10 Best Hard Rock Albums of 1994
The year 1994 was one of the best for rock music, offering a variety of options for those who liked it loud and upbeat. It was the year that punk re-entered the mainstream, grunge continued its dominance and Woodstock proved to be a tipping point for several bands on the verge of massive popularity.
With that in mind, we flash back to glimpse this landmark year in rock music at its peak and provide you with the 10 Best Hard Rock Albums of 1994.
Coming off of the hit albums ‘Ten’ and ‘Vs.,’ Pearl Jam were on a hot streak. While ‘Vitalogy’ didn’t live up to its predecessors, the album was still one of the strongest releases of 1994. ‘Better Man’ has been the disc’s most enduring track, while ‘Spin the Black Circle’ provided the band’s first Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. Songs like ‘Corduroy,’ ‘Not for You’ and ‘Immortality’ also struck a chord with listeners.
It’s rare that a band goes eight discs into their career before reaching that big album! But such was the case for Bad Religion with 1994’s ‘Stranger Than Fiction.’ Jumping to Atlantic Records brought a larger audience to such standout cuts as ’21st Century (Digital Boy),’ ‘Infected’ and the title cut. The Greg Graffin-Brett Gurewitz songwriting partnership was on fire with ‘Stranger Than Fiction.’ The disc would become the band’s first gold record in the U.S.
A late 1994 release, Bush’s ‘Sixteen Stone’ showed that the dirty grungy sound had crossed the pond to the U.K. Gavin Rossdale‘s crew immediate connected with ‘Everything Zen,’ and then followed with a slew of hit singles. The rockers ‘Little Things’ and ‘Comedown’ were pure ear candy, while ‘Glycerine’ offered a more mellow change of pace before ‘Machine Head’ finished the run in 1996. These Brits earned their spot on the Best Hard Rock Albums of 1994.
Hole really left their stamp on the music scene in 1994. While there had been some sentiment that they rode Nirvana‘s coattails early on, that idea was quickly tossed aside after ‘Live Through This’ arrived. Courtney Love was simply a force to be reckoned with as the attitude-filled tracks ‘Miss World,’ ‘Doll Parts’ and ‘Violet’ rocked listeners to the core. Songs like ‘Asking for It’ and ‘Softer, Softest’ also connected with listeners, and Hole established themselves as one of the more kick-ass bands in rock.
Stone Temple Pilots burst on the scene in 1992, but showed no signs of a sophomore slump with 1994’s ‘Purple.’ They had the benefit of the bluesy lead single ‘Big Empty’ getting early buzz thanks to an MTV Unplugged performance and ‘The Crow’ soundtrack inclusion. But things just picked up from there. ‘Vasoline’ rocked radio in the summer of ’94, while ‘Interstate Love Song’ followed and became the standout single. ‘Unglued’ and ‘Pretty Penny’ also earned some spins, making ‘Purple’ one of the band’s most complete records.
In a case of less is more, Alice in Chains rocked 1994 with their EP, ‘Jar of Flies.’ Though only filled with seven songs (including one instrumental), ‘Jar of Flies’ was no less impactful. ‘No Excuses’ topped the rock charts, while ‘I Stay Away,’ backed with violins, is one of the band’s most powerful tracks. And while it was not released as a single, ‘Nutshell’ has become one of the band’s most popular songs. The ‘Jar of Flies’ EP may not be a full disc, but definitely stands among thebest hard rock releases of 1994.
1994 was the year that punk made a comeback and The Offspring were one of the bands that pushed it back into the musical mainstream. The group’s third album, ‘Smash,’ proved to be their breakout, led by the single ‘Come Out and Play,’ with seemingly everyone singing the line, “You gotta keep ’em separated.” But it didn’t stop there, as ‘Self Esteem,’ ‘Gotta Get Away’ and ‘Bad Habit’ kept fans rocking over the next year. ‘Smash’ has stood the test of time and remains as popular today as it did 20 years ago.
Soundgarden had already established themselves in the rock world by the time 1994 rolled around, but ‘Superunknown’ catapulted them to the top of the heap. The heavily percussive ‘Spoonman’ kicked things off in the spring of ’94, while ‘Black Hole Sun’ proved to be one of the songs of the summer. Chris Cornell‘s vocals on ‘The Day I Tried to Live’ made it a fan favorite, and ‘My Wave’ also generated some love, while ‘Fell on Black Days’ proved to be the third standout single from the album.
If you didn’t know Nine Inch Nails before 1994, you definitely did by years end. Trent Reznor‘s destructive masterpiece ‘The Downward Spiral’ was filled with the fury fans had been waiting for. The electro-funk, curse-filled single ‘Closer’ was inescapable in ’94, while brutal tracks such as ‘March of the Pigs’ and ‘Mr. Self Destruct’ were pure mayhem! The disc also featured the deeply personal album closer ‘Hurt,’ which also later became a hit for Johnny Cash.
While grunge may have dominated radio in 1994, it’s hard to deny the impact that Green Day had in bringing something different to the table. After bubbling under for a few years, the band emerged with a string of hits like ‘Longview,’ ‘Basket Case,’ ‘Welcome to Paradise,’ ‘When I Come Around’ and ‘She’ that not only established them, but also influenced a new generation of punk rock loving bands. The combination of the music, the success and the influence makes Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ the top hard rock album of 1994.