Review Summary: A lifeless effort from a band on their last legs.
For the average metalhead, Edge of Sanity is a household name. A legendary death metal band from Finspång, Sweden that many regard as one of the best progressive death metal bands of all time alongside genre heavyweights such as Death and Gorguts. After the release of what many consider to be the band’s defining work, Crimson
, a single 40 minute long progressive metal epic that redefined what death metal music was capable of, creative differences began to arise in the band between the band’s lead vocalist and songwriter Dan Swanö, who wanted to go even further into progressive metal territory, and the rest of the band who wanted to return to the band’s raw death metal roots. This tension resulted in the release of the confused and disjointed Infernal
as well as Swanö’s departure from the band. While it would seem that the band got exactly what they wanted, Cryptic
does not feel inspired in the slightest and is easily the worst album in the entire Edge of Sanity catalogue.
Released a mere 9 months after Infernal
is a rushed, boring mess of an album that tests the listener’s patience with every second of its duration. Right from the get go, the listener is hit with some of the most generic riffs in the entire death metal genre. The album opener “Hell Written” begins immediately with a tremolo picked guitar riff that is passable, albeit fairly generic, before going into some forgettable chugs and repeating the same riff again afterwards. This formula loops for about two minutes before the song turns into what sounds like hard rock. This section lasts for the remainder of the song until the ending brings the opening riff back. On paper this doesn’t sound that bad, and in practice it really isn’t. It’s passable stuff. Problems arise however when the listener realizes that “Hell Written” is the best song on the entire album. From track two onward is where the album really gets painful.
Like the bands previous effort, Cryptic
is stylistically confused throughout its entire duration. At times, the album attempts to incorporate death n’ roll influences into the songwriting, taking inspiration from bands such as Entombed. While it can be executed correctly in some cases (Entombed), death n’ roll bands are often bland and uninspired and, on Cryptic
, Edge of Sanity is no exception. The riffs on tracks such as “Uncontroll Me” (great spelling) and “Dead I Walk”, for example, are unbelievably stale due to their failed attempts to be groovy. The standard death metal riffs on the album, while slightly better, are still boring to the point of tears, often sounding like a D-grade “swedeath” tribute band. While none of it is absolutely unlistenable, one could just as easily pick up a classic album such as Left Hand Path
or Dark Recollections
and forget that this album ever even existed in the first place.
Songwriting aside, the individual performances on Cryptic
are not awful, but they are far from what this band is capable of. In order to fill Dan Swanö’s spot as the lead vocalist in the band, Andreas Axelsson decided to hire Roberth Karlsson of Pan.Thy.Monium and much later, Scar Symmetry fame as lead vocalist. His vocals here are at a much higher register than they were in Pan.Thy.Monium, and as a result, aren’t as devastating, however for the most part they are decent despite the fact that they lack any sort of character. The guitar work on the album is, of course, handled by ex-Marduk vocalist Andreas Axelsson and Sami Nerberg who played on all previous Edge of Sanity releases. I hate to keep saying this, but dull and generic is the best way to describe their performances on the album. None of the guitar riffs are particularly complex or memorable so their guitar playing, while passable, completely flies by the listener leaving no impact whatsoever. The bass, performed by Anders Lindberg, is almost completely inaudible throughout the album and the drumming, performed by Benny Larsson is simplistic and utterly forgettable.
In the end, Cryptic
is not just a bad Edge of Sanity album, but also one of the most cliched, phoned-in death metal albums of all time. There is nothing even remotely interesting that happens over the course of the album’s duration. For fans of the band, the album could be interesting to hear the band at their weakest point before they inevitably broke up in 1999, but for the average metalhead looking for a quality death metal album, stay far away from Cryptic