20 great albums from 1998 | Revolver

20 great albums from 1998

Korn, System of a Down, Death and more dropped killer releases
Korn 1998 portrait getty 1600x900, Bob Berg/Getty Images
photograph by Bob Berg/Getty Images

In 1998, Bill Clinton claimed he "did not have sexual relations with that woman." The Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" was the most played song of the year. Saving Private Ryan ruled the big screen; E.R., the smaller screen. The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl. Frank Sinatra died. And a slew of heavy-music artists — Korn, Death, Dillinger Escape Plan and more — released badass albums, including the 20 below.

 Botch - American Nervoso

There are few bands in hardcore with the pedigree of Botch, a Seattle band who created a unique amalgam of math-rock and multi-dimensional metalcore with their debut LP, American Nervoso, released on a little label called Hydra Head Records. In addition to establishing the group as one of their genre's most progressive forces — a status that would firmly cement them into the history books with their next album, 1999's We Are the RomansAmerican Nervoso also played a role in the rise of the Dillinger Escape Plan, a then-burgeoning band who hit the road with Botch in support of this LP.

Cave In - Until Your Heart Stops

To a certain batch of people, it's not a debate as to whether Cave In were one of the best bands in the post-hardcore and metalcore genres; it's whether their key album was the fierce Until Your Heart Stops or its much more melodic and space-rocky follow-up, Jupiter. Wherever you fall, it all started with this one, a four-on-the-floor monster that remains both their heaviest record to date and one of the most influential metalcore albums of all time.

Cradle of Filth - Cruelty and the Beast

On their third album, Cruelty and the Beast, Cradle of Filth waved away black metal's self-seriousness and leaned into its exaggerated expressions of anguish, outfitting their piercing extreme-metal blitzes with ritzy strings, gothic pianos and Danny Filth's over-the-top, vampiric shrieks. Cruelty and the Beast proved that black metal could be campy, baroque, elaborately conceptual (it tells the story of legendary "blood countess" Elizabeth Bathory, after all) and sometimes even a little cheesy, but still deliver heaps of emotion and fun.

Crowbar - Odd Fellows Rest

To many fans, this is the definitive Crowbar record, and it's easy to hear why. On Odd Fellows Rest, Kirk Windstein and his fellow NOLA swamp things took a bold leap into slightly less heavy soundscapes, instead emphasizing Windstein's bleating wails and the sheer agony he was able to convey with these gripping, emotionally damaged vocal takes. He's singing here more than he ever had, and you can practically hear his heart shatter on angst-wracked standouts like "Planet's Collide" and "December's Spawn."

Converge - When Forever Comes Crashing

Without bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller in the lineup yet, Converge were a different beast on When Forever Comes Crashing compared to the unit that made Jane Doe, but this album is equally venomous. Featuring Aaron Dalbec (who went on to form Bane) and Steve Brodsky (Cave In, Mutoid Man) alongside Jacob Bannon and Kurt Ballou, When Forever Comes Crashing boasts a uniquely scarring sound that positioned Converge light years ahead of most of their hardcore contemporaries — where they'd remain for many years to come.

Death - The Sound of Perseverance

Over 10-plus years and seven albums, Death elevated death metal to new heights time and time again. The Sound of Perseverance is considered by many to be the pinnacle of vocalist-guitarist, songwriter and bandleader Chuck Schuldiner's vision: adventurous structures, technical shredding, brutally sublime solos and expressive, razor-sharp vocals. Sadly, the album would ultimately be Death's swan song, as Schuldiner was diagnosed with cancer the year after its release, and passed away from complications from the disease in 2001.

Dillinger Escape Plan - Under the Running Board

The Dillinger Escape Plan embodied utter chaos when they released their watershed EP, Under the Running Board, their first for extreme-music powerhouse Relapse Records. Though their sound would evolve to in dazzling new directions in the coming years, Running Board laid the blueprint for what would become one of the most complex, challenging and confounding bands to ever rattle the Billboard 100.

DMX - It's Dark and Hell Is Hot

DMX is one of the hardest rappers who ever lived. The late MC (born Earl Simmons) hollered candidly about the trauma that haunted him wherever he went, and his debut LP, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot — one of two he released in 1998 — set the tone for his whole career. Trunk-knocking standouts like "Ruff Ryders Anthem" and "Get at Me Dog" demonstrated his knack for transforming into a grunty, gravelly ball of fire, while others like "Damien" and "How's It Goin' Down" proved he was always more nuanced and lyrical than he typically got credit for.

Dying Fetus - Killing on Adrenaline

For those who thought down-and-dirty death metal was growing a little stale by the late Nineties, Dying Fetus proved how much sonic destruction the genre still had in the tank. The Maryland band's second album, Killing on Adrenaline, sounds like 15 cannons being fired in unison, a torrent of buzzsaw riffage, hideous low growls, chugging breakdowns that take queues from beatdown hardcore, and flecks of technical wizardry. There's never a boring moment on Killing on Adrenaline, only bludgeoning ones.

Fear Factory - Obsolete

On their second album, 1995's Demanufacture, Fear Factory evolved from an industrial-tinged death-metal band into something much more ambitious and nuanced. For their follow-up, 1998's Obsolete (spelled oBSΩLE+e on the cover), Fear Factory took things next level, ramping up both the electronic elements of their sound and the conceptual nature of their lyrics, delivering a full-fledged cinematic plot line. Ranging from merciless bangers like "Shock" and "Edgecrusher" to the melodic, melancholic "Descent," Obsolete broke Fear Factory big and remains their top-selling album.

