Review Summary: Easy there kiddies. Easy, now.
I’ll cut right to the chase, seeing as there is no point now for a needless intro for a review such as this. Edge Of Sanity is one of those bands which everyone who has heard them respects for their willingness to go places not really explored within the bounds of their genre. It’s easy to call Edge Of Sanity a simple death/melodic death metal band previous to this release, stemming from their pure death metal roots with their debut Nothing But Death Remains
up to their superb, melodic, and also melancholic Purgatory Afterglow
. They play a variation of Swedish death metal virtually unseen before. Interesting. They composed a one track album when such a thing was relatively unknown and taboo. Also interesting. We’re not here to talk about that though, and I only bring it up to sort of set the stage for where Dan Swano and Edge Of Sanity were at circa 1996, the year they released their “classic” album, the 40 minute Swedish progressive death metal escapade known as Crimson
It is true that, in many regards, what Crimson
accomplished was nothing short of breathtaking and certainly was untraveled grounds for any band at the time. The album combined the harsh fury of death metal with the melodies of its Gothenburg counterpart and the progressive effect of such bands as their Swedish brethren Opeth. However, unlike any of these sole genres, Crimson
is an amalgam of said influences mashed together into a single song, high attention demanding experiment which turned out to be the greatest achievement, or so is said, of the bands career. The centralized concept of the album is a story of post-apocalyptic humanity and the troubles that ensued, involving the daughter of a queen who was hailed as a gift from the heavens, toppling dominos throughout the surviving world and ultimately leading to uncontrollable chaos. The story itself is interesting enough, but suffers slightly from, in my personal views, a slightly overworked concept which seems to take itself way, way too seriously. Indeed, the lyrics are well written, a known talent of Edge Of Sanity, but everything appears to be too over-the-top, something which only slightly hinders the big picture.
Moving away from that, however, we find the topic of the music itself. It is indeed a marvel of musicianship and a rather fine display of songwriting, with each section (usually separated by a distinct bridge of some sort) providing an impressive display of riffs which are both heavy and melodic, but don’t quite contain that lasting power which some of the songs from their previous albums had (“Twilight”, anyone?). It is here where I find the mind-tearing question, are the riffs memorable enough to call this classic? At some points, this is certainly the case, with the riffs being strung back-to-back in ways I’ve never heard before. It’s interesting to see how Edge Of Sanity manages to create effective melodies while barely ever harmonizing the lead and rhythm guitars, which gives props to the musical mind of Swano and his band mates. It cannot go without saying though, that even though riffs are constantly changing literally throughout the entire forty minutes, I would really like to look back and pick a specific riff which struck me as awe-inspiring or downright mesmerizing, but sadly I cannot.
The way that Crimson
shifts paces is quite remarkable. It is nearly flawless in its execution of going from full-out death metal passages to a clean acoustic interlude without the listener even thinking about the transition. This applies to the vocal performance of our mastermind Dan Swano and the all-too-well known Opeth front man Mikael Akerfeldt, who provides guest vocals and guitars on the album. The vocals change from Edge Of Sanity’s typical grunts and growls to clean singing to ominous drones throughout the run time, which often works well despite some flaws with the clean vocals. While the death metal growls are, as always, superb beyond reason, the clean singing is flat, almost pretentious, and simply tires way too hard to sound melodramatic and sorrowful at points, yet comes across as something just above tolerable. Worry not, however, since the singing makes up a (comparably) small part of the vocal performance, with the terrific growls at the forefront sweeping the show away and elevating this album to that of Edge Of Sanity’s best (in terms of growled vocals) performance.
Between solos, acoustic bridges, intense and dark moments of glory, Crimson
manages to both captivate the listener and thrust them away with moments of simple but lasting confusion. The forty minutes is not out of the question for most metal fans, especially those such as me who appreciate long songs which have a lasting meaning, but this also means that the listener simply must sit down and listen to the entire album. This isn’t one of those longer songs which you can pause for a few minutes, go attend to something, and come back and finish. No, this is a composition which takes your full and unquestionably undivided attention to take in, something which very few of us can do in this day and age. That said, though, it is a rewarding listen if you do take the time to open your mind and take in what Edge Of Sanity is attempting to get across. The album, especially toward it’s latter portions, tends to slow down tremendously and concentrate more on atmosphere and expression than the first three-quarters, which is more or less aimed at assaulting the listener with more riffs than most bands have on two full length LP’s, which is why the back portion of the disc garners the most praise from me, since a thick atmosphere is something I enjoy more than anything.
is work of progressive death metal extremes. On the one hand, we have the simply astounding barrage of heaviness which hits the listener like a truck upon first listen, layered by just the opposite, calming (but equally progressive) moments of bliss which make this album as good as I believe it to be. Without these atmospheric touches, Crimson
would amount to little more than a decent, lengthy extension to Purgatory Afterglow
. However, this is not how things turned out. Interestingly enough, when all is said and done, the listener leaves with a sense of accomplishment after listening to what Edge Of Sanity expresses here. It’s production is crisp and clean, especially for 1996, it’s ideas certainly new to the genre, and it’s execution nearly flawless. The untold amount of positives to the album overshadow the few, but noticeable, shortcomings with astounding vigor, leaving you with nothing but good things to say in the end about what Crimson
is and what it did for Edge Of Sanity as a band, and what it did for progressive death metal as a genre. An enjoyable listen? Most definitely. A leap forward for all of Swedish death metal? Certainly. A classic? Not quite there.