Rock music evolved from the blues in the 1950s and stayed one of the most popular music genres. If you listen to modern rock bands, they don’t sound exactly the same as those original artists. Bands put their own spin on the style, so you’re sure to find something to love on this list of the best modern rock bands ever.
Dave Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana until Kurt Cobain died. At that point, he recorded an album by himself but didn’t want anyone to know it was his. When the album was a hit, Grohl found musicians to form a full band.
The group started in 1994 and kept going strong until 2022 when drummer Taylor Hawkins died. The band is in limbo, but their catalog remains timeless.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers formed in 1983, but you won’t remember them from any list of 80s bands because their sound was so different. Their sound includes elements of punk and funk, and critics credit them for influencing rap rock and nu metal.
The band has sold over 100 million records throughout its career. They continue to release new music and tour regularly.
Radiohead is an English band that came together in 1985 and continues to release new music and tour today. “Creep” was their debut single in 1992 and remains one of their most popular songs. The band uses different styles on each album and has tried sounds such as:
The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips have a modern sound due to the psychedelic influence on their music. They started as an indie band in the 80s before releasing their first major album in 1992. The band puts on an energetic live show and holds a Guinness World Record for the most concerts in 24 hours.
Dirty Honey is a young rock band that sounds like a band from the 70s. Critics have compared their sound and attitude to Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. They had a hit single before they even signed a record label. They started touring with Slash and opened for The Who, KISS, and Guns N’ Roses.
Royal Blood is a rock duo from England. They use a variety of classic rock and electronics to get a full-band sound. Royal Blood released their first album in 2014 and their latest in 2021. On tours, they’ve opened for artists like Iggy Pop, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Jimmy Page.
The Struts are another young rock band that produces a sound beyond their years. Their style comes from classic influences like Queen, The Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, and more. You can see this influence in lead singer Luke Spiller’s glam rock outfits and attitude.
The Struts released their first single in 2012 and went out on tour, opening for The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, and Guns N’ Roses.
Jane’s Addiction came out in the 1990s as one of the first alternative rock bands and quickly became popular for their unique sound. They’ve gone on hiatus several times throughout the years but are currently together, producing new music and touring. This band started Lollapalooza in 1991, which remains one of the biggest rock festivals.
Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine is a politically outspoken band formed in 1991 and still performing to this day. The band has gone on hiatus over the years as members take on side projects, especially lead singer Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello. Rage Against the Machine has a unique style of rap rock with pounding bass lines.
Nirvana was a rock trio from the Pacific Northwest. Kurt Cobain sang and played guitar, Krist Novoselic played bass, and Dave Grohl was on drums. The band blew up in the late 1980s, ushering grunge into the mainstream. Their sound was a mix of punk, pop, and rock, unlike anything that had topped the charts previously.
The band released three albums before the death of Cobain. His death drove up record sales, but the band opted to stop performing instead of finding another singer.
Weezer’s first album, released in 1993, had a pop-rock sound with several hit singles. They went for a darker vibe on their second album, which didn’t have much success. Their later albums went back to their signature pop style, and their singles kept reaching higher on the charts. Members have released solo work throughout the years, but the band is still together.
Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots emerged in the late 1980s as a grunge rock band. Their first album came out in 1992, and their sound evolved to more experimental rock over the years. You can hear many different styles on each track of the same album, giving them broad appeal.
Singer Scott Weiland notoriously battled with addiction throughout the band’s career. He died of an overdose in 2015, but the band still records and performs with new singers.
Soundgarden formed in Seattle and helped usher in the grunge era. They released several albums in the late 80s that didn’t garner attention. Their first major release was Badmotorfinger in 1991, with three singles hitting the Billboard charts. Singles from the follow-up album, Superunknown, won Grammy Awards.
The band broke up in 1997 and reformed in 2010, releasing a final studio album. Singer Chris Cornell died in 2017, and the band chose to disband instead of finding a new singer.
