Years of Decay 1998

11 min read

1998… Many albums, Live albums, demos, MCD, splits released this year. Some, we can call “classics”. Yes, it’s true. Just to mention a few bands, Primordial, Suffocation, Vintersorg, Krabathor, Enslaved, Benediction, Katatonia, Deicide, Thyrfing, Impaled Nazarene, Horna, Behexen, Urgehal, and the list will be big if I keep writing… But unfortunately, we can’t write about all. So we choose the following ones.

Enjoy our 1998 selection but most of all – enjoy your Sunday!

Borknagar – The Archaic Course
October 1998 – Century Media

2020 marks the 25th year since the formation of the Norwegian progressive folk black metal band Borknagar. For this reason, it seems fitting to choose their 1998 offering, and third studio release “The Archaic Course” for this instalment of ‘Years of Decay’.

Over the years Borknagar have become known for their innovative, progressive and fluid approach to music, with each album investigating new concepts and styles. However back in 1998, after releasing two albums that had differed considerably in style, I’m not sure anyone knew what to expect from them with “The Archaic Course”. The debut self-titled album had featured a more traditional black metal sound, while the second album “Olden Domain” wound back the black metal, in favour of a prominent pagan/ folk feel. As it turned out, with the release of “The Archaic Course”, the band proved that they were further strengthening the folk elements and all but abandoning traditional black metal. read more

“The Archaic Course” is the first Borknagar album to feature the eloquent vocals of ICS Vortex (Simen Hestnæs) and their last album with original drummer Grim (Erik Brødreskift). It contains eight tracks, runs for just under 38 minutes and has greatly improved production quality compared to the previous releases. It offers enchanting guitar interludes, ambient synth, mind-blowing drumming, and diverse vocals, with harsh, and guttural as well as clean, powerful and alluring styles. The stand-out tracks for me have to be “Oceans Rise” and “Black Token”, although there are many other highlights throughout the album.

At the time of it’s release I can only imagine how wildly ambitious and unorthodox this album felt to some listeners. Back in the mid-to-late 90’s the presence of anything folk-related in extreme metal wasn’t as commonplace as today, so this sound was fairly unique. Perhaps this progressive approach contributed to the seemingly divergent opinions and reviews of this album, or perhaps others were simply disheartened with the shift into a less extreme style of metal. Nevertheless, for me personally, Borknagar‘s “The Archaic Course” was a solid, cohesive and memorable release from 1998.

Proua Metallist

Morbid Angel – Formulas Fatal To The Flesh
February 1998 – Earache

For many years I had a real difficulty coming to terms with the fact that the 90s are over. It’s pretty hard for me to fathom that 1998 is now 22 years in the past. A lot has happened in the musical domain of Metal since then. Trends come and go, but through it all, there are those giants that keep on truckin’. In the case of MORBID ANGEL, it’s something like an unstoppable flow of molten lava, remorselessly ploughing through all in its path.

In the band’s quirky tradition of following their A,B,Cs from one release to the next, we’ve made it to K so far; back in 98’ it was F, with this their 5th proper studio album and the first without iconic frontman David Vincent, the band recruiting Steve Tucker to handle vocals and bass in his place and a mighty fine job he does here too. I don’t think the debate over the merits of MORBID ANGEL’s frontmen has ever been at the level of discord as for say VAN HALEN, but if you want to know where I stand, I’m team Tucker. read more

Without taking anything away from the Vincent years, “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh” sure does crush. With all of the crazy, Hardcore- Sludge- Doom- Death- Blackened- Grind- Experimental- crazy- time- signature- jumping Metal bands today, it’s nice to revisit a simpler time and be reminded that MORBID ANGEL pretty much created and honed a template of Death Metal that myriad bands have drawn from since. And 22 years later, “Formulas Fatal To The Flesh” can still melt iron bars at ten paces.

Although Tucker (and previously Vincent) would take the literal centre stage, the real heart of the band is, was and will always be guitarist Trey Azagthoth and his incredibly fluid guitar playing style. Azagthoth wields his guitar like he’s furiously shaking demonic jets of fire from it right onto tape. Sure you can find guitarists faster or more technical, but there’s something so satisfyingly about how Azagthoth summons these inspired and demented solos from his guitar on tracks like the earth flattening “Nothing Is Not”, or the monstrously heavy “Umulamahri”.

