What are the top ten greatest grunge guitar riffs of all time? Well, that`s a hard question to answer but below are my 10 favourites with their videos so you can listen and enjoy the grungy, heavy, groovy, awesomeness of these fine riffs written by some of the best guitarists coming out of Seattle in the early 90`s.
I love grunge music, not that grunge is a particular sound. Grunge is more of a time and place (Seattle – early 1990s) with the main constants being the place and overall miserable feel to the music, (although for me grunge wasn`t that miserable) and lot of band members who happened to be friends with each other and often played in each others bands – especially in ther early days. Oh, how those were the days. Many so called `scenes` could learn a lot from the likes of the `big 4` of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains as well as the others who happened to be killer bands in their own right – the likes of The Melvins, Screaming Trees, Tad, and Mudhoney.
Without further ado, it`s time to grow your hair and get it greasy, put on your worst flannel shirt, crank up the overdrive, play some mean, dirty riffs, and feel free to add you own cliches. Grunge often gets knocked these days for being a mere marketing ploy, but I don`t care, the music and the songs were freakin` awesome!
Top Ten greatest grunge guitar riffs of all time
Soundgarden – Jesus Christ Pose
Soundgarden have always had a way of writing off time, unconventional riffs while still making them sound heavy and melodic as hell. `Jesus Christ Pose` contains multiple sledgehammer type riffs that many metal bands could only dream of being able to muster up.
Pearl Jam – Animal
For some reason, maybe it`s the people I know but Pearl Jam seem to not be as well loved these days as the other grunge bands. Maybe it`s do with them performing `Let it go` from Frozen recently or their association with Bono, but who cares – Mike McCready and Stone Gossard could write a heavy in your face belter of a riff. Animal is one of those. Check out the live version below.
Nirvana – Milk It
For me `In Utero` is the best album of the era (closely followed by `Dirt` and `Badmotorfinger`), and the best riff and song of the record is `Milk it`. When I first heard it, it blew me away and some years later from that day it still knocks my socks off. The way the discordant intro blasts into the huge riff is distinctive as it is powerful.
Alice In Chains – Dirt
`Dirt` is just one of those riffs that is so memorable, you only need to hear it once and you`ll never forget it. The way the wah sounds of those higher strings is reminiscent of a certain Black Sabbath that just got blacker. Dirt is such an emotionally charged dark beast of a song, and it has a riff to match.
The Melvins – Honey Bucket
Most people overlook The Melvins when talking about grunge, but for me they were the most underappreciated, (at least now they are). I just love its stop start and schizophrenic riff. You can hear some of the madness in The Dillinger Escape Plan in here. Brutal and effortless at the same time. Give Honey Bucket a watch – just for Buzz Osborne`s awesome hair. Nearly as good as the riff, King Buzzo!
Soundgarden – Pretty Noose
At a time when Soundgarden were nearing their point of departure for the music loving world (for 12 years or so anyway) they wrote this beauty of a song. The lyrics and vocals are flawless in my opinion and the riff just seals the deal for me. The intro is a great bit of tension but as soon as the vocals starts, the awesome verse riff kicks in and only adds to Chris Cornell`s power. Just listen to Kim Thayil`s messed up lead during the second verse to hear the whole thing in full swing. Discordant yet beautiful.
Alice In Chains – Man In The Box
Everyone loves Man In The Box. It`s off the Facelift album which has some amazing songs (Sunshine, Love, Hate, Love, Bleed The Freak) but was a bit hit or miss, at least compared to the other Layne Stayley materal they recorded. This tune though, just has one of those super distinctive grooves you just can`t get away from and why would you want to? It`s a great rock club dancefloor filler.
Mudhoney – Touch Me, I`m Sick
What a riff and what a band. I remember seeing Mudhoney at The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, UK, about 7 years ago, and they tore the place down. The energy they had and passion after all these years was awe inspiring and the music still sounded great. `Touch Me, I`m Sick` is their staple song that they will always be known for. With a riff that has been ripped of a thousand times, I`m sure you`ll agree it had to be in the list.
Pearl Jam – Alive
Alive is the song that got me into Pearl Jam, like many of you I guess. I think I first heard it in the late nineties on MTV2 or something and just loved it straight away. The uber cool laid back riff that sets the song off just grabbed me by the balls, and boy was I to realize how good could the song get (Vedder`s vocal and the amazing outro, anyone?). The Alive intro is where my love for Pearl Jam all began.
Nirvana – School
I`m putting School in here as not only is it an awesome riff off one of the greatest albums ever in `Bleach` it was also the first guitar riff I ever learned to play properly. It`s a great tune, and it`s where my guitar playing all began. There`s nothing like a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
Have fun listening to these amazing grunge guitar riffs. I recommend you learn how to play them all. Hopefully, you`ll love playing them as much as me!
Other notable classic grunge riffs
- Nirvana -Mexican Seafood
- Silverchair – Roses
- Melvins – Hooch
- Soundgarden – Outshined
- Pearl Jam – Even Flow
- Dinosaur Jr – Sludgefeast
- Screaming Tress – Nearly Lost You
- TAD – Delinquent