Green Day is a punk rock band that released singles from an independent label in the late 80s and early 90s. In 1994, they released their first major album and became an instant success. Grunge was the prominent rock style at the time, so their pop-punk attitude was refreshingly different.
The band is still actively releasing new music and touring. A musical version of their 2004 album American Idiot brought them a new audience.
The Strokes became a big band in the early 2000s as rock fans wanted something new. They revitalized the indie rock genre with the release of their debut album, Is This It. The band was on hiatus from 2005 to 2010, releasing a new album in 2011. Their 2020 comeback record won Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards.
Shinedown released their first album in 2003, bringing hard rock back to the mainstream. Leave a Whisper had four hit singles, and the band started touring extensively with bands like Seether and Van Halen. Their second album was an even bigger hit, which led to them opening for rock icons Godsmack and Rob Zombie.
The band continues to release new music, with 2022 seeing the success of their seventh album. Shinedown combines classic rock, nu metal, alternative, and grunge.
Fall Out Boy
The members of Fall Out Boy were originally hardcore punk musicians, but the band took on a pop-punk style to attract a broader audience. Their debut album in 2003 paved the way for other punk rock bands. Their second album had two hit singles that crossed over on the Billboard charts. After a short hiatus, the band was back in 2013 with new music and still performs.
Breaking Benjamin formed in 1999 and became popular in the early 2000s with the surge of heavy rock bands. They have a darker sound than many rock bands from that period and frequently re-record acoustic versions of their emotional songs. The band has six albums out and is still touring together.
Garbage is an American rock band with a Scottish singer. Shirley Manson has a signature voice that propelled this band into rock stardom. It’s one of the few modern rock bands with no lineup changes over the years. All band members work together to write the songs on their seven albums.
Linkin Park formed in 1996 but didn’t release an album until 2000. Hybrid Theory was a huge hit due to its unique nu metal style of rap lyrics and hard rock background. Over albums, they explored different sounds, adding electronic elements before going more heavy metal and even trying pop.
The band paused recording after lead singer Chester Bennington died in 2017. They ultimately decided to stop recording under the name Linkin Park out of respect to Bennington.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Formed in 2000, Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a trio fronted by singer Karen O. The band has an alternative rock sound that they explore in different ways on each album. Some are post-punk, others are dance hits, and some are gritty and rough. The band has a lot of award nominations under its belt but usually gets nudged out by more mainstream acts.
Incubus began in 1991 and released two albums before their breakout record, Make Yourself, in 1999. They’ve recorded eight albums and several EPs, continuing to put out new music today. Lead singer Brandon Boyd also releases solo projects periodically.
Each Incubus album has a slightly different sound since the band tries styles such as alternative, electronic music, post-grunge, trip-hop, and more.
The Smashing Pumpkins
The Smashing Pumpkins formed in 1988 but have gone through many lineup changes over the years. During a time when punk and grunge ruled the airwaves, the band stood out for their goth rock and dream pop style. Billy Corgan, the vocalist and songwriter, writes anguished lyrics that pair nicely with the band’s darker sound.
Metallica started in 1981 as a heavy metal band. Critics call the band one of the “Big Four” hard rock bands, along with Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. But Metallica is the biggest name of those four that has stuck around and become most popular. Over the years, they have dabbled in hard rock and mainstream rock, garnering a large fan base and staying relevant.
System of a Down
System of a Down started in 1994 but didn’t break into mainstream rock until 2001, with their album Toxicity. The thrash metal band toured with Slipknot before releasing Steal This Album! For several years, band members worked on solo projects but came back to System of a Down in 2010. They’re currently working together to record new music and tour.
OK Go is an indie rock band known for their unique approaches to music videos. They first broke into the mainstream in 2006 with their treadmill video for “Here It Goes Again.” They released albums and singles before that, and many since, but it remains their trademark song.
They continue to release innovative videos, including making a warehouse-sized Rube Goldberg machine and moving in zero gravity.
