The Top Album segment is back, and it's time to take a deep dive into the world of Grunge. No music genres of the recent past have had more impact on the musical landscape than the "Seattle Alternative" wave of heavy metal.
It was Grunge that singlehandedly wiped the ever-popular glam metal scene off of the map with one fell swoop. As the Pacific Northwest music movement blew up, many bands seized the opportunity to cash in. The ripped jeans, flannel ridden soldiers took up the sword as they waxed poetic to America's disenfranchised youth.
Wearing plaid t-shirts and bell bottoms was suddenly cool once again. Grunge not only represented a shift in musical style, but it also ushered in a more widescale cultural metamorphosis.
Although the Grunge Metal genre enjoyed a very short stay at the top of the musical food chain, its impact has been everlasting.
As we head into 2021, where the fate and the future of music remain so uncertain, we figured this would be a great time to revisit the ghost of Grunge Past to uncover the best of the best records. So without further ado...here are the top ten Grunge Metal albums of all-time.
10. Mother Love Bone, 'Apple' (1990)
Who said supergroups couldn't rock. 'Apple' is one of those records that flies under the radar. The album features a combination of jazz-infused punk and funk metal. Many of the tracks share a Zeplinesque tone infused with a modern-day flavor. Standout songs include "Come Bite The Apple," "Stargazer," and "Capricorn Sister." There is no telling how great this band could have been, as their career was unfortunately struck down by tragedy before it began. Sadly, lead singer Andrew Wood would die of a heroin overdose just a week before the record's release.
9. Stone Temple Pilots, 'Purple' (1994)
Stone Temple Pilots debunked the sophomore jinx with this standout release. Coming off a very successful debut record with 'Core,' the boys were looking to take their brand to the next level. 'Purple' was just what the Dr. ordered as the record hit #1 on the Billboard Top 200. While the era-defining hits "Vasoline," "Interstate Love Song," and "Big Empty" paved the album's success, those stellar deep cuts like "Army Ants," "Silvergun Superman," and "Kitchenware and Candybars" truly defined the greatness of this masterpiece.
8. Temple of the Dog, 'Temple of the Dog' (1991)
What initially began as a side project to honor Andrew Wood's passing; quickly morphed into one of the great all-time grunge classics. The collective star power on the record was enough to light up any stage, with Chris Cornell, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron, Mike McCready, and Eddie Vedder. Touching tributes like "Say Hello to Heaven" and "Hunger Strike" are fantastic songs in their own right. Add in tracks like "Pushin' Forward Back," 'Call Me A Dog," "Your Savior," and "Four Walled World," and the album screams elite.
7. Alice in Chains, 'Jar of Flies' (1994)
Some will shout blasphemy to include an "Ep" on a top album list. The opinion is duly noted, but hindsight's 2020. Alice In Chains entered the studio in 1994 (after a rigorous tour) with zero material written and came out having produced an absolute gem in seven days. The record features a collection of acoustic works of art that would make even Mozart bow to their throne. The collective mixture of iconic acoustic jams made it to #1 on the Billboard Top 200. Not bad for an album that was constructed in less than a week, from start to finish.
6. Soundgarden, 'Badmotorfinger' (1991)
'Badmotorfinger' is often overshadowed by its peers, but that is no indictment on the record's content. Having been released on the same day as Nirvana's 'Nevermind,' it, unfortunately, started behind the eight balls. However, this record gained momentum over time, carving itself out as a staple in the Grunge Metal hierarchy. Ravaging tracks like "Rusty Cage" and "Outshined" are epic tone setters. However, hidden gems like "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Drawing Flies" emphatically announce the album's place among Grunge's elite.
5. Alice In Chains, 'Facelift' (1990)
'Facelift' was a precursor of what was yet to come. When Alice In Chains released their debut record, grunge was not, however, a household name. While the genre had not been coined yet, this record set a series of chain events that would shape this musical transformation. Megahit "Man in The Box" became the template for future grunge metal playlists. Meanwhile, tracks like "We Die, Young," "Sea of Sorrow," "Bleed the Freak," and many others quickly enshrined the record as a standout masterpiece of the era.
4. Soundgarden, 'Superunknown' (1994)
Soundgarden perfected their craft with this epic game-changer. Fueled by the encompassing passion of frontman Chris Cornell, the band channeled that energy into every recorded track. The new composition and precision songwriting allowed the group to fine-tune their signature sound and style. "Fell on Black Days" and "Black Hole Sun" became era-defining songs. Consequently, the album is littered with deep cuts up and down, including standouts like "Fresh Tendrils," "4th of July", "The Day I Tried to Live," and "Like Suicide."
3. Nirvana, 'Nevermind' (1991)
If this were a popularity contest, 'Nevermind' would certainly take top honors on this list. The album undoubtedly created a musical revolution, the likes that we have very rarely seen. The band combined an influential blend of punk and rock that struck the core of America's youth gone wild. While "Smells Like Teen Spirit" captured the spirit of even the most casual fans of rock. Meanwhile, standout songs like "In Bloom," "Come As You Are," and "Lithium" catapulted the record to the depths of its rabid cult following. This record is ground zero for the grunge era.
2. Pearl Jam, 'Ten' (1991)
After Nirvana dropped 'Nevermind,' Pearl Jam emphatically shouted, "HOLD MY BEER!" If 'Nevermind' is the motherload, then 'Ten' is its daddy. While 'Nevermind' follows a more distinct punk style playbook, 'Ten' veers more closely down a classic rock highway. 'Ten' is Pearl Jam's, Mona Lisa. So many great tracks it's hard to name just a few. One would venture to find one mediocre song among the entire album. "Even Flow," "Alive," and "Jeremy" are cornerstones of the era; lesser-known gems like "Porch," "Garden" and "Deep" are solid gold.
1. Alice In Chains, 'Dirt' (1992)
'Dirt' is not only the magnum opus for Alice In Chains, but it represents the Mount Rushmore for all of Grunge. While every album in the top ten is excellent in its way, the songwriting on this particular one stands out. Between the doom-laden harmonies of Cantrell and Staley's lyrics and the ever-evolving sound of fantastic musicianship, 'Dirt' sets itself apart at the top. Obvious hits like "Them Bones," "Rooster," and the title track "Dirt" emphasize the magnitude of the album's greatness. "Hate to Feel" may be the most-least recognized deep cut masterpiece in the history of metal! Pop it in and crank it to Ten!
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