10 Best Noise Rock Bands of All Time


Promo photo of Melvins

Melvins – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Chris Cassela

In honor of the blistering noise rock genre, Audio Ink Radio names their 10 best noise rock bands of all time

Noise rock got its footing in the 1980s, forming as an experimental offshoot of punk rock. The genre is an onomatopoeia of sorts, as it truly sounds like noisy rock. Noise rock tends to be beautifully chaotic, featuring lots of distortion, random sounds, electronic instrumentation and, often times, unique instruments. So, who are the best noise rock bands of all time?

When it comes to noise rock, most people think of Sonic Youth. The New York City band certainly brought noise pop to the mainstream, with their presentation of experimental art and music. But, there is so much more to the noise rock genre than just one band.

Here, we present Audio Ink Radio’s list of the 10 best noise rock bands of all time, including some of the pioneers and more recent bands. Moreover, reach out to use with your choices via social media.

10. Wolf Eyes

While plenty of noise rock came from New York City, Wolf Eyes were an oasis of noise rock in Michigan. While many call them noise rock, Wolf Eyes’ music really runs the gamut, from avant-garde jazz to industrial to improvisation to their self-coined trip-metal. Of the bands on this list, Wolf Eyes is one of the few still active, to boot.

9. Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr., hands down, were one of the most influential alternative bands of the 1980s. Furthermore, J Mascis and company were masters at crafting loud, brash, disorderly rock ‘n’ roll, with a distorted, noisy delivery.

8. Helmet

New York City’s Helmet were early champions of alternative and noise rock, mixing wild riffing, steady rhythms, and experimental song structures. Frontman Page Hamilton moved to New York City to study jazz, and he used that jazz knowledge to create incredibly imaginative alternative metal.

7. Fugazi

Washington, D.C.’s Fugazi were a hardcore band at heart, but their wild experimentalism made them noise rock champions, too. Musically, Fugazi had some of the smartest songwriting of their era, as well as wicked musicianship. The band was also totally D.I.Y. and took creative control of their career.

6. Melvins

Melvins aren’t always referred to as noise rock. Some call them alternative, others call them metal and some refer to them as grunge. But, Melvins certainly had noise rock as part of their eclectic sound. The band brought together heavy metal influences with punk, doom and alternative rock, and in turn, influenced a new movement of grunge bands to follow, such as Mudhoney, Tad and, yes, Nirvana.

5. The Swans

The Swans were one of the darker-sounding bands to emerge from the 1980s noise rock scene. The New York City experimental rock band presented a head-spinning amount of sounds, from harsh noise to melancholy folk. The Swans were also known for their electrifying live shows, following the tradition of punk rock.

4. My Bloody Valentine

Not all noise rock came from the U.S. My Bloody Valentine formed in Dublin, Ireland, in the 1980s. With a sound heavily rooted in inharmonious sounds and eerie but beautiful melodies, the band’s popularity skyrocket both overseas and in the States. Moreover, they were a huge part of the late-1980s indie and noise rock scenes.

3. Big Black

Big Black were one of the early pioneers in noise rock. Hailing from Chicago, the band rose up in the hardcore scene, spearheaded by Steve Albini’s shocking lyrics and unique, monolithic guitars. In punk and noise rock fashion, Big Black were totally D.I.Y., booking their own gigs and handling all of the “business” aspects of a band.

2. The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground were truly ahead of their time. The band’s sophomore album, “White Light/White Heat,” arrived in 1968 and served as an inspiration for the subsequent noise rock music. The New York City band combined art, rock and poetry in a truly imaginative way. Without The Velvet Underground, it’s difficult to imagine what “alternative rock” would sound like today.

1. Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth popularized experimental rock and has become one of alternative music’s biggest influencers. Coming up from the American underground in New York City, Sonic Youth blended dissonance, feedback and distortion in their artsy and catchy songs. Doing so, they inspired hordes of imitators, but nobody could ever really be Sonic Youth. They also inspired a young Kurt Cobain, as he was forming Nirvana. Hence, for their pioneering efforts and longstanding influence, Sonic Youth is No. 1 on our list of the best noise rock bands of all time.

Find Audio Ink Radio’s feature on the best grunge bands of all time at this spot.

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