Heavy Alternative Rock

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Heavy Alternative Rock, also known as Alternative Hard Rock, is a catch-all sub-genre used to encompass the various alternative rock artists that play heavy music that don't necessarily descend, at least directly, from the traditional hard rock spectrum. It notably includes grunge and post-grunge bands, both of which can be heavy but of a different heritage to traditional blues based hard rock acts, but it may also include actual hard rock acts and releases that borrow heavily from alternative rock to create a fusion sound. Some examples of this include Nickelback (hard rock/post-grunge), Dizzy Mizz Lizzy (hard rock/alternative rock) and Foo Fighters (hard rock/alternative rock/post-grunge), at least on some releases, such as Wasting Light (2011).

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THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness Album Cover Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
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THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Siamese Dream Album Cover Siamese Dream
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NIRVANA Nevermind Album Cover Nevermind
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FOO FIGHTERS Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Album Cover Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
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4.13 | 13 ratings
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FOO FIGHTERS There Is Nothing Left to Lose Album Cover There Is Nothing Left to Lose
FOO FIGHTERS
4.11 | 14 ratings
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THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

Album · 1995 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Necrotica
One of the best traits Billy Corgan has always had as a songwriter is that he’s incredibly skilled at making mountains out of molehills. Much like Bruce Springsteen, he has the ability to take the mundane and transform it into the most grand and sweeping thing you’ve ever heard. Back in the 90s, he took the genre of alternative rock and injected it with a sense of artistry and grace that immediately set The Smashing Pumpkins apart from the majority of their grungy, down-to-earth peers. And let’s be clear here: it’s not like the band were strangers to grunge or alternative metal themselves. Songs like “Cherub Rock,” “Zero,” and “Quiet” are all infused with a murky, dirty tone and downtuned guitar work that act as a piledriver to the ears. However, as pretentious as Corgan might have been (let’s be fair here, he was… and still is), he knew that adding a heightened level of grandeur to his chosen genre would make his band stand out. Gish and Siamese Dream were already building up to the peak of this evolution, especially the latter which would become known as a classic in its own right. And even through the group’s inner turmoil, the classic lineup remained (Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, James Iha, and D’arcy Wretzky) to cut their second - and arguably their final - classic. But back then, was anybody really prepared for a full-blown 2-hour double disc by these guys?

I’d imagine not. Even as double albums go, 2 straight hours is a lot to ask of someone’s time - especially when hearing Billy Corgan’s nasally whine throughout that duration. So it’s quite astonishing, then, that nearly every moment has an important place in Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Granted, it should probably go without saying that - with a duration as long as this - there’s really no stone left unturned. Alternative rock, progressive rock, symphonic rock, art rock, shoegaze, psychedelia, grunge, and heavy metal are all fairly represented at different times, altogether sculpting one of the most eclectic works of the 90s. But the artistic growth of the band (or more specifically, Billy Corgan, considering he wrote the vast majority of the record) doesn’t stop there. Much like a play or a film laced with intermissions, Mellon Collie is separated by two different acts: Dawn to Dusk and Twilight to Starlight. A number of songs play into this concept as well, such as “We Only Come Out at Night” naturally appearing in the second disc to represent the twilight or the beautiful piano-driven opening title track lifting the figurative curtains to signify the coming of dawn. As for the lyrics themselves, each song acts as a specific little vignette or a small puzzle piece; this isn’t really a concept album in the traditional sense (there’s no actual arc or storyline), but rather a grand jigsaw puzzle composed of miniature stories that correlate in some way to their respective discs.

As such, the relationship between tension and release is one of the biggest draws of Mellon Collie. Because of the wildly varying dynamics, the album constantly goes back and forth with its bipolar nature like a seesaw as it traverses through every facet of the band’s experimental tendencies. “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” and “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” like to swell and build their dynamics to satisfying conclusions in a progressive rock fashion, while tunes like “Tales of a Scorched Earth” and “X.Y.U.” present the band in its ugliest form with pummeling metal riffs and furious blasts of guitar feedback. Likewise, there are plenty of delicate ballads that help mitigate the intensity of the propulsive rockers, as one might expect on such a long-winded journey. Notably, two of these are the only songs not written by Billy Corgan himself: guitarist James Iha wrote the album’s closers, “Take Me Down” and “Farewell and Goodnight,” both of which close out their respective sides in a serene manner. But that’s not to say they’re the best ballads on offer; in my mind, the gorgeously layered dream pop number “By Starlight” easily wins in that regard. “Cupid De Locke” is another highlight, using unorthodox percussion in the form of saltshakers to propel its easygoing rhythms and flighty tempo. As I mentioned before, tension and release is what makes Mellon Collie so consistently fun to listen to. It’s all about the different yins and yangs of volume and style, all countering each other in fresh new ways. If you want the best showing of this, listen to “X.Y.U.” and “We Only Come Out at Night,” which play back-to-back and yet contrast each other in every way. The former is a brutal Melvins-esque jab of sludgy alternative metal, and the latter is a quaint ballad with a light swing rhythm. How the latter follows up the former so well, I’ll never know.

