Ah 1998. JK Rowling released the second Harry Potter book, Nintendo released The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time, and Saving Private Ryan showed us how opening movie scenes should be done. And then there was metal. Having survived the grunge years, heavy music was reinventing itself and unleashing some of the most inventive and intense music ever created (and, admittedly, a dud here and there).
Here are ten of the biggest and most important albums to be released 1998.
Fear Factory – Obsolete
Evolving the revolutionary sound they perfected on 1995 classic Demanufacture, Fear Factory beefed up their sound, nodding towards the ongoing nu metal movement with the likes of Shock and moshpit fodder Edgecrusher while simultaneously branching out into more ambient realms. Album lynchpin Resurrection remains an anthemic classic – and then, of course, there’s that Cars cover.
Metallica – Garage Inc.
Packaged with a second disc featuring an array of B-side rarities recorded throughout Metallica’s early days, Garage Inc’s first half remains the undisputed Mack Daddy of covers albums. It’s Electric, Sabbra Cadabra, Turn The Page, Die, Die My Darling, Loverman, Astronomy… this was the sound of metal’s biggest bands letting loose and paying tribute to their heroes in style – and the results were killer.
Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals
Perhaps somewhat overlooked amidst the career-defining Antichrist Superstar and masterful Holy Wood, there’s a case to be made that Mechanical Animals remains Manson’s most compact and perfectly executed concept. From Great Big White World right through to Coma White, this is a flawless collection of industrialised glam metal knockouts – Omega still standing as one of the Double M’s greatest creations.
System Of A Down – System Of A Down
As the nu metal juggernaut began to reach its commercial zenith, an almighty curveball was thrown into the heart of our scene courtesy of four wildly imaginative Armenian-Americans. Heavy, eccentric and politicised, System Of A Down’s debut album was one of the most unique releases of the 90s, with the scattershot groove and pomp of leftfield anthems like Suite-Pee, Know and Ddevil showing up the increasingly knuckle-dragging metal mainstream.
Bruce Dickinson – Chemical Wedding
With fellow Maiden alumnus Adrian Smith by his side and a batch of songs that were as brutal as they were unashamedly epic, Bruce’s fifth solo album combined old school musicality with new school sonic oomph. Oh, and lyrical and artistic inspiration from 19th century poet and painter William Blake. Thanks to crushing anthems like King In Crimson and The Tower, it was widely hailed as a modern metal masterpiece. It remains the heaviest thing Bruce has ever been involved with. And one of the best.
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Iron Maiden – Virtual XI
Maiden’s second album with Blaze Bayley marked a rare low point in the band’s illustrious catalogue. There were good songs here (Futureal and The Clansman are actual belters) and some pleasing moments of brooding melancholy (The Educated Fool, Como Estais Amigo) but an anaemic production did no favours for long-winded tripe like The Angel And The Gambler. Compared to Bruce Dickinson’s Chemical Wedding (released the same year), Virtual XI was a significant clanger.
Cradle Of Filth – Cruelty And The Beast
Cradle Of Filth were aiming for the moon in the mid-late-90s, and their third full-length set them up to become the most successful extreme metal band of all time. A concept album based around prolific murderer Elizabeth Báthory, it sees the Suffolk Satan-botherers embrace their black metal side before moving into gothic/symphonic territory further down the line.
Rob Zombie – Hellbilly Deluxe
White Zombie called it a day in 1998, and it didn’t take long for frontman and mastermind Mr Robert Zombie to release his debut (and best) solo album. Dragula and Living Dead Girl are still staples of every decent rock club, and that’s down to Rob’s knack for smacking ten tons of groove all up in some gritty, earthy industrial. Oh, and a lot of nods to horror flicks and B-movies, but what else would you expect?
Korn – Follow The Leader
The album that pushed nu metal to the forefront and catapulted Korn into the mainstream. In a blur of drugs, alcohol and excess – Jonathan Davis remembers people having sex and getting blowjobs while he was laying down his vocals – they beefed up their downtuned blueprint, pulled in likeminded mates such as Ice Cube and Fred Durst, and took the record to thousands of people on their own Family Values tour. Freak On A Leash and Got The Life remain stone cold classics.
Devin Townsend – Infinity
Coming off the back of the personal Ocean Machine and Strapping Young Lad’s crushing City, Infinity was a hybrid of both styles, with an adding helping of surreal mania. Taking inspiration from Broadway musicals – in particular Phantom Of The Opera on Christeen – it was by turns bombastic, arresting, danceable, silly and awe-inspiring. A window into the psyche of one of metal’s most interesting figures.