Guitar World's 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994

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https://web.archive.org/web/20140715053900/http://www.guitarworld.com/superunknown-50-iconic-albums-defined-1994

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Hair metal, for so long rock's dominant force, seemed entirely stale and out of date.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.

Poll Results

OptionVotes
Pavement | Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain 9
Soundgarden | Superunknown 9
Nine Inch Nails | The Downward Spiral 8
Guided by Voices | Bee Thousand 5
Hole | Live Through This 5
Yngwie Malmsteem | The Seventh Sign 5
The Smashing Pumpkins | Pisces Iscariot 4
Nirvana | MTV Unplugged in New York 4
Ween | Chocolate & Cheese 4
Weezer | Weezer (Blue Album) 3
Emperor | In the Nightside Eclipse 3
Beastie Boys | Ill Communication 3
The Cranberries | No Need to Argue 2
Suede | Dog Man Star 2
Dinosaur Jr. | Without a Sound 2
Tom Petty | Wildflowers 2
Oasis | Definitely Maybe 2
Beck | Mellow Gold 2
Pink Floyd | The Division Bell 1
Queensrÿche | Promised Land 1
Sebadoh | Bakesale 1
The Rolling Stones | Voodoo Lounge 1
The Black Crowes | Amorica 1
Jeff Buckley | Grace 1
Dream Theater | Awake 1
Marilyn Manson | Portrait of an American Family 1
Meat Puppets | Too High to Die 1
Bush | Sixteen Stone 1
Stone Temple Pilots | Purple 0
Green Day | Dookie 0
Testament | Low 0
Eric Clapton | From the Cradle 0
Edge of Sanity | Purgatory Afterglow 0
Alice in Chains | Jar of Flies 0
Blur | Parklife 0
Black Sabbath | Cross Purposes 0
Bad Religion | Stranger Than Fiction 0
Mötley Crüe | Motley Crue 0
Sonic Youth | Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star 0
Megadeth | Youthanasia 0
P.O.D. | Snuff the Punk 0
Pantera | Far Beyond Driven 0
Korn | Korn 0
Pearl Jam | Vitalogy 0
NOFX | Punk in Drublic 0
Johnny Cash | American Recordings 0
R.E.M. | Monster 0
Richard Thompson | Mirror Blue 0
Jimmy Page & Robert Plant | No Quarter: Unledded 0
The Offspring | Smash 0


omar little, Monday, 2 December 2019 19:42 (eight months ago) link

(the list had 51, i had to take out one option so i took out Jimmie Vaughan)

omar little, Monday, 2 December 2019 19:43 (eight months ago) link

voted Smashing Pumpkins bc I think Billy would most want to win this poll.

Evans on Hammond (evol j), Monday, 2 December 2019 19:45 (eight months ago) link

Mötley Crüe | Motley Crue
Hahaha serious, no serious, you have 50 spots and this is one of them?

Siegbran, Monday, 2 December 2019 19:49 (eight months ago) link

voted definitely maybe for 'digsy's dinner'

A victim managed to capture evidence of the gimp (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 2 December 2019 19:50 (eight months ago) link

Bee Thousand

Maria Edgelord (cryptosicko), Monday, 2 December 2019 19:53 (eight months ago) link

Emperor

pomenitul, Monday, 2 December 2019 19:55 (eight months ago) link

Bakesale ftw

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Monday, 2 December 2019 19:56 (eight months ago) link

I don't remember 1994 being as shit as this

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 2 December 2019 19:57 (eight months ago) link

like there are good albums here but

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 2 December 2019 19:58 (eight months ago) link

Black Sabbath | Cross Purposes

there are albums on this list i like more but i can't resist an opportunity to rep tony martin black sabbath

american bradass (BradNelson), Monday, 2 December 2019 20:00 (eight months ago) link

it's either that or live through this

this list is lousy with men

american bradass (BradNelson), Monday, 2 December 2019 20:02 (eight months ago) link

I can't really fault the main argument of this list, ie that a lot of rock/metal genres hit their peaks at the same time in 1994 and that this period felt like a generational change. Despite some odd inclusions (Yngwie? POD? Clapton?) and omissions (Bolt Thrower? Darkthrone? Nick Cave?) it is a strong list of albums.

