Modern rock means many things to different people, but it’s most commonly used to refer to alternative styles that popped up after the classic rock era. In this article, we’ll be going over 35 of the best modern rock bands and throwing in a few lesser-known new ones that are worth a listen.
1. Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers entered the scene in 1983, and their blend of alt-rock, funk, punk rock, and hip hop has earned them quite a few records. The band holds the record for the most number one singles, most weeks at number one, and most top-ten songs on the Billboard Alternative Rock charts. They’re also among the best-selling bands of all time with over 120 million worldwide record sales, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and are inductees of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
2. Linkin Park
Linkin Park started out as an alt-rock band that blended heavy metal and hip hop to create their unique sound. Crawling and In The End were two of their earliest songs to break into the mainstream, and by 2010, they were one of the most popular rock bands around. Linkin Park has accumulated over 100 million record sales worldwide, won two Grammy Awards, and ranked in the top 20 for Billboard’s Best Artists of the Decade list.
Incubus blends alternative rock with funk metal to create some deep, emotional songs that still rock. The band gained mainstream recognition with their third album, Make Yourself, in 1999, which produced seven charting single releases. Worldwide they’ve managed over 20 million album sales and cemented themselves as one of the best acts in the alternative and modern rock era.
Shinedown is a hard-rock group that came out of the post-grunge and alternative era. The band has released seven studio albums and charted hits like Sound of Madness and If Only You Knew. They hold the record for the most number one singles on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts with 18 and have sold over ten million albums worldwide.
5. Breaking Benjamin
Breaking Benjamin’s style has always trended towards the hard rock side of the modern and alt-rock spectrum. In their time, they’ve managed one number one hit on Billboard 200 and sold over 19 million records in the United States. You’ll recognize them quickly from songs like The Diary of Jane and I Will Not Bow.
6. Three Days Grace
Next, we have a couple of “threes” that are must-listens of modern rock. Three Days Grace started in 1992 as the band Groundswell and eventually reformed into the Three Days Grace we know and love in 1997. The band has a total of 17 number one songs on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Airplay and three number-ones on their Alternative Songs charts. Each of their first three albums went platinum or multi-platinum in both the US and Canada, in large thanks to hits like I Hate Everything About You, Animal I Have Become, and Infrared.
7. 3 Doors Down
Not to be confused with the Canadian-formed Three Days Grace, 3 Doors Down is an American alt-rock band that formed in 1996 and released its first studio album in 2000. That album, The Better Life, would go on to be certified seven-times platinum due to the ridiculous popularity of the single Kryptonite. Their second album also went multi-platinum and produced hits like Here Without You and When I’m Gone.
8. Green Day
Green Day emerged from the 1980s, and 1990s Bay Area punk scene and their first album with a major studio in 1994 would go on to sell over ten million records. By 2020, Green Day would produce thirteen studio albums and sell over 75 million records worldwide, earn 17 Grammy Award nominations and win four of them, and be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The band is still active, though they’re best known for earlier, angst-fueled releases like American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and Good Riddance.
9. Avenged Sevenfold
A7X is a mostly heavy metal rock band with over eight million record sales worldwide. They’ve had multiple albums debut at number one on the Billboard Top 200, including Nightmare in 2010 and Hail To The King in 2013. Quite a few of their songs are rather graphic, but it fits well into the aesthetic of the band and the heavy nature of their songs. A few of their singles have even been featured in the Call of Duty: Black Ops franchise. Nightmare, Welcome To The Family, and Shepherd of Fire are all stellar examples of their work.
Disturbed is another heavy metal band that has seen quite a lot of success since its inception in 1994. The band has put together a total of eight studio albums, with five of them debuting at the number one spot on the Billboard 200. Their 17 million record sales place them near the top of the most successful 21st-century rock bands as well. Most of their songs are heavy, as you would expect from a metal band, but the lyrics of those songs are always relevant and always have a deeper meaning. Down With The Sickness, Stricken, and Stupify are some of their most popular songs, but you should also check out Hey You and their cover of The Sound of Silence.
