1990s, but it really as a short-lived era of music that was only successful in the early 1990s. The moment when Kurt Cobain shot himself was when this era of music started to fade from popularity, only to be taken over by britpop, boy bands, electronic music, and other alternative rock bands (who weren’t’ associated with grunge) for the rest of the 1990s. At last, here we are to celebrate ten of the best bands of this alternative rock movement that changed the face of mainstream music.

Number 10.  –  Mother Love Bone

Andrew Wood was really one of those personalities that you’ll meet once in a life time and never see again. Unlike Kurt who didn’t want any success, Andrew lived the grunge philosophy like he a party. Before the band released their first album, Andrew died from overdose, making it one of the bigs what if questions if he could have been as big as the rest of the grunge bands. You can see their one and only album Apple and see how much potential and how much better it sounded than many of their grunge contemporaries. It’s just unfortunate that they’ve ended up being at the bottom of the list because of what Andy and the boys could have done. But even though this band is incredibly short-lived, Andrew Wood’s legacy carried on instead of being in vane to pave way to Pearl Jam to exist. In the months following Wood’s death, Gossard and Ament, would be approached by Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell (who had been Wood’s roommate), and asked if they would be interested in recording a single containing two songs he had written in tribute to Wood. The project turned into an entire album and the group took the name Temple of the Dog, a reference to a line in the lyrics of the Mother Love Bone song, “Man of Golden Words. That’s how much Andrew Wood meant to the grunge world, if he was really that talented that talent went to waste. Temple of Dog is a fantastic tribute to Andy because he really was rock n’ roll’s biggest ‘what-if’ rock stars of all time! Go ahead and pick up Apple and see one of the best debut albums of all time!

Number 9.  –  L7

Here, we should remember that there were ladies who were part of the grunge movement. It’s either we choose the mediocre Hole, or Seven Year Bitch, but I rather choose L7. Why? Because their discography that they’ve left behind are so fun to look back at. They were 100% raw female power that showed that young females of the 1990s. I will always remember Pretend We’re Dead as one of the catchiest tunes of the early-90s and just has that sweet punk rock attitude that we’ve been waiting for since the 1970s. Not only that, but these ladies where able to define the grunge philosophy in many dynamics. They were able to showcase a new element of raw edge to it that made them look like they have more balls than many of the men in the grunge scene.

 Number 8.  –  Stone Temple Pilots

STP was really one of those bands that broke the stereotype that grunge is exclusively for Seattle bands, being from San Diego. Their first two albums were purely grunge-like, alternative metal, but after the grunge movement went out of the way they’ve decided to be generic 90’s rock. But of course, their peak of their career was when they jumped to the grunge scene because they were almost like Pearl Jam mixed with Soundgarden’s heavy riffs. They knew what they were doing in making both really heavy rock music and also making magical road-trip songs like Plush. There’s still a good reason why Core remains their most successful album; they’ve understood the philosophy of this side of alternative rock and just blended well with the big four. Core is definitely their landmark album, but I say their follow-up Purple was even better.  Imagine if there were more songs like Plush but managed to keep the right amount of songs that fit in the alternative metal category and you got yourself a real treat. It’s just unfortunate that after those two first albums, they just didn’t care for this musical movement no more and made them sound like country rock a little, similar to Creed and Nickleback. It almost feel like they used the grunge popularity to get to the top so easily, but what a way to make an impression to fit in this short-lived era of music.

Number 7.  –  Screaming Trees

Here’s one of the longer running grunge band, who’s sound incorporated hard rock and psychedelic elements. These dudes were considered as the “Godfathers of Grunge.” Though we like to think about the big four bands of grunge, Screaming Trees can be looked as a fifth, if there is ever one. Described as alternative rock, neo-psychedelic, grunge and punk, the Screaming Trees did come on the music map at the appropriate time, however despite their critical acclaim, they never received half as much attention as other grunge acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden. Thus, it’s no surprise that today these bands remain popular and well-known in the public eye, whereas the Screaming Trees seem to ring no bells in the ears of music fans. Many of the artists from the Seattle-grunge scene seemed to interweave their musical efforts. For example, lead singer Mark Lanegan had support from Krist Novoselic and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana while recording his first solo album in 1990; Chris Cornell of Soundgarden helped produce the Screaming Trees debut album on Epic Records in 1991; Martin and Lanegan both contributed to Layne Staley’s (Alice in Chains) and Mike McCready’s (Pearl Jam) side project, Mad Season, in 1994-1995. With all of these overlapping side projects and promising musical endeavors, Screaming Trees still could not achieve mainstream success; however their talent cannot be denied. The hit “Nearly Lost You” off of 1992’s Sweet Oblivion was also featured on the 1992 soundtrack toSingles, while “All I Know” off of 1996’s Dust did receive radio airplay. Lanegan’s uniquely raspy voice was never lacking, while every album the band produced contained inventive hooks and lyrics that demanded attention. The band could rock as hard as anyone in their musical genre and beyond, while still creating soft-spoken ballads that anyone could relate to. Despite the band’s break-up, members have continued to press on musically, especially former lead singer Lanegan, who has since created numerous solo albums and has worked with bands like Queens of the Stone Age, The Gutter Twins and Soulsavers. Lanegan himself has been such a versatile element in the 90s music machine, I’m astounded when he doesn’t get more credit.