Siegbran, Monday, 2 December 2019 20:05 (eight months ago) link

Bee Thousand

Darin, Monday, 2 December 2019 20:09 (eight months ago) link

it's either that or live through this

this list is lousy with men

― american bradass (BradNelson), Monday, December 2, 2019 3:02 PM (twenty-three minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

I mean, it IS Guitar World. did they ever write about a woman who wasn't Lita Ford?

Evans on Hammond (evol j), Monday, 2 December 2019 20:26 (eight months ago) link

I don't remember 1994 being as shit as this

― mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, December 2, 2019 2:57 PM (twenty-nine minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

I was 13/14 this year so I treasure A LOT of these albums, even many of the bad ones.

Evans on Hammond (evol j), Monday, 2 December 2019 20:27 (eight months ago) link

whatever they did to Kirkwoods vocals for Too High to Die makes it the Meat Puppets album I enjoy the most. The songwriting doesn't top II, but it's close and the overall sound is a rare example of major label polish that works.

file of unknown origin (bendy), Monday, 2 December 2019 20:33 (eight months ago) link

there's .... No Need to Argue ..... that the best album here is by The Cranberries

ingredience (map), Monday, 2 December 2019 21:33 (eight months ago) link

What’s in your head....are the hooks from that album.

omar little, Monday, 2 December 2019 21:34 (eight months ago) link

I owned the Clapton blues album. He sounds like a muppet on vocals.

omar little, Monday, 2 December 2019 21:35 (eight months ago) link

no Slayer - Divine Intervention, boooo

Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:06 (eight months ago) link

TORE DOWN

Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:07 (eight months ago) link

Evans on Hammond (evol j) at 2:26 2 Dec 19

it's either that or live through this

this list is lousy with men

― american bradass (BradNelson), Monday, December 2, 2019 3:02 PM (twenty-three minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

I mean, it IS Guitar World. did they ever write about a woman who wasn't Lita Ford?

Jennifer Batten was a rare woman who was well known in the classic guitar mag/guitar for guitar players zone

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:09 (eight months ago) link

anyway, voted Yngwie. guitar poll, gotta go with the best

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:10 (eight months ago) link

Instinctively Unplugged but I think I'll chuck a vote to Amorica, which is patchy but utterly beautiful in places (Descending, Wiser Time, Non-Fiction).

Life is a meaningless nightmare of suffering...save string (Chinaski), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:13 (eight months ago) link

m@tt OTM

brigadier pudding (DJP), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:14 (eight months ago) link

My only regret is that I have but one vote to cast for Yngwie

brigadier pudding (DJP), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:14 (eight months ago) link

no Slayer - Divine Intervention, boooo
― Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal)

That was supposed to be a direct throwback to Reign In Blood so doesn't really fit in an albums-that-define-1994 list, tbh.

Siegbran, Monday, 2 December 2019 22:19 (eight months ago) link

Guitar poll, went with the one chord wonder that is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ5yKJlhbiA

dorsalstop, Monday, 2 December 2019 22:26 (eight months ago) link

tbh I don't think Motley Crue or Yngwie fit either.

my answer was half-serious, but I don't really buy DI as a RIB throwback, as the two had different aims. Unlike RIB, DI doesn't have a "crossover" feel whatsoever. and while RIB's focus was 10 ferocious high energy tracks that largely segued into each other, Divine seems more interested in separating each cut, has quite a few slower numbers in there.

Feels more like a cousin to Haunting the Chapel or Hell Awaits in terms of its increased technicality when compared to the previous two albums, though it doesn't quite have the black heart of those two efforts.

I do remember though it was def an album that appeared a lot in the OTHER Guitar Magazine, and piqued my curiosity, sheerly due to the artwork.

Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:26 (eight months ago) link

xpost

Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:26 (eight months ago) link

where's Warren G - G Funk Era

Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:27 (eight months ago) link

where's any hiphop at all?

in a total troll vote, i'm going with division bell.👍

Totally different head. Totally. (Austin), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:36 (eight months ago) link

lol duh guitar thread

Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal), Monday, 2 December 2019 22:53 (eight months ago) link

I don't really buy DI as a RIB throwback

After the expansive South Of Heaven, the even more expansive Seasons In The Abyss, the ultra-expansive double-cd-live-album and a four year hiatus, DI was definitely marketed at the time as the big comeback/throwback-to-basics with its 36 minutes and mostly fast/extreme songs, I'm pretty sure I remember them explicitly mentioning this in interviews and that's how it was mostly reviewed at the time.

Siegbran, Monday, 2 December 2019 22:57 (eight months ago) link

I get that this was the angle pushed, I just disagree with it from a musical standpoint. it was definitely a 'return to less commercial music', but I don't think they ever made an RIB 2, no matter how they marketed it.

Jordan Pickford LOLverdrive (Neanderthal), Monday, 2 December 2019 23:02 (eight months ago) link

I don't remember 1994 being as shit as this
― mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, December 2, 2019 2:57 PM (twenty-nine minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink
I was 13/14 this year so I treasure A LOT of these albums, even many of the bad ones.
Evans on Hammond (evol j) at 8:27 2 Dec 1

I was 14/15 and still have many favourites from this year, most of them not listed here.

mfktz (Camaraderie at Arms Length), Monday, 2 December 2019 23:38 (eight months ago) link

Voted Buckley. If he hadn't died, who knows the kind of impact he has in rock or pop. Grace was huge for me personally, and felt like the beginnings of something more, his talent felt that huge.

octobeard, Tuesday, 3 December 2019 00:51 (eight months ago) link

My favorite album here by far is the dark damp dramatic Dog Man Star

brimstead, Tuesday, 3 December 2019 00:54 (eight months ago) link

Best guitar solo on it is prob “we are the pigs”

brimstead, Tuesday, 3 December 2019 00:55 (eight months ago) link

This will always be Superunknown.

Mazzy Tsar (PBKR), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 02:10 (eight months ago) link

It has so many different kinds of heavy.

Mazzy Tsar (PBKR), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 02:11 (eight months ago) link

can't believe they left off groundwork's "today we will not be invisible nor silent"

note that high rise's "live" was also released in '94

that said, i'd argue that the iconic guitar album of the year is s.e. rogie's "dead men don't smoke marijuana"

honorable mention goes to the only 7" by the insensible eggs and sonny sharrock's "space ghost coast to coast" ep

weirdest omission is kyuss; i can see not finding time for incantation's timeless "mortal throne of nazarene", but "welcome to sky valley"? seriously i don't even fuckin' _like_ kyuss and that one's a classic.

Agnes Motörhead (rushomancy), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 02:42 (eight months ago) link

how true

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 03:55 (eight months ago) link

S U P E R U N K N O W N

j., Tuesday, 3 December 2019 04:15 (eight months ago) link

NIN vs Pavement vs Pumpkins, I think. Leaning toward Pumpkins. I don't know that Richard Thompson, though.

No language just sound (Sund4r), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 04:48 (eight months ago) link

bee thousand

ciderpress, Tuesday, 3 December 2019 05:49 (eight months ago) link

Pisces Iscariot duh

💠 (crüt), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 05:53 (eight months ago) link

Feel like giving Downward Spiral some live, but lots of good stuff on this list.

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 06:26 (eight months ago) link

Ill Communication, for "Tough Guy" and "Heart Attack Man".

fetter, Tuesday, 3 December 2019 12:13 (eight months ago) link

Pisces Iscariot

the oxford book of chaos (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 12:33 (eight months ago) link

These days I staunchly believe that "Frail & Bedazzled"/"Hello Kitty Kat"/"Starla" are p much the pinnacle of grunge

the oxford book of chaos (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 3 December 2019 12:34 (eight months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Friday, 13 December 2019 00:01 (seven months ago) link

Best album here is Chocolate and Cheese, even though that one’s not all that guitar-heavy.

