Review Summary: Gather every album you would consider classic and leave a space at the end, because Crimson is something that truly deserves to be there
For those of you who don’t know (shame on you), Crimson is forty minute song –not album- that plays through the events of an epic and bleak post-apocalyptic story. It is focused around the concept that ‘the last generations of earth have come to a point where they cannot breed anymore’, but when the queen of the land births a daughter that is presumed a gift from the gods, it sets upon a chain of events which eventually leads to war, death, treachery and misguided faith.
Moving away from the concept, you will find a predominantly death metal centred sound which has plenty of melody and more than enough interesting ideas to give most other established acts a run for their money. Indeed, it is the constant barrage of (often progressive) riffs that forms the base of Edge of Sanity’s sound, and it is always spot on. With the creativity of Dan Swano leading the band, each and every riff sounds as amazing as the last, none are overused, none are out of place and none are even slightly sub-par. Although some riffs are repeated later in the song for emphasis on the story, Dan keeps each one fresh by simply throwing an astounding amount at the listener. No sooner will one melody have finished when a new part of the story begins, a new character introduced, a new event unfolding and bringing with it another atmosphere and style within the story for the band to explore.
This might all get old though if it wasn’t for the other side of Edge of Sanity. The side where Dan could do whatever he wanted (if you haven’t gathered already, Dan Swano was the creative force behind Edge of Sanity) and where he could experiment to best effect. This is where the band introduces acoustic haunting interludes at will, gothic passages, haunting spoken word moments and everything in between. Where Edge of Sanity’s death metal side excels in its constantly inventive riffs, their progressive and experimental side helps break up any monotony, introducing new chapters of the story and developing or enhancing a new atmosphere.
Put these two together, and you have the perfect formula to perform a concept like this. As shown by the beginning, the huge roaring vocals of Dan Swano reflecting the doomed nature of mankind, which is followed by technical and melodic riffs being thrown around in a chaotic manner. It all slows down as the child is conceived, the melodies become more substantial, and the whole atmosphere lightens slightly (Oh what a sight to see / Reborn life / destined for all of eternity)
But the music is still crushing, still pounding away at the senses; you can feel that mankind is in celebration. The child is a beacon of hope, a symbol of purity against the darkness of their future, But something below the music is haunting, a melody within a riff, it’s too... intense, too dark, it reflects the child’s true nature and motives. Something you will hear about later in the story. Indeed, the music only truly slows down when the child is actually born. Acoustic guitars are introduced, but they are still serene and haunting, the mother died at birth (The drop of blood from her mouth slowly fell to the ground. The child inside had dried her out. The king’s beloved is no more.
Edge of Sanity unleash some of their most crushing and brutal material here, to reflect the anger and despair of the king (Anger and hate / Fear and Despair fills up his mind / In search for answers he can’t find / What god would end a life so pure?
) It is clear that the king is distraught, crushed and without emotion which is displayed absolutely perfectly here, the melody has gone, it’s nothing but blank, heavy riffing. The only thing that calms the king down is the sight of his daughter’s clear blue eyes...
Of course, every single moment in the story is reflected by the music like this. Be it with the introduction of Mike Akerfeldts (Opeth) demonic vocals at points, or with the use of a psychedelic dream like passage before the final chapter of the story. Edge of Sanity are not afraid to give the story a hidden depth, look beneath the initial impression of the music and relate it to the story and you can find a whole new depth to the album. The fact that the music reflects every hidden emotion in the music is what takes the album to a huge and unbelievable high. Huge breathtaking climaxes are found often in the album, moments of ferocity go hand in hand with beautiful interludes and Dan’s vocals go everywhere. His’s vocals on this album are some of his best ever, his growl is throaty and demands attention, his cleans can be both soft and majestic or sinister and evil. His vocals suit the album perfectly and even if you don’t realise the hidden depth to the music you can at least follow the story as he leads the way, singing the lyrics with tremendous passion and skill.
It also helps that the talent of the musicians playing alongside Swano is phenomenal. The guitarists are perfect throughout, the bassist performs with solidity, shining in the quieter moments and the drummer performs the unsurprisingly hard task of trying to not be outshined too much by the rest of the music. There is also two other musicians that place their talent on the table, Anders Mareby plays the cello, while a name that some of you may know puts forward his exceptional guitar playing skills and vocals. Mike Akerfeldt. His contribution to the record is of the highest quality, and although his vocals only appear for a minute or two at a time, they suit the drama of the story perfectly. Deep, demonic and spat out with venom, he snarls out the most sinister and dark parts of the story with aplomb, in particular, there is a part of the story that he tells so well that it’s unreal, simply put, it’s epic (Liar! / All those who died / with you by their side were denied / access to the higher ground / Betrayal!)
The production in the album isn’t the clearest. Not to say that it is badly recorded, no way, it just reflects the post apocalyptic concept of the world. The guitars bear a slightly fuzzy sound that makes the melodic riffs stand out all the more, while the keyboards provide a foreboding background and occasionally take the forefront. Some would argue that the production could be clearer, but take away the slightly (and it is only slightly after all) less than crystalline production and you would be taking away most of the atmosphere.
I can’t stress enough that to get the best out of this album you need to read the story along with it. One of the most vital parts about the record is the representation of the concept and it’s different meanings, listening to this album without the story is like watching a movie without the sound, sure, you can see all the explosions and witness all the tears; but you never really know why they’re happening. It also makes one of the largest flaws about the album, the length, near obsolete. For those that simply do not enjoy overly long songs this album might seem like a huge turn off, but as you read the story, you will want to get to the next part of the song, want to hear how it turns out. If the foreboding lyrics hint at another war or confrontation, then you sure as hell don’t want to miss how that plays out in music. Moments like when the sacred daughter takes the crown (Hail! / Hail the queen / Ruling supreme / She is queen alone / In the human zone / dethroned the king unpure
) And the simply breathtaking climax of the entire story (They found a way to blind her / And it could cost some lives / They must seal the entry / From where all evil derives
) are represented in a simply stunning fashion by the music. It is this depiction of the story that stops the music from becoming stale and keeps the listener interested.
This is one of those very, very few albums that truly deserves the acclaim that it gets. Not only is it a genuinely unique concept and idea, the music that comes with it is inventive and impressive. The poetic but still understandable nature of the lyrics is perfect. The atmosphere is perfect. And what could have been a pretentious attempt at grandeur is instead one of the most well executed releases ever (and I mean that literally), gather every album you would consider classic and leave a space at the end, because Crimson is something that truly deserves to be there.