In fact, perhaps more than any other MORBID ANGEL album, “Formulas Fatal To The Flesh” is a showcase for the mind-bending, musical whims of Azagthoth. While the first half of the album is track after track of recognisably pummeling death metal riffing, the super fast, double bass pedalling fury of Pete “Commando” Sandoval, and Tucker picking up from where Vincent left off, the second half of the album is much more experimental, with the shimmering guitar work of instrumental “Hymn to a Gas Giant”, the spooky, chiming instrumental incantation “Ascent Through the Spheres” and the tribal sounding drum procession of “Hymnos Rituales de Guerra” taking the album in unexpected directions.

The album certainly does meander off into strange territory, but for me that’s part of its charm. I don’t know what spirits Azagthoth and his cohorts were summoning back in ‘98, but they sure got hold of some wild ones.

Tom Boatman


Death – The Sound Of Perseverance
August 1998 – Nuclear Blast

This time our mate Tom choose the year 1998 for this article and I was thinking to talk about other albums like Something Wicked This Way Comes or debut self-titled Primal Fear but… for me this time Death was the chosen one. The 1998 year was amazing for power metal with masterpieces from Helloween, Blind Guardian, Stratovarius, and Rhapsody. Another masterpiece from Bolt Thrower was released – The Mercenary.
If I had more time it would be interesting to talk about all of them. Surely they set fire to the lives of many metalheads around the world. read more

Let´s talk about Death.
The last breath, “The Sound of Perseverance” was the seventh and last Death full production with 9 tracks including the “Painkiller”, Judas Priest cover as the last piece. An this is a superb cover!!! There are no words anymore to qualify this band and their legacy, but praises TSOP always is a good reason to talk about it.
So much time spent at the rehearsal studio reflected a very comfortable atmosphere, it felt like being at home, in words of the second guitarist Shannon Hamm. Rehearsals, metal, football, barbeques, rehearsals, basketball and Chuck´s amazing homemade salsa, what can go wrong? With some line-up changes during the demo recordings, Schuldiner made his last album a very special experience for the musicians who worked with him. And this record is on another level than their previous full-length albums.
As the track number four title says, this albums has a ”Story to Tell” to everyone. The story of the constant searching for technique and perfection in a music symbiosis for the pleasure of our ears. This album represents the Chuck effort for being a better musician, a better person, a better friend, and the most important thing…. leave a legacy. Their sound and style changes here, TSOP shows a different form, but who cares, Death always is death metal at his finest.

As Shannon says, “This album closes the final chapter and it will only continue to grow over time for new generations and show them the spirit of “perseverance” through the eye of a genuine musical genius”.
In my humble opinion, this album deserves the timeless praises for being a great work, “a moment of clarity” in our hearts, minds, and souls.



Bruce Dickinson – Chemical Wedding
September 1998 – Air Raid

1998 was not a great year for Iron Maiden as they released their second and last album with Blaze Bailey. Yeah it wasn’t. But sure as Hell it was a great year for Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, oh si! (Oh yes) as my buddy from Argentina, Juan Cruz likes to say. Actually he just told me via WhatsApp that “Chemical Wedding” is “tremendo disco”, roughly translated to “ a Hell of an album” and I concur. Do you concur?

Me, thinks that it is fair to say that while many metalheads may have looked away from Maiden during the late 90’s, almost anyone did that with the Dickinson albums, especially Accident of Birth and of course Chemical Wedding.! read more

Did I just write two paragraphs saying exactly the same thing with different words? Damn, I think I did.

Anyway, this is a super heavy album with a slick production by Roy Z who also shares guitar duties with the great Adrian Smith. Roy Z captures the best of Dickinson and Smith while helping write a super cohesive effort. There are no flaws that I can think of about this release. It has it all. The heaviness, the voice we all love, great musicianship and songs that talk about arcane and dark things spawned by William’s Blake influence.
Just listen to the catchy The Tower and it’s great bass line that opens. Don’t you love the lyrics? Yes you do! “The fountain the trinity the pilgrim is searching for his blood!”. Such a great song. Another highlight is Jerusalem of course. With the great Bruce bringing this classic to life as metalheads deserve. But, my fave song here is the last one, The Alchemist. Somehow it reminds me of the close for Sabbath Heaven and Hell, Lonely Is The World I kid you not. It has that vibe… or is it just my brain trying to squeeze some Sabbath reference? You decide. You must listen to this album again. You are commanded. Obey!



