Review Summary: Any fan of melodic death metal must get this in one way or another!
Edge Of Sanity; few people have heard of them and few have spread the word about them, and it’s time to revive their memory. Edge of Sanity was a progressive death metal band from Sweden. They were formed in 1989 and they became one of Sweden’s top metal bands during the 90’s. They have even won the so-called ‘’Zeppelin Award’’ for being Sweden’s best death metal act in 1994. Their type of death metal delivered everything and anything, from ponderous and crushing, to melodic and emotional death metal, mixing technicality and simplicity. Dan Swano was the front man of this band, and even he himself is very famous in the Swedish metal community. He has been playing in many other bands plus he has worked with side-projects when he is alone. Edge of Sanity had a bumpy ride through their career, and Swano was kicked out from the band. They broke up in 1997 but were later activated by Swano but with guest musicians instead. After the recording of Crimson II, the band finally took its last breath and broke up in 2003, but their memory still lives today.
Edge of Sanity were just empty and uninteresting words to me before, but now when I got their compilation album my opinion about them has totally changed. Just a few weeks ago I was walking in a local store and I saw the words Edge of Sanity on an album cover. I picked it up and the title was When All Is Said
, I thought it was a new album so I bought it (without knowing that it was a compilation album). I eventually found out about it and was pretty disappointed, but then when I looked on the back I noticed that Dan Swano had included both Crimson tracks! This is probably one of the best melodic/progressive death metal greatest compilation albums ever. 14 songs (or 16 because of the Crimsons) were voted as Edge of Sanity’s greatest tracks by the fans and believe me, these are really good songs. Plus, you have almost three albums all-in-one with When All Is Said. Dan Swano has included a little background history about every song in the booklet that follows the compilation. There he mentions his ideas and thoughts about the tracks, what was great and what was bad. A good and funny thing to do though, but unfortunately the lyrics from the Crimson tracks are not included in the booklet just so you know.
The first disc has the 14 short tracks and the second disc has the 40 minute long Crimson songs, so let’s begin with the first disc. The first disc has a mix of everything, and I mean it too. If you are looking for some intense and ‘’ordinary’’ death metal you could check out songs like Human Aberration, In The Veins/Darker Than Black and perhaps Hell Written. Those three tracks have a very intense pace, as the riff work is mostly made of either tremolo picking or just plain heavy riffs while the drumming is either intense, mid-paced action, or blast-beats. But there are of course melodic tracks as well. If you want to listen to some soothing and enjoyable music you should listen to the opus tracks Enigma (to begin with) and The Masque. Those tracks have some of the best melodies of all songs, the atmospheres and song structure makes the songs unique. Eternal Eclipse is also a recommended track, though it sounds similar to In Flames type of music. It is both heavy and contains strong melodies which make the song enjoyable to most people. There are even tracks here that would grasp non-metal fans attention as well. Black Tears, Until Eternity Ends and Twilight are three tracks that have a very catchy song pattern plus different vocal work. Those songs sounds more like rock songs, as they are quite gentle and simple compared to the other tracks. Many of the tracks really stand out because of their unique sound and structure, but the only song that doesn’t stand out would be Lost. This is because of its flat song structure which makes the song boring and outdated, as it is neither catchy nor melodic. It is a heavy song but it greatly fails to impress.