Number 6.  –  Pearl Jam

Interesting to see that Pearl Jam was formed because Andrew Wood died from drugs, the rest of the members of Mother Love Bone still wanted to be successful. Enter Eddie Vedder who reached commercial success as Pearl Jam. This band is clearly magical within their alternative rock songs. Out of all the grunge bands, Pearl Jam is the most unique because they cater more to the jam band side instead of the hard rock side that every other grunge band seem to take influence of. This is also the same problem with Stone Temple Pilots that focus on being so ungrungey that they lost their identity as being grunge and more plain rock. However, where they were from and where they originally stood for was definitely part of the grunge philosophy.  If you didn’t get into Nevermind‘s wild songwriting because it seemed stupid to you, well Pearl Jam’s Ten should definitely get you on your toes and sing along. Pearl Jam is to the 90s and 2000s what Boston was to the 1970s and 80s. Rock n Roll by numbers. They’re Levis. They’re McDonalds. They’re Bud Light. Immensely popular yes, but, largely, popular for being popular. Much like Dave Matthews Band, they’re the band that white people who aren’t that interested in rock music refer to when asked to name their favorite band. Because they’re safe. Unthreatening. Vanilla. All the things Rock n Roll should not be… and yet they’re so good at what they’re known for! Not quite metal or punk but harder than your typical pop/rock band. It’s a style that was take by influence by bands like Creed, Nickleback, and Stone Temple Pilots, and you know what? Even if Pearl Jam lost their grunge philosophy, they’re way better than their country-rock rip-offs! 

Number 5.  –  Mudhoney

These guys were Nirvana (style-wise) before Nirvana even released their first album. It was either I put Mudhoney or Green River on the list, but Green River only released one album and a bunch of EP’s and Mudhoney released so many albums that it’s worth experiencing them all. These guys were the roots of grunge that bores the trees that we know today. Though Pearl Jam, Soundgard, &  Alice in Chains sounds nothing like Nirvana, Mudhoney is the closest ones to sound just like them! But the appeal of mud honey is not just because of the similarities of Nirvana, it’s their buzz-like guitar riffs and hard-edge song writing that made them so punk rock! Just listen to how they play and you can have some fun that other bands can’t help themselves but take its influence. And even when Grunge died out of popularity, they still celebrated this dead movement in music and that’s what I appreciate most about the band more so than the ones below the list. The had the whole attitude that that showed that they didn’t care what you think, they just came to have fun. Ironic don’t you think that seeing people fun can be educational in a sort of way.

Number 4.  –  Soundgarden

I’ll admit, a lot of Grunge bands had really mediocre vocals, but Chris Cornell’s voice is so melodic and bluesy that made it a real rock band out of the grunge genre. Soundgarden is definitely more hard rock than grunge but their grunge philosophy earned them to be in the big four grunge bands, but also the basic rock n’ roll philosophy of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. The riffs that they pull and even the songwriting is top-notch! There’s nothing really deep within their song writing, instead it’s all plain fun! Whenever you hear Cornell sings his soul out it really feels like true rock songwriting being played before you. Not just that, but Soundgarden has a very fantastic discography in the grunge catalog. Let’s not forget that this band was around since 1984 so they really are the longest lived grunge bands, and not only that, they also reach commercial success while the rest of their contemporary bands associated with them still were stuck in the underground stage where they started. Yes, I do admit that it’s disappointing that Soundgarden broke up in the mid part of the 1990s, and we had to endure the mediocre audioslave and Cornell’s solo career, but having their reunion, playing like they used to, is much better than nothing, right?

Number 3.  –  Alice in Chains

One reason why I can’t consider grunge a “genre” per say because even though Alice in Chains had the grunge philosophy that they’ve picked up in Seattle with the rest of the grunge bands, they were more metal than anything else. But either way, they definitely belong in the top 3 best grunge bands of all time. Their song writing is very personal, dark, and relatable. Layne Staley had a lot of demons and he wasn’t afraid to make excellent songs inspired by his torment. It’s nice to see a very dark band like Alice in Chains to represent the dark side & tone from that Seattle area. Just because they were heavier, doesn’t mean they disassociate from that scene completely. Albums such as Man in the Box, Angry Chair, Would?, Grind, Dam That River, Them Bones, and many more were really near perfect songs! And even without Layne Staley around as the lead singer, Alice in Chains still have yet to make a bad album! Between Layne Staleys haunting vocals and Jerry Cantrells amazing guitar riffs Alice in Chains is by far the best band on the planet. This is music with meaning, feelings, and soul. It’s about real life, and real struggles and has touched so many peoples lives. Compared to the other grunge bands that has their reunion, Alice in Chains had their best comeback of any band I can think of. Even when Layne Staley is replaced by William DuVall, they’ve managed to to still sound just as good as the early days by releasing two wonderful alternative rock albums – Black Gives Way to Blue and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here! It’s truly a team effort, with or without Layne Staley in the band. This music has stayed with many of us for over 20 years and will be with me until my last day on this earth. It never gets old and it always reaches down deep into my soul and moves me like no other music is capable of.

