Review Summary: The Spectral Sorrows shows a terrific band beginning to move into its prime, with Edge of Sanity laying all of the elements of their sound into place to create a great album.
Dan Swanö is widely known as a legend in the death metal community, and it isn't hard to see why. Albums like his 1998 solo effort, Moontower
, Edge of Sanity's 1994 release, Purgatory Afterglow
, and last, but certainly not least, Edge of Sanity's 1996 classic experimental progressive album, Crimson
along with its follow-up, 2003's Crimson II
all established him as one of the greatest songwriters and vocalists in the genre's history. Combining passionate, brooding clean vocals, with deep, yet still discernible growls, he was among the first to effectively combine the elements of melody into the death metal formula. However, often overlooked, is Edge of Sanity's 1993 album, The Spectral Sorrows
, which is where the band really began churning out the sound that we know them by today. Catchy riffs and intricate melodies infiltrate the album and Dan's excellent clean vocals also make appearances here, yet it was until Purgatory Afterglow
that they were used to their full effect.
As the sinister, album opening, instrumental title track comes over the speakers, the tension begins to slowly build, until that is all wrenched open by a ripping lead and Dan lets out his first, brilliant lyrics, "Whispers, travelling with the wind, Like fragments of unbecoming, The gathering of our sins". Dan's vocals on this album are all that fans have come to expect out of his pipes, while sounding slightly less refined than on his later albums. Demonic belching and piercing shrieks make their presence known on nearly all of the tracks, save the two instrumentals that bookend the album. His cleans are also evident through parts of the record, especially on the sixth and tenth tracks, the cover of Manowar's "Blood of My Enemies" and "Sacrificed", the former of which is nearly all covered by an almost shouted spoken word-like delivery and his melodic, low cleans, while the latter being an almost poppy rocker filled with baritone singing. Lyric wise, the album is spectacular, as many of the songs are pure poetry in motion, with such great lines as, "I awake into another sphere, Reborn into the neverwhere, All alone in this space, There is no love nor disgrace" (From "Lost") and " My inborn lust for adventures of shapeless nature and kind, I lie here clutching at straws, the dream savant chose me blind" (From "Across the Fields of Forever"). Of course, we have all come to predict this kind of performance from Swanö, so it is no surprise.
As far as the guitars go, this album is absolutely filled to the brim with infectious and ominous licks from the duo of Andreas "Dread" Axelsson and Sami Nerberg. As far as the solos are concerned, when used, they are all filled with melody and show the direction that Edge of Sanity was moving in during this era of their existence. Check "The Masque" and "Jesus Cries", for some (but not all) of the best examples. Moving onto the rhythm section, drummer Benny Larsson delivers a reliable, thrashy showing on the kit, keeping the rapid songs moving when needed and slowing down when the clean, emotional passages make themselves evident. However, bassist Anders Lindberg is somewhat inaudible throughout the album, which highlights the issues with production of the album along with the difficulty of hearing the solos when they are churned out. It isn't a major problem, though, and is a minor blemish on a great performance.
As far as a clear standout is concerned, "Across the Fields of Forever" would be one of the most obvious. An overwhelming sense of atmosphere envelops the listener as the track progresses through its six minute and six second length. Dan grunts his way to another standout performance on the mic and brooding acoustic sections combined with thrashier passages create a sense of variety throughout the song. The lyrics are at their usual fantastic quality, as well. However, other songs challenge the aforementioned track for the title, including the eclectic "Darkday", the longer, progressive-feeling "The Masque", the thunderous, rushing "Jesus Cries", which includes the wicked wailing at the end, which chills to the bone, along with the two aforesaid mellower tracks, "Blood of My Enemies" and "Sacrificed".
In conclusion, the main thing holding this album back is the fact that Edge of Sanity's sound was still progressing into bigger and better things when this album was released. The production also leaves something to be desired. However, Dan Swanö proves that he is one of the leading vocalists in the early melodeath movement, and it leads into some of the best material in the genre's history. This, combined with the fact that the majority of the tracks are enjoyable and catchy, make The Spectral Shadows
an effective album and one that any fans of the band or melodic death metal in general should check out. The Spectral Shadows
gets a 4 out of 5.