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Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994

We've already checked in with 1984, so let's fast forward exactly one decade.

The year in question — 1994 — was incredibly varied. It was a year of discovery and tragedy, innovation and resurrection.

It was the year when rock's long-festering underground finally collided full force with the mainstream. Though Nirvana had broken through in a massive way in 1992 with Nevermind, they (along with Pearl Jam) were the only punk-rooted bands to find big-time mainstream success during the first few years of the decade.

But with Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral, Soundgarden's Superunknown, Stone Temple Pilot's Purple and Smashing Pumpkins' Pisces Iscariot, the hazy, vague anger of grunge exploded into the mainstream. Rock was no longer about having a great time; it was about wallowing in confusion and self-doubt, looking inside yourself and seeing a muddy pit of emotions rather than simple rebellion or hooliganism.

Hair metal, for so long rock's dominant force, seemed entirely stale and out of date. Bon Jovi moved to adult contemporary, Guns N' Roses were still successful but found themselves battling with intra-band turmoil, while Motley Crue dealt with extensive drug abuse within their ranks. Hair metal had virtually died, and in its place battled numerous, increasingly small metal sub-genres.

The emergence of black metal showed the genre's more extreme side, while "alternative metal" used elements of progressive rock that formed interesting musical hybrids.

But all of these disciples of harder rock achieved increasingly great commercial success, mostly on the back of one artist, who lost his life in 1994. Kurt Cobain changed rock forever, a frontman with incredible charisma and a unique vision that would change America's musical taste buds forever.

Meanwhile, guitar heroes of old were still a force to be reckoned with in 1994. The list below features contributions from Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton. Keith Richards, David Gilmour, Tony Iommi — plus Texans Dimebag Darrell and Jimmie Vaughan, not to mention Yngwie Malmsteen and Richard Thompson.

Nineteen hundred and ninety-four was a year of transition, but much of the music made during this period continues to stand the test of time.

Below, check out our guide to 50 (OK, 51) albums that defined 1994. Remember you can click on each album cover to take a closer look!

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.