I’ll be completely blunt about this: I’m not normally a fan of double albums. With so much content to pack into one recording, it almost seems like a guarantee that you’ll encounter something that should have stayed on the cutting room floor. It’s a problem that’s plagued quite a few albums in the past, including (in my opinion, at least) The Beatles’ self-titled White Album and Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. This is the way I see things: if you’re going to stuff your record with more than one disc full of material, you’d better make sure to bring your A-game and take special care in every track to make sure it has a purpose. There might be a few weaker cuts on Mellon Collie (“Love” and “Beautiful” come to mind), but there was never a time that I thought they actually crippled the album in any severe way. Considering this is a 28-track record with 121 minutes to its runtime, it’s insane to think that even the throwaways are still as well-written as they are. If you gave “Love” and “Beautiful” to an album from a lower-tier alternative rock band from that era, they might have been considered highlights; think about that.

There was once a time when I thought Siamese Dream was The Smashing Pumpkins’ true peak, with Mellon Collie at a close second. However, that opinion has been slowly reversing with the passage of time. The more time I’ve given this album to grow and cultivate in my eardrums, the more its phenomenal consistency and emotional potency have also grown. Moreover, Mellon Collie just feels important. Alternative rock needed something this grandiose and diverse, whether the practitioners or listeners of the genre wanted to dispute that or not. Such a fully-realized masterwork only comes around once in a lifetime, and you’d be wise to lend an ear to its timeless tunes if you haven’t already.

NICKELBACK The Long Road

Album · 2003 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
Nickelback’s fourth studio album, 2003’s ‘The Long Road’, sees the band finally do away with the post grunge sound of their earlier days and fully embrace the mainstream, radio-friendly hard rock vibe that gave them worldwide superstardom on 2001’s ‘Silver Side Up’ (which featured THAT song).

And to be honest, the band pulls it off perfectly. The songs are all well-written and catchy, yet rocking enough to get heads banging too. Unfortunately Nickelback would fall into that gray area where they’re not “metal enough” for metal fans, and too heavy for casual radio-listeners, however, the bands singles, which usually tend to be on the softer side, gives the band huge mainstream appeal, and it’s for this reason that fans of heavier music probably despise them.

However, with that said, when the band wants to rock, damn, they can rock hard! With pounding guitar riffs accompanied by a solid drum beat and bass line, the band can no doubt hold their own when it comes to heavier music, and their ballads... well, hell, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a catchy melody... and the Canadian four-piece are pretty nifty at that too. The production is also top-notch, giving the music a massive, driving sound, with every riff getting the punch it needs.

Frontman Chad Kroeger, one of the most hated rock stars on the planet, seems undaunted by his reputation, and delivers a fantastic performance, with a great range that emits power and emotion. Whether bellowing at the top of his voice or reflecting melancholically, the man has a great voice and is hugely underrated as a vocalist. (There, I said it).

Featuring guest appearances by Kid Rock and, surprisingly, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera fame (yep, you read that right), and with highlights including ‘Because of You’, ‘Flat on the Floor’, ‘Someday’, ‘Do This Anymore’, ‘Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good’, ‘Should’ve Listened’ and a bonus track cover of the Elton John classic ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’, ‘The Long Road’ is a fantastic album, which is neither too ambitious or complicated, but revels in its hard rocking simplicity, and is all the more better because of it.

NICKELBACK Silver Side Up

Album · 2001 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
It’s always the ones you least expect, right?

Who’d have imagined at the start of the year that Nickelback would be coming out of 2001 as one of the biggest bands on the planet? After two studio albums which had started to bring some minor success, the band unleashed this nugget upon the world, with a beefed up production that slowly steps away from the Seattle-grunge sound of their previous efforts, they were a much harder and heavier rock band, and with one of radios most played rock songs of all time, they were ready to become household names.

