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Post-grunge is a derivative of Grunge music that became popular in the late 90s. The genre is primarily marked by its use of the apathetic, droning vocals, downtuned guitars and Hard Rock/Punk aesthetics commonly associated with Grunge, but also removing the unusual structures and prog-like time signatures that Grunge was also known for, then slowing it down. In other words, taking, running-with and exploiting the more commercially viable qualities of Grunge while watering down its oddity and offending harshness. Yeah, this genre doesn't go over well with the underground music scene, and its large popularity is sometimes accused of causing Alternative Rock to lose its experimental qualities, not to mention leading to numerous bands previously snatched up by major labels after Nirvana's breakthrough being unceremoniously dumped[1].

The genre has been known to use the rock-like compositions and structure often rejected by their predecessors in Grunge, modernized with sombre, brooding lyrics. In this sense, the movement could be considered (ironically) the Spiritual Successor to Hair Metal, whose pop beats and polished production brought heavy rock to a widespread audience (Post-grunge is also well known for its "soul-searching" ballads). Ironically, many post-grunge bands take more influence from Poison, Cinderella and Whitesnake than Nirvana; post-grunge players generally think of the old grunge-greats as idols/heroes rather than influences, with more of an interest in stylistic emulation over artistic aspiration (the subtle difference between a direct or indirect influence from grunge can affect how well-received a post-grunge band is, both critically and to their audience). Post-Grunge tends to focus more on lyrical structure than music, often the opposite stance of early grunge artists. Though the genre is rooted primarily in Alternative Rock, make no mistake: Post-grunge was tailor-made for the mainstream [2] In essence, it took no influence from what Grunge was, but took every influence from what Grunge became: a commercial darling.

The rise of Post-grunge has gone to dominate and even embed itself in the standardly recognized sound of Hard Rock as most people can hear, creating the assumption that Post-grunge is the only form of modern rock. This has had the flip-side effect of some of the more straight-forward, contemporary rock groups [3] being lumped in with post-grunge, despite having no or next-to no alternative qualities in their rock[4]. There is a bit of cross-over involved as well: Saliva, Shinedown, 3 Doors Down and Chris Daughtry like to dabble in/pay tribute to "regular" hard rock when they can, adding to this confusion. It seems the only way to escape this is to play very old-fashioned retro-rock, such as Garage Rock revival, new Blues Rock, neo-psychedelia, traditional-metal revival or modernized Power Pop.

For better or worse, the genre's stylings have entered most current popular music to some degree, and it isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Also note that (repeat after me) good Post-grunge does exist. Try to avoid the particularly grating examples.

Bands typified as Post-grunge:

First-wave Post-grunge:

New Millennium style post-grunge:

  • 3 Doors Down (likely one of the lesser-hated examples)
  • 12 Stones
  • Art of Dying
  • The Calling
  • Creed (one of the more infamous examples)
  • Crossfade
  • Daughtry (widely recognized as one of the heaviest things to come out of American Idol)
  • Default
  • Matchbox 20
  • Nickelback
  • Papa Roach (later work)
  • Puddle Of Mudd (although they have strong Alt Metal influences as well)
  • Seether
  • Switchfoot (Probably the most critically acclaimed next to The Foo Fighters)
  • Tantric (with a heavier emphasis on acoustic guitars than most bands)
  • Theory of a Deadman

Post-grunge/Alt-metal crossover:

Some post-grunge bands take more after Tool and Alice in Chains than Pearl Jam or Nirvana, while some like to add a heavier edge to their sound as not to be lumped with their softer post-grunge contemporaries while maintaining their alternative status. Thus, the overlap with Alternative Metal was inevitable. Note that all or most post-grunge bands fall under the Hard Rock umbrella (a genre related to alt-metal and Heavy Metal), but post-grunge bands with similarities to metal aren't necessarily an example of alt-metal. Given their similar pop-leanings, normally when a post-grunge band makes their sound heavier they become nu-metal rather than pure alt-metal; achieving the sound of alt-metal requires a distinctly guitar-driven, alternative rock approach with less of the aggression and simplicity associated with nu-metal[5]. In other words, Papa Roach, who practiced more standard-fare nu-metal early in their career only to switch to post-grunge later, wouldn't be an example of post-grunge/alt-metal crossover. Post-grunge/alt-metal crossover bands melodically tend to follow more in line with classic grunge, Alternative Rock and NWOBHM on the mid end of the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness. These include:

  • Alter Bridge (made of Creed minus Scott Stapp... and they became better for it. Possibly the only post-grunge band in existence who overlaps with Progressive Rock and Speed Metal).
  • Breaking Benjamin (have had run-ins with the nu-metal label, but they generally are not considered to be part of it.)
  • Chevelle (most obvious example of the Tool influence within Alt-metal/post-grunge)
  • Drowning Pool (third album onward)
  • Flyleaf (has the distinction of being the only female-fronted band listed here).
  • Godsmack (most obvious example of the Alice in Chains influence within Alt-metal/post-grunge)
  • Onesidezero (another Tool influenced band)
  • Presence (last album only)
  • Red ( A Christian Rock example)
  • Saliva (bordering on nu-metal for their early work)
  • Shinedown (varies by the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness for which genre they fit in more)
  • SOil (not coincidentally, their original singer Ryan McCombs went on to join Drowning Pool and play on their third album)
  • Staind (have had run-ins with the nu-metal label)
  • Stone Sour (Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor occasionally lapses into this genre when singing melodically)
  • Taproot (have had run-ins with the nu-metal label)
  • Three Days Grace (later work showcases their post-grunge side more)
  • Trapt (as mentioned above about modern rock groups being labeled post-grunge, Trapt is probably one of the many victims of this)

Here's a way to pass the time: count how many of these bands:

  1. like Boredoms, Butthole Surfers and Jawbox, to name a few
  2. Notice that Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks' record-holders are almost entirely post-grunge bands.
  3. The kind who take their influence from the deep-seated 70's and 80's hard rock staples (Black Stone Cherry, Rev Theory, Hinder, Saving Abel, Buckcherry, My Darkest Days, etc.)
  4. Nickelback is a particularly odd case of this, taking on a more stadium/pop sound in their later albums and thus joining this group while still carrying the post-grunge label as an Artifact Title, probably because of their lead singer's scratchy voice
  5. Also note that post-grunge/alt-metal bands tend to sound very far from the "normal", Guns N' Roses/Bon Jovi-style hard rock described earlier, aside from the odd Genre Shift