Double album on black vinyls with gatefold cover
Crimson I from 1996 is perhaps Edge of Sanity’s most lauded recording, Crimson is really a single 40-minute song/concept record that is perhaps one of the most interesting achievements in death metal — a genre that generally doesn’t lend itself to obscure pursuits. Generally, every death metal disc is conceptual in its single-minded focus on destruction (of life, God, art, ideas, and, especially, rock), but Crimson is different in that it delivers lyrical nuance and consistent musical themes from front to back. Often thought of as the essential Edge of Sanity disc, Crimson features the classic band line-up of Dan Swano on vocals, guitarists Dread and Sami Nerberg, Benny Larsson on drums, and Anders Lundberg on bass. Equal parts sprawling, orchestral epic and downright heavyweight slugfest, this “song” tears at many metal preconceptions. A challenging effort, Crimson is a must-have for all death metal fans. Crimson II was released in 2003 and there are two ways of looking at Crimson II: optimistically, it represents a long hoped for, never expected second installment to Swedish death metal legends Edge of Sanity’s greatest triumph; pessimistically, it sees only one of said predecessor’s original participants using his not inconsiderable talents and a few hired henchmen to usurp a band’s good name for a personal project. A means to a selfish end? Wait, it gets even more complicated. The first fact: yes, Crimson (the original) was the work of a fully functioning band, Edge of Sanity. The second fact: yes, Crimson was also, for all intents and purposes, a solo effort by that band’s dominant songwriter and undisputed driving force, Dan Swano, whose personal vision had guided Edge of Sanity’s trajectory, though previously never as completely. So what’s a well-intention metalhead to do here? Clearly, there’s really no satisfying conclusion to be had; Edge of Sanity fans will simply have to make a personal choice (pick their poison, if you will) when approaching Crimson II. Judged on a purely musical basis, the album indeed represents a worthy and natural successor to the original, successfully transporting the listener back to a fantastical realm of apocalyptic science fiction — brought to you by the wonders of progressive death metal. Of course, in a final, necessary twist, all of this is rendered whole via a single, 40-plus minute “song” (or “song suite”) containing literally dozens upon dozens of riffs partitioned into oft-recurring themes, numerous soft/hard interludes, and synthesizer embellishments for added effect — all of it combining into a canvas of downright panoramic scope. Swano really pulls out all the stops, and whether you choose to condemn or applaud him in the end, there’s no denying his amazing achievement — again. Of course, Crimson II is thematically useless without its slightly superior first chapter, and though it may only nominally qualify as an Edge of Sanity record, right now that’s all listeners have.
2. Crimson II