Disc 2 is probably the most attractive disc and that’s because of the Crimson tracks. The history behind the first Crimson started when Swano suggested his crew do an album with only one song. The crew agreed to the idea and the process of making this huge song started to take shape. There was one argue between Swano and the other guys though, since Swano wanted the song to be gentle and melodic while the others wanted it more raw and brutal. The final result landed somewhere in the middle. Words can’t describe the first Crimson track but I will give it a shot. Crimson is 40 minutes long and unique progressive death metal track. There is a rock solid rhythm section made by drums, bass and guitars. Along with that we have a lead guitar that slices its way through with different types of memorable melodies. The sections in this song are very diverse and dynamic. Melodic and calm moments get replaced by intense and ferocious death metal moments. Keyboards kick in a little now and then, as well as beautiful acoustic guitars. The song consists mostly of Swano’s growls and clean vocals, and he admits actually that his attempts to use ‘’dark goth-rock’’ vocals sounded really bad. I don’t agree though, since every type of vocals he uses makes the song very intriguing. Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) is a guest musician, and he contributes with some guitar playing and vocal work, and uses his screams, not his immense demonic growls. The lyrics are brilliant, since while most death metal lyrics are bland and soiled with death, gore, violence, hate and stuff like that. Edge Of Sanity, however, chose a lyric theme about the humans impossibility to breed. In a near future the humans lose their capability to breed and there is this one child that no-one can figure out how it came to life. Either way, the lyrics are both great and mysterious (it took the band over two days to write the lyrics). It is a perfect theme for this apocalyptic and epic song. Crimson could be described as an epic, unique, diverse, highly dynamic and essential death metal song that surely has made its mark on death metal history. As Dan Swano says in the booklet: A big achievement for a possible fiasco!!!
The band was disbanded but Dan Swano revived the band once more and this time with session musicians. In 2003 Swano’s crew created the follow-up to Crimson, which was simply titled Crimson II. Crimson II is not even close to the uniqueness that the first Crimson had, sadly. It is though unique because of its length and structure. The things that separate this song from the first one is that more keyboards and synthesizers were used, the vocal work is not as diverse, and the guitars have a thicker but less unique sound. Crimson II is also divided into chapters while Crimson was one full blown song. The chapters are called: The Forbidden Words, Incantation, Passage Of Time, The Silent Threat, Achilles Hell, Covenant Of Souls, Face To Face, Disintegration and Aftermath
. Crimson II has, like the first Crimson, many different moments, since slow and melodic moments get replaced by intense and aggressive ones and so on. The music is continually changing. This follow-up contains more guitar solos, the keyboards create a bigger atmosphere, and the song has a more aggressive look because of the Akerfeldt-sounding growls. Dan mentions in the booklet that he took all the elements from the first song and made it even more proggier, bolded, softer, harder, etc. He also admits that the growls and lead guitars were going to be huge problems (since Crimson II was supposed to be a solo project). But he got help from fellow metal friends that helped him out. Yes; Crimson II really is an epic listening even if it doesn’t have to same sound as the first one. In the first Crimson the different ‘’moments’’ made the song continually intriguing and interesting. But here everything is moulded together so the whole track is atmospheric, extreme, melodic, epic and unique at the same time, and therefore it doesn’t have the same impact on you. Crimson I beat Crimson II by far, but this is one hell of a follow-up. The ups in this song would be that it sounds very fresh and its dynamic sound, but the downs would be that the keyboards take up too much space and that the vocals are not as varied. I still have to agree with Swano that without the keyboards and additional electronic equipment, Crimson II would probably end up as disaster.
I could never imagine this being so good, especially since I don’t like compilation albums that much because most of the time, my favourite songs are rarely included. But in this one, all the songs became favourites, except for maybe two or three tracks. Edge Of Sanity really was something special, and when I listen to their music I wish that bands like In Flames could take a hike so bands like this could come back and kick some more ass. Even if Edge of Sanity is no longer with us, you can still see the man Dan Swano in bands like Bloodbath and numerous other metal bands. This compilation gives you everything you want from a progressive/melodic death metal band. You get melodies, aggressiveness, brutality, diversity, creativity, innovation, catchiness, and, well, everything! Any fan of melodic death metal must get this in one way or another!
+ Dan Swano’s vocal performances, his Obituary-sounding growls and his clean vocals really add lot of texture to the music.
+ Memorable melodies (especially in Crimson I)
+ The different sound production (or EQ) in all the songs makes them unique and it helps them to standout more
+ From slow bone crushing heaviness to blast-beating rawness to melodic and soothing moments. The music is so varied and diverse.
+ This compilation sums up Edge Of Sanity in all aspects
- ’’Lost’’ is the only track I don’t like and a few rare moments in the Crimsons
From disc 1
-- The Masque
-- Until Eternity Ends
From disc 2
-- Crimson I (listen to this first)
-- Crimson II (and this as second)
Since this compilation includes two other albums to be correct I will give this compilation a full score. A solid 5/5