Imagine Dragons have a unique pop-rock sound that has helped them stay at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. They started making music in 2008 and released their first album in 2012. Since then, they’ve released five more albums and have won countless awards, including a Grammy and MTV Video Music Award.
The Killers formed in 2001 and released their debut album in 2004. Hot Fuss had a new wave sound and produced four popular singles for the band. The band has since released six more albums and is currently working on another. Anytime the band is on hiatus, the members launch their own solo projects in different styles.
Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots started in 2009 and won a Grammy Award for their song “Stressed Out.” They’ve released six albums in total and have toured with Neon Trees and Fall Out Boy. The band members grew up listening to Christian rock and hiding their punk and hip hop albums. Those sounds all influence the band’s current sound, which is electropop, alternative, and rap rock.
Panic! at the Disco
Panic! at the Disco recorded demos while the members were still high school students. They have a pop-rock style that has gained a broad fan base over four studio albums. In 2016, singer Brandon Urie announced that the band members had left or resorted to touring only. The band is now just a solo project for Urie, though he continues to tour and release new music.
Evanescence is a hard rock band formed in 1995, though they didn’t release a major label album until 2003. Singer Amy Lee also plays piano, giving a classical, melodic sound to the heavy rock backdrop. The band had hit after hit but went on hiatus in 2012. By 2015, they were back making music and touring. They have five albums out.
Korn is a nu metal band that started in 1993, credited for bringing that genre to the mainstream airwaves. Over the years, they’ve released 14 albums and 48 singles. While many nu metal bands emerged and flared out quickly, Korn has staying power and still releases new music. They’ve toured with Deftones, Ozzy Osbourne, and Incubus.
Matchbox Twenty released their first album in 1996 and had several hit singles. Their second album fared even better, and they continued their upward trajectory for two more albums. Though the last album came out in 2012, the band is still together. They pushed back their 2020 tour due to the pandemic, but they plan to hit the road before long.
R.E.M. started in the 80s as a unique alternative rock band. Michael Stipe had a unique voice that demanded attention from upcoming bands like Nirvana. The band recorded 15 albums, with their last release in 2011. Though the band isn’t currently touring, their legacy influenced countless musicians. That impact ensures they’re one of the best modern rock bands.
Coldplay is a British rock band with a classical, symphonic sound. They’re known for melodic music and philosophical lyrics. The band formed in 1996 and released its first album in 2000. Coldplay’s singles became immediate hits and went on to win several awards, including a Grammy. They’ve released nine albums and continue to play together.
Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind is an alternative rock band that had huge hits in the 1990s and early 2000s. They’re a mix of grunge and pop that made them immensely popular on mainstream radio. Singer Stephan Jenkins cites The Clash and Jane’s Addiction as influences, which you can hear in the band’s style.
They’ve released seven albums and planned to tour before the pandemic hit. They performed online streaming shows and plan to tour soon.
Godsmack is a heavy metal band that formed in 1995 and broke into the mainstream. They released three albums in a row that hit number one on the Billboard chart. Godsmack often played the metal festival Ozzfest, which helped them reach an assortment of rock fans. They have seven albums out and are recording their eighth.
The Pixies are an alternative rock band that combines elements of punk and surf rock for a unique sound. Their songs typically follow a loud, quiet, and loud structure that draws in the listener. The band formed in 1986 and played until 1993. By 2004, they were together again and continued to record music and tour, with eight albums to their name.
Staind released their first album in 1996 but didn’t break into the mainstream until their third album in 2001. Touring with bands such as Limp Bizkit and Sevendust helped Staind find their audience. Their sound was a combination of nu metal and post-grunge that rock fans in the 2000s loved. The band has taken several breaks over the years but reunited in 2019 to tour.
The Offspring formed in 1984 and has evolved over the years from a punk and ska band into hardcore punk, alternative, and modern rock styles. This willingness to try new styles has kept The Offspring in the mainstream. They’ve released ten albums, including their latest, Let the Bad Times Roll, in 2021.
