At the end of the '80s, the entire rock scene was looking a little worse for wear. For as much as the hair metal scene was fun, the entire cartoony look had gotten ridiculous to the point of self-parody. Emerging from the Northwest, grunge swooped in like a hard rock phoenix and rewrote the rules of how rock would be going forward.
Though grunge had some of the most heartfelt performances on record, you'd be hardpressed to find any virtuosos in the scene. The amount of technical expertise may not have been the biggest draw, but these guitarists were able to develop their own individualized styles outside of the usual shredder roles. Some found their groove in feedback while others just lashed out on their instruments, but you could hear the pure anger and angst being brought through with every single note.
Not only did this open up the playing field as to what a guitarist's role could be in a band, but also signaled a new regime of guitarists who didn't have to rely on studying scale exercises to be considered a genius. Grunge may be mocked for being a basic form of rock music, but as far as these guitarists go, you don't need to play a billion notes if the feel is this good.