10 Best Grunge Albums of All Time


A classic Nirvana promo photo from the 1990s taken by Chris Cuffaro.

Nirvana – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Chris Cuffaro

Here are Audio Ink Radio’s top 10 best grunge albums of all time

Very few musical movements were as influential as grunge in the early 1990s. Seemingly overnight, popular music went from the glitz and glam of hair metal to the raw and lo-fi ramblings of grunge rock. Attitudes shifted, and fashion even changed, with flannel becoming a style.

While grunge is often associated with the 1990s, the movement really got its footing in the late-’80s, with bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney and Dinosaur Jr. releasing a plethora of choice music. It was under the radar in the ’80s, but all of that changed dramatically by 1991.

So, which albums could be considered the best grunge records of all time? Read on for Audio Ink Radio’s definitive list of the top 10 best grunge albums of all time. Reach out to us with your picks on Facebook here.

10. Mother Love Bone, “Apple” (1990)

Mother Love Bone were more than just a Pearl Jam precursor. Sure, the band featured soon-to-be Pearl Jam members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, but this band had its own unique sound that brought together the tail end of hair metal with a fresh, new grunge sound. Sadly, lead singer Andrew Wood passed away just weeks before “Apple” dropped of a heroin overdose. Wood was a superstar in the making, gone way too soon.

9. Soundgarden, “Louder Than Love” (1989)

Grunge went mainstream in 1991, but well before then, Soundgarden were already way ahead of the game. Chris Cornell and company formed in 1984 and signed to major label A&M by the late 1980s, just in time to release 1989’s “Louder Than Love.” Sure, the album didn’t go mainstream, but that’s because the music world wasn’t ready- yet. They would be ready just two years later.

8. Melvins, “Houdini” (1993)

The Melvins were a huge influence to Kurt Cobain, who would go on to front what would arguably become the biggest grunge band in the world, Nirvana. While The Melvins’ early sound was simply experimental and flirted sludge and metal, their 1993 major label debut, “Houdini,” was a snapshot of the time. King Buzzo and Dale Crover kept their raw character on “Houdini,” but the album is certainly their greatest “grunge” release of all time.

7. Alice in Chains, “Facelift” (1990)

Alice in Chains’ seminal debut album, “Facelift,” was released one year before Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” It was a huge one for metal fans looking for something different than hair metal, offering heavy, sludgy riffs and metal-friendly instrumentation but with a heap of grunge. Alice in Chains would become one of the only grunge bands many metalheads could grow to appreciate.

6. Nirvana, “Bleach” (1989)

Nirvana are often lauded for their groundbreaking 1991 release, “Nevermind,” but before then, there was 1989’s “Bleach.” The album marked the band’s full-length debut and was recorded in just 30 studio hours. “Bleach” was a brilliant introduction, with fuzzy, lo-fi guitars and raging songs such as “Negative Creep” and “Big Cheese.” This was even the pre-Dave Grohl era, with Chad Channing on drums for the full record.

5. Temple of the Dog, “Temple of the Dog” (1991)

Before the term “supergroup” was a thing, there was a true supergroup in Temple of the Dog. The special project was put together to mourn the tragic death of Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood. It started with a single and became an album, featuring unforgettable grunge tributes such as “Hunger Strike” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven.” The group brought together grunge’s biggest names, including Chris Cornell, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron, Mike McCready and then-newbie singer Eddie Vedder.

4. Alice in Chains, “Dirt” (1992)

Even though Alice in Chains released plenty of music before Nirvana’s “Nevermind” came out in 1991, the Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell-fronted group really got attention with 1992’s “Dirt.” The album was a massive rock hit, featuring monster singles such as “Them Bones,” “Rooster” and “Would.” It was by far Alice in Chains’ most influential record of the grunge era.

3. Soundgarden, “Superunknown” (1994)

If you’ve ever listened to rock radio, whether that was in the 1990s or today, you’ve definitely heard “Black Hole Sun.” The song is a snapshot of the grunge movement, delicately tucked inside a psychedelia, 5-plus minute ditty. “Black Hole Sun” is the climax of Soundgarden’s celebrated 1994 release, “Superunknown,” as is popular single “Spoonman.” Moreover, as “Superunknown” arrives close to Cobain’s passing, many consider it one of grunge’s last true albums.

2. Pearl Jam, “Ten” (1991)

Pearl Jam beat Nirvana by a few months when then released “Ten” in August of 1991. (Nirvana would release “Nevermind” two moths later, in September of that same year.) This was a massive debut, bringing together former Green River and Mother Love Bone members with charismatic new vocals Eddie Vedder. Songs such as “Alive,” “Jeremy” and “Even Flow” would become some of the most popular songs of the grunge movement, solidifying Pearl Jam as a statesman of the genre.

1. Nirvana, “Nevermind” (1991)

Not only is Nirvana’s “Nevermind” the most influential grunge record of all time, it’s also one of the best rock albums ever released. Even if grunge isn’t your thing, you can’t contest the influence “Nevermind” had on music at the time. It brought on a musical zeitgeist, with hair metal bands falling by the wayside as quickly as new, Seattle-influenced ones could throw on some flannel. Frontman Kurt Cobain and Nirvana also inspired decades of music to come, including a sea of post-grunge bands that would rule the rock world into the 2000s. For its influence and inspiration, Nirvana with “Nevermind” is our No. 1 grunge album of all time.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Alternative, Features, Grunge, Music