Audioslave was a rock supergroup that came together in 2001. Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell partnered up with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine when both bands were on hiatus. Though they initially had elements from each band, they quickly developed their own sound.
By the time they disbanded in 2007, the group made three albums and 14 singles. They performed a one-off show in 2017, but Chris Cornell died soon after, so they never reunited. Still, they made a huge impact in such a short time.
Puddle of Mudd
Puddle of Mudd is a modern rock band with elements of grunge, heavy metal, and alternative rock. This unique combination led to them having several hit singles over the years. Puddle of Mudd has toured with Linkin Park, Stone Temple Pilots, and Papa Roach. The band released five albums, the latest in 2019, though they’re not currently touring.
Goo Goo Dolls
Goo Goo Dolls have had so many crossover hits that a lot of people think they’re a pop band, but their roots are pure rock. They’ve released 13 albums, and 19 of their singles have hit the top ten. The band won several Billboard Music Awards and countless Grammy Award nominations. Goo Goo Dolls are currently working on their 14th album.
Saliva released an indie album in 1997 but didn’t hit the Billboard charts until Every Six Seconds came out in 2001. They had the heavy metal/nu metal hybrid like many other rock bands at that time, so they quickly found a solid listener base. Saliva has released 11 albums, the latest from 2018, and is currently touring.
Fuel formed in 1989 but didn’t have a hit until 1998. At that point, each album had at least one major hit and solidified the band’s place on the rock charts. They went through many lineup changes between 2004 and 2007 and had a new lead singer during that period. By 2010, original singer Brett Scallions was back but left again in 2020 for solo projects.
The band released an album in 2021 and is playing festivals with bands like KISS, Papa Roach, Puddle of Mudd, and more.
Chevelle started in 1995 and hit it big in 2002. Their rock style fit in perfectly with bands like Tool, Fuel, and The Smashing Pumpkins, so they quickly found a large fan base. Chevelle has nine albums out, with the latest released in 2021. They’re currently and constantly touring so fans can hear their music live.
Theory of a Deadman
Theory of a Deadman came together in 1999, right as mainstream radio started playing modern and alternative rock. That’s exactly their style, so they did well. Over time, their albums incorporated elements of country and acoustic, though they kept their post-grunge roots. They released seven albums and planned to tour after the pandemic.
Tantric formed in 1998 when three former members of Days of the New met singer Hugo Ferreira. Their first few albums had alternative and grunge vibes due to Ferreira’s baritone voice. The style then progressed to heavier rock when the three Days of the New members left.
The band is still making music, though Ferreira is the only original member. The lineup changes frequently, but his voice helps the band stick to their modern rock style.
Oasis started in 1993 as an indie band before hitting it big in 1994. They've always fought and broke up but managed to release seven albums before disbanding in 2009. Despite not currently performing, the band had a major impact on music and remains one of the best modern rock bands. Coldplay and The Killers both cite Oasis as inspiration.
Deftones is a dark alternative rock band formed in 1988. Despite their metal roots, the band experiments with different sounds, which helps them stay relevant. Fans also appreciate the emotional lyrics that are just ambiguous enough to allow listeners to draw their own conclusions.
They’ve released nine albums, the most recent in 2020, and plan to tour the world in support of the latest record. When Deftones aren’t recording, most members have their own side projects.
The band 311 came together in 1988 and took the charts by storm. They’re an eclectic mix of rap rock, funk, reggae, and nu metal. The band released 13 albums over the years, with the most recent record in 2019. The band is on tour to celebrate their 30th anniversary but plans to release a new album once they’re off the road.
Top Modern Rock Bands, Final Thoughts
Modern rock band offer a lot of different music, from hard rock anthems to emotional ballads. Rock encompasses punk, alternative, classic rock, and more. The bands on this list are some of the best you’ll hear on the radio and streaming outlets today.