Metal Masterpieces – Edge of Sanity: Crimson

Sometime in 1996, Edge of Sanity, a tragically underrated progressive death metal band from Sweden, released one of the most ambitious, daring and spectacularly epic concept albums of all time. That album was called Crimson. We take a nostalgic look at the magic of Crimson and see how it holds up today. Hint: it still does!

Mention Edge of Sanity to a typical early twenty-something or teenage metal fan today and chances are you’ll be met with a blank stare, even if that metal fan has a taste for the progressive, experimental and technical bent offered by bands like Opeth or Between the Buried And Me.

But had you mentioned Edge of Sanity back in 1996, you’d be met with a deafening and cacophonous howl of approval with fists pumped in the air.

Actually – wait, that’s not right. You’d probably still have been met with the blank stare.

That’s because, for some ungodly reason, Edge of Sanity never really hit the metal mainstream, even in their heyday, despite releasing two of the best metal albums of all time in this and the follow-up, Crimson II.

The reasons are not exactly clear. Perhaps it’s because Edge of Sanity were too trailblazing and pioneering for their own good, creating their own unique concoction of brutally powerful death metal alongside intricate acoustic guitar melodies, meandering yet captivating interludes, and 70’s-inspired mellotrons and keyboards, and the metal community at that time just wasn’t ready to accept such blasphemous deviation from the popular genres of the time, thrash and American death metal.

Too bad for them, because the album really doesn’t have too much in the way of overly experimental, wanky, go-nowhere indulgence that typically scares people from music of the proggy persuasion. The interludes are always interesting, never last for too long or sway too far from the musical direction and theme the song establishes. As a result, you’re captivated for almost the entire 40 minutes, and when the album ends you find yourself wondering how the hell the time passed so quickly.

The lyrical story of the song is actually pretty interesting if you choose to follow it, telling a somewhat hackneyed yet well-told fantasy tale of a future world in which humans are no longer able to conceive, and a child who is somehow born to the ruling King and Queen causes a Machiavellian web of betrayal and lies as the kingdom’s people fight over the throne. The key to the story seems to revolve around some sort of magical ‘crimson fluid’ that keeps people frozen in stasis, but I must admit my interest in the lyrics extended only to a superficial level. I am more interested in the music.

Dan Swanö, the frontman of Edge of Sanity (and about a million other bands) is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever seen come out of the hallowed shores of Sweden – and that’s really saying something, when you’ve got the likes of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Martin Henriksson to compete with.

He’s a true musical savant, skilled at vocals, guitars, bass, drums and keyboard, and probably more obscure instruments I haven’t named here. He could probably create a 17 minute long epic death metal masterpiece using only a chromatically-tuned set of clay flowerpots. You can feel his presence reverberating through the speakers on this album – vicious death metal growls, first-rate clean singing and skilled, expressive guitar work.

On creating Crimson, Swanö said in an interview at the time: “The idea had been there for quite some time. I grew up with these epic kind of songs. I was also fascinated by the works of Jean Michel Jarré and Mike Oldfield. Both have albums that was one song that lasted about 40 min, and some of them “broke free” from the rules of the traditional verse and chorus structure. Since I had come halfway there with Pan Thy Monium’s “Raagoonshinaah” on Dawn Of Dreams, I figured that it would be easier to get a long track together than ten, four minute tracks. It meant instead of coming up with 10 choruses, now I had to come up with… no chorus at all! The recording was awesome. The writing session was one of the few times Edge Of Sanity really played and wrote together as a team. Writing the lyrics was hard work and also the mix was kind of a drag… but I don’t regret it one bit.”

Despite the fact Crimson was largely overlooked, it’s starting to get some retrospective recognition in metal circles now, probably because of the burst in popularity of similar prog-melo-death acts like the aforementioned Opeth, BTBAM, and Dark Tranquillity.

If you’re in any way a fan of metal or progressive rock, or even just good music in general, do yourself a favour and click the link below, and be prepared to enter an aural journey into the astral plains and beyond.


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