11. Papa Roach
Papa Roach was formed in 1993 and independently released music until they signed with DreamWorks Records in 1999. It turned out to be a good move, with their 2000 debut studio album Infest reaching triple-platinum. Last Resort is undeniably their best-known song, but other releases like Scars and American Dreams are just as good.
12. Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys are responsible for mainstream music, realizing that the internet is a good way to promote bands. While today that sounds normal, in the early 2000s, most recording studios relied on traditional promotion methods. Do I Wanna Know was the first single to bring them international fame, topping four separate Billboard charts. The band has won seven Brit awards, been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and landed multiple albums in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
13. Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry’s seven studio albums have netted 18 charting singles on the US Mainstream Rock Airplay chart. Before signing to a major label in 2015, the band opened for major rock acts like Def Leppard, Nickelback, and Theory of a Deadman. White Trash Millionaire, Me and Mary Jane, and Lonely Train are three of their most popular songs.
14. System Of A Down
System of a Down is a heavy metal and alt-rock band that works a lot of progressive metal into their music. Their first five studio albums produced three number one hits on Billboard 200, but they haven’t released a full album since 2005. In total, the band has racked up over 12 million worldwide record sales, been nominated for four Grammy Awards and won one, and has reached the top of the Alternative Songs charts with both Aerials and Hypnotize.
On the back of the incredible singles Bring Me To Life and My Immortal, Evanescence’s debut album would go on to sell over four million copies and earn six Grammy nominations, winning them two awards. The influence of classical and orchestral music lightens their heavy style and adds a deeper layer to their songs.
16. Rise Against
Rise Against broke the record on two Billboard charts for the most consecutive weeks at charting with their single Savior. Their original underground sound from their days as an independent band is still persistent in their recent work, though their music is a bit more radio-friendly now. Outside of music, the band is known for activism, with most of the members being active advocates for human, LGBTQIA+, and animal rights.
17. Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons went mostly under the radar until the 2012 release of their Night Visions album, which produced one of the biggest rock hits of that year, Radioactive. They became the breakthrough band of 2013 and continued to have mainstream success in the following years, leading to an impressive resume of accolades. The band has gone on to sell over 75 million records worldwide, be the first group to have four songs reach over one-billion streams online, and receive nominations and awards from the Grammys, Billboard, and the American Music Awards.
18. Theory of a Deadman
Theory of a Deadman mixes country and acoustic elements into their alternative and hard rock songs. They’ve managed to land nine singles in the top 10 of the US Mainstream Rock charts, with four number-ones during that time. Rx (Medicate), Bad Girlfriend, and Lowlife are three of their most popular songs.
19. Panic! At The Disco
Can someone please “close that door?” The emo-pop Panic! At the Disco has sold nearly ten million albums thanks to the huge influence of their hit songs like I Write Sins Not Tragedies, Nine In The Afternoon, and The Ballad of Mona Lisa. They’re one of the most notable bands to come out of the scene/emo/goth era of the 2000s and stand out in the modern rock genre for pushing the envelope of what rock music can be.
20. The Black Keys
The Black Keys are one of the biggest names in the 2000s revival of garage rock and spent most of their careers as an indie duo. Their 2010 album release Brothers finally saw them break through to find mainstream success, buoyed by the single Tighten Up which won two Grammy awards. Their 2011 album El Camino won them another two Grammys and led them to being stadium touring. Some of their most popular songs include Gold On The Ceiling, Lonely Boy, and Howlin’ For You.
Ghost is known just as well for its on-stage personas and masks as they are for their music, but both of them are spectacular. The Swedish rock band’s debut album in 2010 produced Ritual which has been ranked as one of the 50 Most Evil Songs Ever. Their major label debut album went to the number one spot on the Swedish charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album.