Number 2.  –  Nirvana

It’s funny that Kurt Cobain never wanted to be a superstar and his popularity drove him to commit suicide, but he never realized how much his music meant to all of us. We see Nirvana as innovators because we never checked out their influences such as Pixies, Melvins, Sonic Youth and the rest of the Seattle grunge bands before Nirvana came to be. But never mind (no pun intended) the influences he took to form the band’s identity, they were the right influences that created fantastic songs. Part of their appeal is that their song is so damn catchy that they’re almost like lullabies disguising themselves as hard rock songs. For decades many (if not all) of their songs still maintained their star power and we still sing along to it, as if we can’t grow out of it. Sure anyone can say Smells Like Teen Spirit is their favorite song because it got everyone’s attention, but what about their others songs from Lithium, All Apologies, Pennyroyal Tea, Sliver, About A Girl, Sappy, Serve the Servants, Scentless Apprentice, Aneurysm, Drain to You, On A Plain, and You Know You’re Right, that were actually better songs that are still overshadowed to this very day. Weather Kurt was screaming or singing gently, we all still listen to the old recordings he left behind. And still to this day, record companies and Courtney Love love to cash cow his already released albums/songs and pre-recordings to still make the band relevant and find out more about the band. We still buy into anything that has Nirvana on it because we miss this band. No other band can ever replicate the success and appeal that these three guys once had. Part of us missing them so much is that we still don’t have rockstars that are a big or as long lasting after their era; since then bands just came and went and Nirvana (even after their disbanding) still prevails. Disagree all you want, but it’s very true! The 2000s decade didn’t have their own “Beatles” and still to this day our most popular artists replaced rockstars to rappers. It’s a bold statement, but Nirvana (along with our four grunge bands) were our last big name rock bands before rock music’s no longer became the most popular music. But it’s not only just the popularity, but Nirvana was completely fun, passionate, and spiritual that it hurts to not had them around. They know how to put on a live performance, even without even trying, we still find it so enjoyable & memorable that it is historic! No other band in the history of music is able to play bad as they wanted to and still be loved. It’s part of the reason why they’re hated by many other the years, but if we’re still talking about Nirvana (whether you like them or not) should tell you how significant they are to not only grunge, but music in general. They are definitely my favorite band before my time and they’re the big reason why I wished I was born earlier to experience all the things they left behind. Who knows if they were around longer they would have released a bad album or have other problems with the band, but in any case, what they’ve left in the music world is truly special. It’s everything that was good from their influences mixed into a fantastic grunge experience that many of us will never forget!

Number 1.  –  The Melvins

Why are The Melvins the best grunge band of all time? It’s their influence! They were the innovators of the grunge philosophy and also the grunge waves that started this whole grunge movement! Where did Mudhoney, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and all the rest of the grunge bands get their sound? The Melvins of course! Never mind the fact that they’re sludge metal/stoner rock, the structure of of songwriting and album concepts were all so influential that it screams grunge. It’s not just their importance to the existence of grunge, but it’s their discography and creativity that makes them the best of their kind. Their influence is magnificently huge because of it. There are points where they’re really fuzzed out, hard to describe, and even complex at times when it sounds stupid. So does this whole grunge genre, so they basically know what they’re doing! Still to this day, The Melvins keep my interest with the new albums they’re releasing and it’s surprising to see that they haven’t’ slowed out after 3 plus decades of doing what they do best; do whatever the fuck they want to do. It’s really cool that after all of these years they didn’t give a damn if the critics didn’t care for them, they inspired rockers around their age to follow them. What surprises me the most is that they have yet to make an uninteresting album. All of them are so varied and diverse that you can’t say any album they’ve made is different from one another. Buzz Osbourne is a genius when it comes to songwriting because it feels like it was written by different band members. Even to this day they still continue to make interesting albums and inspire many of us. Of course, they had their influences like Nirvana did, but Melvins have so much personality that it’s great to see them around. Nothing stopped the Melvins, even when grunge died, they’ve continued evolving their sounds and continue to surprise their listeners. Hell, I was blown away that they’ve managed to out do their 1980 & 1990s material with (A) Senile Animal. What other grunge band alive today could even capitalize their glory days during the grunge era?  Funny that a lot of bands who were inspired by the Melvins could never last as long as they’ve could. Check out Melvin’s discography and you too can be inspired to by a band as unique and creative as them!

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