Review: Edge Of Sanity – Crimson

Location: Finspång, Sweden
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Released: April 2, 1996
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Diving For Treasure

By: Kris Kotlarik

In a previous review, I mentioned the complete lack of record stores in Eau Claire, WI (unless you’re in the market for slow indie rock and/or a fedora). Luckily, I live in Columbus, Ohio, and while it’s not exactly a metal mecca like Helsinki, it is still a vast improvement. One of the record stores on the north side of town had this album on sale for a grand total of $3. For a Dan Swanö CD, that’s a huge bargain. Hell, $3 for just about any CD is a bargain these days.

From the same man who brought you Moontower and approximately five billion solid albums and/or production mixes, Crimson, Edge of Sanity’s fifth album, is probably the most unique album I have reviewed to this point. This 40-minute album is a 40-minute song with a concept similar to that of the movie Children Of Men: In a world where nobody can have children, one person somehow manages to conceive and give birth. The storylines differ significanly, however; whereas the the mother in the movie is a poor immigrant trying to survive a dangerous journey, the mother in Crimson was the queen of the world and died in childbirth. Eventually, the daughter goes on to slaughter the king and meets her own untimely demise at the end.

This kind of concept might work for an Ayreon/Star One album (the latter of which includes a song about Children Of Men, called “It’s Alive, She’s Alive, We’re Alive”). For those who don’t care for Arjen Lucassen’s writing style of having multiple singers, each playing the part of a single character in a rock opera (personally, I think it’s fantastic, but that’s for another day), you’ll be happy to know that Crimson consists of Swanö being his usual self, with some accompaniment from the one and only Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth). 

Musically, this album is incredibly diverse and dynamic. It starts immediately with Swanö’s screaming vocals and a heavy metal beat before shifting into an acoustic section, and it just keeps bouncing around from style to style from there. There are some pummeling blast beats, a few doom metal passages, varying styles of death metal, and multiple acoustic sections which feature clean vocals from both Swanö and Akerfeldt. The diversity is a good thing, but one of the only major flaws (and probably the biggest one) is the occasional whiplash Crimson serves up. The standard for playing many styles and balancing the flow of the music is Devin Townsend’s Ocean Machine, and the transitions here are nowhere near as crisp. I will say that there is one vocal section about 28 minutes in that goes from zero to Swanö in nothing flat, and that section is my favorite non-blast beat part of this album.

There are several great solos, a lot of fantastic leads, and the drumming here is top notch, as is the mix by Swanö. Nonetheless, I can see how this album would be considered intolerable for some people; at the end of the day, if you have a short attention span for music, Crimson probably isn’t for you. If you’re not much for death metal and mostly want to listen to Akerfeldt’s sweet, soothing voice, there isn’t a separate song that you can switch to in order to escape the harshness of Swanö. With that said, this isn’t just some ordinary death metal release; Crimson is more of a death metal journey than directionless, run-of-the-mill moshing material can ever hope to bring to the table. Following along to the lyrics will prove to be very helpful in understanding the plot, and even if you don’t have access to the lyrics, many of the vocals are still intelligible.

Overall: The best $3 I have spent in years.

Rating: 4.5*

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