1998 wasn't the most important year ever for heavy and alternative music, but it was still an interesting transitional period; death metal was at its peak, grunge was quickly fading and nu-metal was slowly finding its foothold as the next worldwide craze. Let's take a look at some of the best 1998 releases that have stood the test of time and still get frequent spins today!
KoЯn - Follow the Leader
KoЯn has undeniably been one of the most important bands in the development of metal over the last two decades. After the release of Life is Peachy in 1996, they had found a huge fan-base and established themselves as the band to watch in heavy music. With a big step up in production quality, Follow the Leader dropped two years later and became what would be the album to define nu-metal; its singles 'Freak on a Leash' and 'Got the Life' became classics in the genre and pushed KoЯn into mainstream success. To date, the album has sold over 10 million copies worldwide and bagged the group a big pile of awards including a Grammy for Best Music Video.
Fun fact: the hidden track 'Earache My Eye' is a cover of a 1974 Cheech & Chong song and Cheech Marin actually recorded new vocals for it!
Death - The Sound of Perseverance
Death is regarded by many as the best and most influential death metal band of all time; since forming in 1983, they consistently put out some of the most incredible albums which still hold up today. Their seventh and final record The Sound of Perseverance was released to universal acclaim and cemented a legacy that has remained unchallenged to this day. It features a cover of Judas Priest's 'Painkiller' which we think might even be better than the original (yep, we said it).
Death went through an insane amount of prolific touring and recording band members including Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Testament, Fear Factory), Ralph Santolla (Deicide, Iced Earth) and Andy LaRocque (King Diamond).
System of a Down - Self-Titled
System of a Down's self-titled debut was (for a time) their least-known album. It didn't chart that well, only peaking at #124 on the Billboard 200 and its singles 'Spiders' and 'Sugar' failed to initially make much of an impact. What it did do, though, was create a raw and unique soundscape the world had never heard before (who else sounds like Serj Tankian?) and paved the way for what would become an illustrious career for the band. The sound here is much more raw and frenetic than in future albums, but that's what makes it so awesome. With songs ranging from bizarre sections in 'DDevil' to the stupidly-heavy 'Know' and everything in between, it's a must-listen for any heavy music fans.
After the huge success of the 2001 sophomore Toxicity, the self-titled debut was eventually certified platinum.
Marilyn Manson - Mechanical Animals
By 1998, Marilyn Manson's anti-religious shock tactics had led to him copping the blame for a lot of tragedies occuring in the world. His 1996 sophomore album Antichrist Superstar had shocked and outraged a lot of conservative people, and he was looking to cement his status as public enemy no.1 with his follow-up record Mechanical Animals. Fans were taken by surprise with both audio and visual cues from 70's era David Bowie, resulting in an album half as heavy as its predecessor, but still remaining a uniquely dark and haunting record we still enjoy spinning today. It was also Manson's first album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200, further positioning him as one of the biggest names in music around the world. 'I Don't Like Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)' is still one of our favourites after all these years!
Fun fact: Wal-Mart refused to stock the album even after artwork censorship measures were taken. It wasn't until 2003 that they decided it was "commercially viable" to stock his music.
Meshuggah - Chaosphere
You want influential albums? You got one right here. Chaosphere was the third album from Meshuggah and completely changed metal forever when it dropped at the end of 1998. Ditching the more thrashy sound of their first two records, Chaosphere was a massive step up in the technical department, offering 9 songs of the polyrhythmic insanity we would all collectively lose our minds over on subsequent albums. Guitars are tuned an entire octave down, Thomas Haake is casting his black magic from behind the kit and we're still baffled by how complex and bullshit-heavy it is two decades later. It's also largely responsible for the birth of the genre which we know today as djent.
There aren't many other bands that can come close to Meshuggah's sound; it's truly one-of-a-kind.
Fear Factory - Obsolete
Obsolete is Fear Factory's fourth full-length and is anything but obsolete in 2018. Following on from the brutal and cold Demanufacture in 1995, the band further cemented their status as industrial metal pioneers with a dark, crushing soundscape.
Its fourth single 'Cars' was a cover of a Gary Numan track, with the man himself recording new vocals to go on it. Apparently he was apprehensive at first about working with a heavy band when his management approached him with the idea, but then decided he would be able to reach a younger and wider audience (good decision mate!) and flew to Vancouver to lay down his lines. Initially just a bonus track on Obsolete, it went on to sell over 750,000 copies as a single, giving Fear Factory mainstream exposure and Numan even joined them on stage at a Brixton concert.
Despite being the lightest track on here, 'Timelessness' is our favourite because of its great atmosphere.
Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe
After White Zombie's success throughout the mid 90's, Rob Zombie kicked off an even more successful solo career with his debut album Hellbilly Deluxe in 1998. Invoking the atmosphere of a cheesy B-grade horror film, it uses elements like the voice of a creepy little girl in 'Call of the Zombie' and the horror soundscape of 'Perversion 99' to pull you in before hitting you with one of its many catchy hard rock anthems. It never tries to be too complicated or serious, but that's why we love it!
'Dragula' is still regarded as Zombie's most popular song to date. A sequel to the album was released in 2010, but critics decided that this one was much better.
Opeth - My Arms, Your Hearse
Boy oh boy, this is a good album. Opeth are arguably one of the best progressive bands of all time though, so is it any surprise?
My Arms, Your Hearse took the winding, epic sound they had established with their first two records Orchid and Morningrise, but improved it with a much more cohesive collection of tracks. Along with a much beefier production, the band had also noticably grown as songwriters and musicians, especially Michael Akerfeldt's vocals which carried more power and presence than ever before. The album flows perfectly through a musical journey of heavy, soft, dark and light; in particular, the eerie 'Madrigal' leading into 'The Amen Corner' is something to behold.
It clocks in at just over an hour (of course), so light some candles and throw on your best pair of headphones for this one!
Are there any other albums from 1998 you really like? Let us know!