22. Red Sun Rising
Red Sun Rising built almost it’s entire following through self-promotion on social media, but it paid off when it began touring in 2014. The band has only released two studio albums, with the first producing three hits. They became the first band in quite a while to hit number one on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart with two tracks from a debut album with The Otherside and Emotionless, while also reaching number six with Amnesia.
23. Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet is a band that hit the ground running and never looked back. Their debut studio EP produced Highway Tune, which sat at the number one spot on Billboard’s US Mainstream Rock Airplay charts for five weeks straight. Their second EP release won a Grammy Award in 2019 for Best Rock Album and their first studio album netted them another number one single.
24. The Pretty Reckless
The Pretty Reckless became the first female-fronted band to reach five number one singles in 2020 and has continually charted songs on both the US and UK charts. Their second studio album produced their best-known songs, with singles like Heaven Knows and Messed Up World, both chart toppers.
Halestorm is one of the busiest bands in the business, playing well over 200 shows each year. The band was originally formed by lead vocalist Lizzy Hale and her brother and has gone on to win a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance and chart two top-ten albums. Singles like I Get Off, Love Bites (So Do I), and I Miss The Misery have all become iconic hard rock songs of the 2010s.
26. Highly Suspect
Highly Suspect’s debut album Mister Asylum is probably one of the most successful debuts ever. It earned them a nomination for Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards, while the single Lydia also won Best Rock Song. Their second album produced My Name Is Human and Little One which reached number one and two respectively on the US Mainstream Rock Airplay chart.
Badflower might be best known as an opening act for bands like Pop Evil, Greta Van Fleet, and Red Sun Rising, but they’re also one of the best modern rock bands you can find. Their single Ghost which made it to number two on the US Mainstream Rock Airplay chart is devastatingly emotional and relatable for anyone dealing with depression, while Heroin made it to the number-one spot.
28. The White Stripes
The White Stripes were another major part of the revival of the garage rock scene. Seven Nation Army is their most popular song, but their lo-fi approach and unique sound have earned them the number six spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the best duos of all time.
29. Dirty Honey
An iHeart Radio On The Verge Artist, Dirty Honey is one of the newest bands on the list. They became the first unsigned band to reach number one on the US Mainstream Rock Airplay chart with their single When I’m Gone in 2019, and they’re definitely a band worth keeping an eye on.
30. All Time Low
All Time Low is another band that has a grueling tour schedule, though it seems to suit them. Their eight studio albums have netted them nearly two million worldwide sales and they’re one of the leading bands of Warped Tour. By far, their most popular song has to be Dear Maria, Count Me In.
31. Kings Of Leon
If you’re looking for a blend of smooth blues, garage rock, and southern rock, look no further than Kings of Leon. The band has released seven studio albums and has been nominated for 12 Grammy Awards, winning three of them. Their best-known work is the singles Use Somebody, Sex On Fire, and Wait For Me.
32. Thirty Seconds To Mars
You might recognize Jared Leto as the Joker we don’t discuss, but he’s also one of the lead members of Thirty Seconds to Mars. The band has topped 15 million worldwide record sales and was one of the best groups of the 2000s. The Kill is one of their best songs, along with A Beautiful Lie carried their second album to certifications around the world.
33. The Smashing Pumpkins
Smashing Pumpkins were one of the most important bands of the 1980s, thanks to their help in popularizing alternative and modern rock. They layered in a lot of different sounds with their punk rock base, making them a pioneer of the entire genre. Their most popular song, 1979, is still frequently played on modern rock radio today.
34. Stone Temple Pilots
While they came up as a grunge band, Stone Temple Pilots included a lot of classic rock elements in their music. Their biggest hit is Interstate Love Song, though you’ll find similar sounds in songs like Dead and Bloated and Wicked Garden.
35. Pop Evil
Pop Evil broke into the mainstream rock scene with songs like Boss’s Daughter and Monster You Made, but they achieved their biggest success in the 2010s. Their 2015 release of their UP album brought us songs like Footsteps, Ways To Get High, and Take It All. They mix funky sounds with their songs the same way lo-fi music does to induce a nostalgia factor in your brain.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.