Gorguts – Obscura

Obscura, Gorguts' last LP before an extended hiatus, still stands as a tech-death landmark. Yet, while the prodigious instrumentation exhibited by Luc Lemay and Co. is nothing short of dizzying, the album's focus on strong songwriting admirably keeps the release from careening into "Guitar Center clinic" modes of instrumental wankery. Gorguts nailed the perfect balance between discombobulating and disgustingly heavy on Obscura, which is so influential that the LP lent its name to one of 21st century tech-death's most respected bands.

Korn - Follow the Leader

The album that turned Korn into rock superstars, Follow the Leader seethes with confessional, self-directed rage, fuzzy seven-string–guitar riffs, elastic funk bass lines, hip-hop beats and galactic effects. Yet, for every weird noise, dinosaur-stomp rhythm and agonized vocal, the album is loaded with king-sized hooks, not just in Jonathan Davis' melodic, New Wave-influenced vocals, but also in the disco beat of "Got the Life," the scat passage of "Freak on a Leash" and the elliptical guitars, colossal surge and morbid shout-along of "Dead Bodies Everywhere," which the singer wrote about his years working in a mortuary.

Meshuggah - Chaosphere

Meshuggah's third release, Chaosphere, built on the foundation of 1995's Destroy Erase Improve, which heralded the Swedish band's departure from its earlier thrash-influenced work. For its part, Chaosphere solidly established their ascent into a realm of progressive, far-out rhythmic mathematics, technical/groove insanity and space-jazz solos (epitomized on the crushing highlight "New Millennium Cyanide Christ") — an avant-garde metal kingdom over which they still reign supreme.

Metallica - Garage Inc.

After Metallica's back-to-back embraces of hard-rock swagger, Load and Reload, many OG fans wondered if the one-time thrashers had lost the grit and spit that fueled their earlier efforts. But in late 1998, the foursome ditched their bloated, big-budget recording process, hit the studio and quickly banged out 11 inspired covers — ranging from a snarling version of Misfits' "Die, Die My Darling" to a heartfelt reading of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page." Garage Inc. not only showed the breadth of their creativity and killer musicianship, but rekindled the brash excitement and "fuck it all" attitude of their early years.

Queens of the Stone Age - Queens of the Stone Age

Following the dissolution of Kyuss, guitarist Josh Homme decided to grab a mic stand and start a new band, Queens of the Stone Age. Homme played nearly every instrument (save for drums) on their eponymous debut, which maintained the cross-faded desert-rock grooviness of Kyuss, but honed in on catchier melodies and punchier song structures that would ultimately make QOTSA one of the new millennium's biggest bands. Still, this album is their dingiest and in many ways heaviest affair.

Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come

To gen pop, it's all about "New Noise" and its accompanying video, but to real heads, Swedish mavericks Refused broke down the barriers between hardcore, electronic music, garage rock and a zillion other genres with their eclectic third album and spiritual mission statement, The Shape of Punk to Come. In a lot of ways, Refused's shrugging indifference to genre borderlines was as premonitory as its titular statement, but they did get one thing wrong: No album that's "come" since has ever sounded quite like this.

Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe

After skirting between noise-rock, groove metal and industrial disco with his old band White Zombie, Rob leaned all the way into the satanic cowboy getup and made one of the most distinct, spooky and downright fun albums of the Nineties. Hellbilly Deluxe spawned Halloween classics like "Dragula," "Living Dead Girl" and "Superbeast," but this record is a year-round hootenanny that doubles as the perfect soundtrack for black-light ragers and sultry bedroom hangs.

Slayer - Diabolus in Musica

Down-tuned to the extreme and bursting with groovy riffs, Diabolus in Musica is objectively Slayer's most experimental record — as well as their most divisive. For years, it's been lobbed with criticisms from fans who felt betrayed by the thrash pioneers' pivot to du jour nu-metal trends, a maneuver that guitarist Kerry King himself looks back on with disappointment. "That's probably my least favorite record of our history," King said in 2017. That said, we think there's underrated merit to be found in the tracklist — specifically cuts like "Bitter Piece" and "Stain of Mind."

Soulfly - Soulfly

After departing Sepultura in 1996, Max Cavalera shifted directly into his new endeavor, Soulfly. The band's sound has since become an amalgam of death metal and groove metal, but Soulfly's hell-raising debut is nu-metal at its heaviest and most wrathful. Tracks like "No Hope = No Fear," "Bleed" and, of course, "Eye for an Eye" sound like where Sepultura could have gone if Cavalera stayed in the band, and where so much music from this era sounds painfully dated 25-plus years onward, Soulfly drips with a timeless breed of pulverizing fury.

System of a Down - System of a Down

On their self-titled debut, System of a Down sound like they were beamed in from another dimension where they only had access to "Bohemian Rhapsody," Slayer, the Dead Kennedys and traditional Armenian music. As playful and wacky as it is politically incisive, the foursome's opening salvo is scaling operatic melodies one moment ("Spiders"), thrashing anti-war screeds the next ("War?") and then saying the word "sugar" in a funny accent before you've even had a chance to digest their humanitarian pleas.