Review Summary: Old school death metal with a slight progressive touch.
Edge of Sanity’s most successful and praised album is the fourty-minute epic Crimson, without a doubt. Before that they had released the brilliantly melodic Purgatory Afterglow, the somewhat transitional Spectral Sorrows, the experimental Unorthodox and the simple and less than impressive Nothing But Death Remains. Although Nothing But Death was a pretty average affair, what a lot of people don’t seem to know is that every album they have released after that has been nothing but quality. Unorthodox bridges the gap between their melodic future and their brutal past, you won’t find intense melodic leads like you would on later releases, instead substituted for straight up death metal riffs (think Obituary
) with the occasional sprinkling of melody and keyboards to spice it up, although it is by no means an ‘experimental’ release as I may have hinted at in the opening, it certainly is where Edge of Sanity began adding in new things, trying new stuff and getting more progressive. They even have a three act concept song in Enigma, which lasts a beefy seven minutes and features every spectrum of their early sound.
Everything about Unorthodox screams quality, from the stunning artwork and packaging to the brutal death metal production, this is an album which is just great plain and simple. No gimmicks, nothing that particularly demands your attention, just a pure death metal album with Edge of Sanity’s trademark style. Unorthodox is unrelenting, from the opening riff on Enigma to the final somber notes of When All Is Said there is not a moment where the music slows down. Each song blasts away at the pace of a freight train, only slowing down to pummel you into the ground momentarily before crashing along again. It is drastically different from any of their later works but you can still hear their obvious style just flowing through without ever figuring out why it sounds so familiar. Maybe it’s because of Dan’s exemplary vocals, or the melodic leads that will pop up out of nowhere and have you gleefully drifting off to the best parts of Purgatory Afterglow, but whatever it is, if you’re a fan of Edge of Sanity you will almost certainly find something to enjoy here, even if (like me) you usually don’t listen to a lot of old-school death metal.
Enigma is the stand out song on the album, and definitely the most progressive. Lyrically, it is split up into three separate acts with both Swano and Axelsson using their vocal talents to their best use, even Dan’s cleans make an appearance in a brief gospel like moment (it is as weird as it sounds, but works thanks to his majestic voice) that comes in the opening stages of the song. There are some amazing riffs in the song, and one particular melodic one that repeats throughout which will have you grinning in joy. Featuring several slow downs and dynamic changes, if there was ever a mini-crimson so to speak, this is it. There are also a couple of other stand out tracks which appear at the end, the title track When All Is Said
and Dead But Dreaming
, which both impress thanks to the skilful integration of keyboards. Dead But Dreaming is a typical track for the album which has a fantastically ominous moment incorporating the keyboards, and When All Is Said is the slowest song on the album, which ends it on a powerful note, straying close to doom metal.
The strongest point of the album is the solidity of it, every song is fun to listen to and there are no weak songs. Each one has a riff or two which is worth hearing at least once and in every track you are treated to Dan’s more than capable vocals while Axelsson backs up with his own similar growls and occasional scream. Of course, you could find it getting a bit repetitive towards the latter half but the final two songs end it on a high note which will leave a good impression on you. Lyrically, Dan and Axelsson go through an almost poetic but always death related array of subjects, with passages like ‘I am the master of your dreams / I am the creator of your screams / I pulverize your inner will invisibly / no blood will spill’. Sure, it’s not thought provoking or relatively interesting, but who cares, on such an aggressive and straight forward release you’re looking at the wrong thing if you are focusing on the lyrics.
Edge of Sanity will always be known for their groundbreaking fifth album, Crimson, but if you are a fan of the band, or a fan of old-school death metal then there is plenty to enjoy here. An under appreciated album which might surprise some people who didn’t know about Edge of Sanity’s old-school beginnings, it’s not like their later melodic albums, but it still has the Edge of Sanity charm and flair.