Mr. Snrub, Friday, 13 December 2019 00:49 (seven months ago) link

A good advert for Dean Ween’s versatility though

Master of Treacle, Friday, 13 December 2019 00:57 (seven months ago) link

Voting Slothfingers

calstars, Friday, 13 December 2019 01:24 (seven months ago) link

Or maybe not. Zing crashing when I try to vote. Hive mind telling me no

calstars, Friday, 13 December 2019 01:25 (seven months ago) link

Disappointed not to see the Rollins Band's Weight on this list. Chris Haskett is a really underrated guitarist - his ability to combine funk-metal with art-noise, Fripp-esque prog and jazz fusion puts him way ahead of a lot of the dudes listed here.

shared unit of analysis (unperson), Friday, 13 December 2019 01:31 (seven months ago) link

Misread this as Guitar Wolf's 50 Iconic Albums of 1994 and I was like FUCK YEAH! Run Wolf Run! Kung Fu Ramone! Jett Fucking Beer!

Colonel Poo, Friday, 13 December 2019 01:33 (seven months ago) link

P.O.D. existed in 1994. I learned something today.

billstevejim, Friday, 13 December 2019 01:56 (seven months ago) link

this is the same year Under the Pink came out. I'd have voted for that. Otherwise the right answer is Ill Communication

akm, Friday, 13 December 2019 02:26 (seven months ago) link

I first heard P.O.D. before they crossed over to the mainstream. they were huge in the Christian market at the time. I remember, back when I was a fundie and all of my musical purchases were controlled by mine parents, I tried to see if there was any cool metal that I could get at the Christian music store.

they sounded a bit more like Korn back then and didn't make me want to vomit up an intestine

master of nuggets (Neanderthal), Friday, 13 December 2019 02:30 (seven months ago) link

this was the 'other' Christian 'metal' album I listened to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtUbcmfiXfk&list=PLh2Jxj-z_-3eHTEcOeQzRkM6uvGUkpWyi

master of nuggets (Neanderthal), Friday, 13 December 2019 02:31 (seven months ago) link

ahh never mind, wasn't important

master of nuggets (Neanderthal), Friday, 13 December 2019 02:32 (seven months ago) link

kind of a ridiculous inclusion, really. nobody outside of that scene repped for P.O.D. then.

feel like Offspring - Smash might get my vote. everybody at my school listened to them, and you got clowned if you didn't like them.

"Self Esteem" had the whole "bass only during the verse" that Nirvana brought back into fashion, everybody sung the lyrics then, everybody sings them now.

and pretty much everyone of my classmates loved singing the part in "Bad Habit", SOMETHING'S ODD, FEEL LIKE I'M GOD YOU STUPID DUMB SHIT GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKER.

master of nuggets (Neanderthal), Friday, 13 December 2019 04:17 (seven months ago) link

OTM. I remember singing along w Bad Habit on the school bus, I guess on a boombox? And that still gets stuck in my head on occasion, very much against my will.

I turned 12 in 1994 and it's crazy how many of these albums I remember owning and/or loving

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Friday, 13 December 2019 05:51 (seven months ago) link

yeah it was the first full year I engaged with mainstream music or music at all, really. I remember these all vividly, they all evoke specific memories

Dingle Kringle (Neanderthal), Friday, 13 December 2019 05:54 (seven months ago) link

Somewhere I even have a pristine CD of Eric Clapton From the Cradle floating around!

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Friday, 13 December 2019 06:02 (seven months ago) link

not sure which one i hate more: Page & Plant or The Eagles "Hell Freezes Over"

billstevejim, Friday, 13 December 2019 07:16 (seven months ago) link

get over it

Dingle Kringle (Neanderthal), Friday, 13 December 2019 07:18 (seven months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Saturday, 14 December 2019 00:01 (seven months ago) link

Strong showing for Yngwie.

Siegbran, Sunday, 15 December 2019 14:49 (seven months ago) link

ILX unleashed the fucking crazy

100 Percent That Grinch (Neanderthal), Sunday, 15 December 2019 14:53 (seven months ago) link

voted /definitely maybe/ for 'digsy's dinner'


robbed

WHEEL! OF! FORESKIN! (bizarro gazzara), Sunday, 15 December 2019 14:57 (seven months ago) link

FP for the Oasis ref

100 Percent That Grinch (Neanderthal), Sunday, 15 December 2019 14:58 (seven months ago) link


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