10 Essential Grunge Albums | Revolver

10 Essential Grunge Albums

From 'Deep Six' to 'Dirt'
layne staley alice in chains GETTY, Frans Schellekens/Redferns
Alice in Chains' Layne Staley, 1993
photograph by Frans Schellekens/Redferns

Some will forever blame grunge for, at least temporarily, killing thrash and glam metal in the Nineties. Others credit it for welcoming in a nu wave of alternative rock and metal. No matter how you look at it, grunge was a revolutionary form of heaviosity that resonated hard with a generation (and generations after) and changed the worlds of music, fashion, and more. Here are 10 essential albums to come out of the Seattle movement

Various Artists - Deep Six

Early tracks from Soundgarden, the Melvins, Malfunkshun, Skin Yard, and Green River (whose members formed Pearl Jam and Mudhoney) create the messy blueprint for the grunge sound — a raw mix of punk fury, post-punk guitar screech, and heavy-metal thunder.

Green River - Dry as a Bone

Green River would send members to Pearl Jam and Mudhoney, so this is a no-brainer. A bloody Stooges-Aerosmith collision, Dry as a Bone (and the band's swaggering swan song, Rehab Doll, also included in this EP's 1990 reissue) is a punk-fueled exploration of bluesy riffs and hard-rock bluster.

Mudhoney, 'Superfuzz Bigmuff'

This six-song EP defines grunge. Vocalist-guitarist Mark Arm wails like Iggy Pop while guitarist Steve Turner nearly snaps an ankle giving his wah-wah pedal a furious workout. Engineer Jack Endino (High on Fire) captures Mudhoney in all their filthy glory.

Various Artists, 'Sub Pop 200' 

A 20-track collection that, in addition to early songs from Soundgarden, Nirvana, Tad and the Screaming Trees, also spotlights more obscure grunge bands like Swallow, Blood Circus, Cat Butt and the Fluid, and paints a fairly complete picture of the Seattle scene circa 1988.

Soundgarden, 'Badmotorfinger' 

Soundgarden didn't compromise any of their Sabbathian heaviness on their breakthrough third album, which nonetheless saw them hit MTV, rock radio and the Billboard 200 chart. Vocalist Chris Cornell established himself as a major-league howler on tracks like "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Slaves & Bulldozers," while Kim Thayil redefined the role of guitar hero with his snaky riffs and angular solos.

The Melvins, 'Ozma' 

Hailing from the same small Washington logging town as Kurt Cobain, the Melvins inspired many of the Seattle bands who went on to sell millions. Ozma was recorded after the band moved to San Francisco and features a bestial metal-punk hybrid that's lumbering, ponderous and completely frightening.

Alice in Chains, 'Dirt' 

Facelift established Alice in Chains as the darkest and most metal of Seattle's leading grunge bands, but their 1992 masterpiece, Dirt, certified them as legit rock greats. From opener "Them Bones" to classics like "Rooster," "Would?" and "Down in a Hole," the album is filled with exceptional songwriting, dirge-y riffs and downtrodden lyricism that hit audiences hard then and still resonates strongly with them now — and forever. 

Nirvana, 'Nevermind' 

Nevermind kicks off with the immortal four-chord guitar intro of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that introduced grunge to the masses. Although Butch Vig's production cleaned up some of the musical rough edges evident on the band's previous album, Bleach, the songs still pack an almighty wallop.

Pearl Jam, 'Ten' 

Pearl Jam put grunge's lyrical angst and Seventies hard-rock core on proud display on their moody multiplatinum debut. Ten introduced the world to vocalist Eddie Vedder (a San Diego transplant to Seattle) who immediately became the voice and face of grunge worldwide, along with Kurt Cobain.

Tad, '8-Way Santa' 

One of grunge's founding fathers, Tad Doyle fronted this super-heavy, band through the mid Nineties. 8-Way Santa, recorded by Nevermind producer Butch Vig, was the most fully realized recording of Tad's flannel-draped, mountain-man rock, a feral version of grunge that relied on primal drumming and wire-taut guitars.