Stylistically, ‘Silver Side Up’ isn’t too much different than its predecessors, but the sound of the album has giving the band’s music a much more anthemic vibe. Featuring ten tracks, each one simple in structure, with hooks aplenty and catchy choruses, Nickelback had their formula, and mainstream success came in abundance.

Of course, the lyrics can get a bit cringeworthy and the songs can begin to sound repetitive at times, but let’s be honest here, this isn’t music meant to be studied and scrutinized. With pounding guitar riffs and a booming rhythm section, this is hard rock, pure and simple. And it sounds bloody massive!

Highlights? Well, there’s ‘Never Again’, ‘Too Bad’, ‘Money Bought’, ‘Just For’ and ‘Where Do I Hide’ for starters. Oh, then there’s ‘How You Remind Me’, only one of the most famous and well-known songs since the turn of the century. Reaching number one on the Billboard charts and helping ‘Silver Side Up’ sell in excess of eight million copies worldwide, it has widely been estimated as being the most played rock song on radio stations. Not bad at all.

While Nickelback aren’t to everyone’s liking, there’s no denying the success of ‘Silver Side Up’. Granted, it may have a couple of filler tracks, but otherwise this is a pretty solid effort, and as it’s since elevated the band to superstardom, it’s no doubt one of the more pivotal albums to come out of the early 2000’s rock scene.

NICKELBACK The State

Album · 1998 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
Nickelback’s second album sees the Canadian rockers begin to step away from the Nirvana-wannabes that they were, and slowly become the band we’d all come to know and love (and mostly hate). While I found their debut too much of a grunge record way after grunge’s time had expired, ‘The State’ sees them develop a more traditional hard rock style, particularly with the guitar playing, and with frontman Chad Kroeger sounding more like himself than a fake Kurt Cobain.

The formula is simple. Four-minute songs with driving riffs and raspy vocals, simple structures and lyrics that focus on whatever usual drivel people sing about; Relationships, depression, politics etc. It’s not terrible, and it’s a blueprint that has worked for countless bands and will for countless more, but unfortunately ‘The State’ is still a pretty mediocre release. There’s a few moments that show the potential the band possess, but the production still gives it a bit of a post-grunge sound that doesn’t do the music justice.

‘Breathe’ and ‘Leader of Men’ are both pretty decent tracks, though. And if nothing else, they certainly show the direction Nickelback are headed in, and it’s a direction that would bring worldwide success. However, it will come at a cost. But listening to ‘The State’, who’d imagine they’re listening to one of the biggest and most (in)famous bands on the planet?

NICKELBACK Curb

Album · 1996 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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martindavey87
I never really cared much for the term "post" being placed before music genres. "Post this" and "post that", it all sounded a bit pretentious to me. That is, until I heard Nickelback's debut album, 1996's 'Curb'. Often cited as "post grunge", it all makes sense to me now! Channelling their inner Seattle grunge scene, 'Curb' sounds a lot like a Canadian band poorly mimicking Nirvana or Pearl Jam a couple of years removed from the grunge genres mainstream peak.

Now, don't get me wrong, I actually like Nickelback, and don't understand the absolute scorn and contempt that is thrust upon them. But it's hard to believe the worldwide success they'd go on to have, considering the quality of this release.

I guess it's just a case of a young band trying to find their sound, but there's really nothing noteworthy here except a few half-assed watered down attempts at sounding like the aforementioned grunge bands. The musicianship is fairly average, vocalist Chad Kroeger (who'll go on to become one of the most hated men in rock music) has a good voice and an impressive range, but if you're going back to this album after hearing their later mainstream hits, it's apparent how much he's trying to sound like Kurt Cobain.

Still, it's not all bad. There's one or two moments where it's easy to hear where the band truly shine, and that's in the riffs department. 'Little Friend', 'Pusher', 'Detangler' and 'Where' are all innocent enough numbers. Nothing amazingly outstanding, but they have their qualities that make them listenable. Should I accidently stumble across them, that is.

But overall, let's face it, we only want to hear the bands 2001 mega hit 'How You Remind Me', and this sounds nothing like that band! This is a pretty bland and uninteresting (yet inoffensive if you do happen upon it) release. Wait for them to develop their own style and things will really start to fall into place.

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