Gorguts – Obscura
June 1998 – Olympic Records 

By the late 90’s GORGUTS were well established as absolute beasts, but no one was prepared for what they unleashed in the summer of 1998 with the arrival of their third album “Obscura”. Luc Lemay is the heart and soul of GORGUTS, but this time around he had a whole new line up scoundrels in the ranks. From the second the opening chords strike your frontal cortex, you know you’re in for a hell of a ride on this one. The unrelenting force of the sidewinding bass is enough to blow my mind today just as it did on my first listen. read more

The beyond technical riffs pushed the boundaries of known possibilities in death metal, layering wild guitar and drum progressions with unorthodox structure and crushing aggression the entire time. This gnarly juxtaposition of tempo, dissonant rhythms, and technical madness is difficult to digest for many, but impossible to resist for any metalhead that enjoys the avant-garde. Even today, there is not much out there that can rival the sheer complexity of “Obscura”.

The title track “Obscura” is a masterpiece all by itself, but backed up by the likes of “The Art of Sombre Ecstacy”, “La Vie Est Prélude.. (La Mort Orgasme)”, and “Faceless Ones” this album is the apex of tech death during its time. GORGUTS even manage to get off script somehow with a few weird progressive moments in songs like “Earthy Love” and the instrumental “Sweet Silence”, featuring bizarre tones and a pinch harmonic hellzone that uses a bouncy riff structure instead of the wall of sound found everywhere else. With everything coming in at just over 60 minutes, “Obscura” is a god damn experience. So what are you waiting for?

Metal Yeti

Nile – Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka
April 1998 – Relapse Records

1998… I was in the army. Ahahahahahahah.

I remember the first time I heard this band. Just one song, but I can’t remember correctly if it was in compilation CD from one magazine or if I heard on the radio and some Metal show. It was love at first listening. Remember to talk with my Metal buddies, but… The rest of my Metal buddies didn’t like so much cause of the Egyptian influences. For me was wonderful. And to be honest I can’t remember many bands back in 1998 who had the gut to do that. Hmm… read more

So, I tried to get the album on my local records store. No lucky… So, as I said in the past here, in one article about our first 5 records (here) I needed to went to the big city and look there on the Record store. And I got it. I was so happy. Really. I was. I looked like a young baby with one candy on the hands, lol. I was the only guy in the middle of my metal buddies (we were that time around 20/25 persons), who liked NILE. So, I could say that “Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka” was “My precious”. lol. The Cd played so many times on my stereo at that time. Tchhhh. I knew everything about the album, the riffs, the melodies, the intros, when it started to be faster, slower, etc, etc, etc. But… Since that time I’m trying to see them live. The times they came to my country, unfortunately, I couldn’t see them. So, till now, I only saw them live on my computer. lol. Damn…

The Key Keeper

Moonspell – Sin/Pecado
January 1998 –  Century Media Records

We travel back to the late 1990s once more, back to a weird point in time when there was some amazing albums and artists doing the rounds that at the time were practically invisible thanks to the nu metal/pop punk bandwagon that everybody and their dog jumped on. Those born in a certain era will point out many whataboutisms; quoting “Well, this band released this and that band released that, which are solid bangers” blah blah blah that pales into insignificance when you have primary evidence of living through that era. read more

Okay okay, yours truly is being that “Old man that shouts at clouds” again – let’s get on with my particular album choice eh? Anyway…I put out a question about Moonspell on Twitter, to see what people remembered of them and still follow their latest output. The general consensus, annoyingly went along the lines of “Yeah, “Wolfheart” was fantastic and a classic black metal album even though it was cheesy but we gave up after the “Irreligious” album” and in the UK they weren’t as well received as they were in mainland Europe (the Germans absolutely love them, apparently). On “Sin/Pecado”, they shifted even deeper into gothic metal territory than ever before; the growled vocals on the previous album are now conspicuous by their absence and the band collectively sticks to a blueprint that draws influences from Sisters of Mercy, Type O Negative, and Depeche Mode with a guitar style and melody that reminds the listener of a Portuguese version of mid period Paradise Lost circa “Draconian Times”. The album is very much a product of its time where many artists decided on complete shifts in style to court a larger mainstream audience; the type of people who attend Download Festival and think bands like Slayer are simply “noise”. However, their gothic metal leanings didn’t catapult them to stardom nor did it make them tank catastrophically – they progressed, grew, gained more fans, and indulged on many successful tours and festivals as support acts and headliners themselves. To be critical, there’s some tracks that could’ve been chopped such as ‘Magdalene’ that sounds too similar to the latter period Depeche Mode, and “EuroticA” sounds like a B side to a single remixed by somebody with more keyboards and sythesisers than underwear. But as a whole, it’s a pleasant, enjoyable slice of gothic influenced ‘Euro Metal’ that files alongside albums by The Gathering, Tristania, Sentenced and Nightwish without embarrassing itself.

Goth Mark


Till next time…

Truly Yours,
Blessed Altar Zine Team

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