Review Summary: Phenomenal.
"Another sky is young!"
With those words, Dan Swano begins the monstrous progressive death metal epic known as Crimson. The story takes place in a blighted and barren future where humans have lost the ability to produce offspring. The Earth is ruled by a King and a Queen, alluding to the fact that all governing systems have been abolished. Miraculously, the Queen gives birth to a daughter but dies during childbirth. This leaves the King alone to raise the girl, whom the people view as a sign from God that they will be able to reproduce. When the King dies of old age, hundreds of men fight over the title and one manages to win the throne for himself. The people are in despair following the new King’s reign and persuade the daughter to kill him and take her rightful place as Queen. She does so after accepting a bribe from an evil power source, and the people believe that they have “regained the gift of breeding” by restoring the royal blood to the throne. The new Queen misuses her powers, however, and eventually a cult is created to kill her and keep her a prisoner in preservative crimson fluid.
All stories aside, the music here is nothing short of stunning. Everything from crushing death metal sections to sombre acoustic ballads and Gregorian-esque chanting to beautiful melodic passages can be found inside this gargantuan forty-minute track. Swano uses the music to highlight the emotions of the story, forming a symbiotic relationship that greatly enhances the listening experience. It is almost like watching a play, with Swano’s powerful growls and soaring cleans providing the narration. As the song progresses, new chapters and sections are introduced with a switch in style and tempo. The band possesses that rare ability to blend contrasting genres without any lulls and dragging moments, a problem that plagues many aspiring story-telling groups.
While the rest of the band deserves credit for their superb parts, Swano is clearly Crimson’s biggest highlight and the mastermind behind the entire story. The characters seem to take shape and disappear with his every word, and some of his screams are jaw-dropping in quality. The lyrics (co-written by Mikael Akerfeldt, who also appears as a guest vocalist in places) are outstanding, and lines like “Cursed to be walking in the shadows of death for a lifetime!” and “Is she of man, made of flesh and blood" Or is she the offspring of the unholy God"” continue to gather constant quotes by devout fans of the band. Towards the end, tensions start to rise and old sections from minutes passed are revisited. Finally, the opening riff is replayed and Swano screams, “They had found a new leader to worship, a King with her clear blue eyes!”
And that’s it. Aside from a few more ambient noises to fill out the final twenty seconds, the album is over. It’s almost like running into a brick wall in the sense that it’s done so suddenly and without any warning whatsoever. I’d liken it to finishing a book that has almost become a part of the reader, who doesn’t want the story to end. Luckily, Swano wrote a second album called Crimson II (which was a solo project under the band’s name) that concentrates on the Queen’s fate following her imprisonment. Crimson, however, stands alone as Edge of Sanity’s peak as a band. For a forty-minute song, the music never fails to grab hold of the listener and keep their interest sharp. I could go on for ages describing every nook and cranny of the album, but it’s really something that needs to be heard to understand. Even people who aren’t fans of the genre should be able to appreciate the depth and creativity on display here. The band tried something abstract, ambitious and reckless – and produced a masterpiece.