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There would be few albums that one could describe as more schizophrenic than Edge Of Sanity's Infernal. Not schizophrenic as in lots of different influences ala Atheist or demented sound ala Meshuggah but rather schizophrenic as in a band tearing itself apart due to irreconcilable differences.
Indeed by 1997, there was a major conflict waging as to the future of the band between vocalist Dan Swano and guitarist Andreas "Dread" Axelsson. The rest of the band appeared to side with Axelsson with only drummer Benny Larsson playing on all tracks.
The result is a very inconsistent album in terms of style and quality. In some ways it seems like two separate EPs from two different bands were merged together with songs scattered in random order.
The Swano songs are generally mellower and more progressive in that they tend to incorporate other styles. Unfortunately they are not the better songs and many of the progressive elements seem forced or pointless. It almost seems as if Swano was trying to shoehorn the style pioneered on his Nightingale project into Edge Of Sanity. Ultimately the results are somewhat unsatisfactory as they clash with the Axelsson songs.
On the other side the Axelsson and Co. side features more straight forward melodic Death Metal numbers and is a sign of things to come on follow up album Cryptic. However the song writing is a lot weaker than either Cryptic or phenomenal Purgatory Afterglow.
There are some good songs such as Swano's "Hell Is Where The Heart Is" but overall the album is too inconsistent to be enjoyable. The musicianship is as always excellent. Perhaps the album is best enjoyed as single songs scattered in a random playlist.
Ultimately Infernal reveals a band that was a spent force and who probably should have called it quits after the majestic Crimson. Instead we are left with an unsatisfactory end to the Swano-Axelsson partnership that tarnishes the reputation of one of the most innovative bands in Death Metal.
By this time, the band was split in two. You have your Axelsson tracks (“Helter Skelter” and “The Bleakness Of It All”), your Swanö tracks, and those tracks fucked up because of their divorce. Axelsson’s tracks are rather primitive compared to most of their material at this point, but it’s a downright homage to the band's roots when they played more primal and rapist-like tunes. The vocals are raspier (remember that Axelsson sang for Marduk), there are less catchy hooks, and much less progressive elements.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have Danny-boy who ventured further into what seems like Nightingale territory. “15:36,” “Losing Myself,” and even the Edge Of Sanity / Nightingale cross-class “The Last Song” (all which feature clean vocals) are refreshing in idea and expression, detracting from the rest of the album. “The Last Song,” featuring its atmospheric, humble beginnings of what feels to be Dan’s parting soliloquy, ends with one of the most striking finishes to an album I’ve ever heard. What sounds like a cacophonous collage to the general population stuns my perception as the array of guitar melodies crashing between each other in a mix of artistic splendor reach higher heights than any man could achieve.
The more dependable tracks, such as “Damned (By The Damned),” “Hollow,” “Inferno,” and “Burn The Sun” are what balance this album out. Again, many people mistake them as what makes this album mediocre, but if you look at Crimson again, you’ll hear the same part repeated over five times and not as much variation. None of these tracks sound alike and each has a signature riff and rhythm to headbang and get lost in. Be it the churning crustiness of “Damned (By The Damned),” the folkish “Hollow,” the relentless “Inferno,” or even the more Spectral Sorrows sounding “Burn The Sun" with its evil interlude, these tracks work on their own instead of the collective.
The only ones that no one dare say shit about (aside from the last one), is the opener “Hell Is Where The Heart Is” and “Forever Together Forever.” I’ve noticed that these ones are some of the more melodic and fulfilling when it comes to the signature Edge Of Sanity sound. The former actually destroys (horrifyingly) all the other opening tracks on Edge Of Sanity albums, with its stampeding rhino riff and the merciless death growls of Swanö. No catchy keyboard interlude, no emo vocals to hook the weak, no filler material whatsoever. We even get to hear a damn captivating solo / clean riff combination that is strict and deadly. Much of the same can be said about the latter - Dan’s monstrous growls colliding with gorgeous leadwork, culminating in a fiery, unpolished solo.
I have to say that this is probably my favorite Edge Of Sanity album when comparing it to everything except Crimson and Crimson II - those I am unable to compare because they are just written in a completely different style, thus making it unfair to one or the other. I might rate something like The Spectral Sorrows or Purgatory Afterglow higher, but this one astonishes me on a personal level more than those, which is why I praise this highly. Give it a spin yourself, even if you don’t agree with me wholeheartedly in the end.
I have never heard 'Crimson'. I have very little desire to.
Edge Of Sanity is ostensibly a 'progressive' death metal band, but based on the content of this album, they seem to be a blend of melodeath and melodic hard rock that you could hear on the radio without a second thought. Apparently to some people 'progressive' means clean vocals and melodic riffs that don't end in totally stereotypical Gothenburg resolutions; there's even- *gasp*- mood and textural changes in some of the riffs! Surely if you can comprehend this topsy-turvey rollercoaster ride of an album, you have an IQ of at LEAST 180.
The so-called 'progressive' elements on this release seem incredibly shoehorned in and unnecessary to the overall songs. See the weird rhythm that ends '15:36': what's the purpose of that? Did Swanö suddenly remember that this was supposed to be a progressive death metal band and not a glorified rock group and feel the need to put something awkward in before the song ended? Other instances like that are dotted throughout the album: totally conventional, rocky melodeath infused with illogical passages of strange time signatures and tuneless riffs. I'm not sure if Swanö was trying to prove something more to the audience or himself.
The fact is that on this album Edge Of Sanity is much, much more comfortable and more adept at making poppy melodic death metal than they are at anything remotely unconventional. Swanö is pretty good at crafting catchy, simple, traditional Gothenburg riffs that are a notch above the pack through a willingness to change texture and mood as previously stated. Even what are essentially rock songs in disguise are pretty fun to listen to; '15:36', apart from its retarded ending, is quite catchy and enjoyable, with capably executed clean vocals and simple, engaging riffs.
It's really on songs where the band forces themselves to be more death metal than they actually are that they fail. 'The Bleakness Of It All' is a very half-assed array of atonal tremolo riffs and growls and thumping drum beats that never add up to anything but the members of the band being able to finally take a breath, assured that they're not as gay as their talents would suggest. Of course they follow that with another track, the brilliantly titled 'Damned (By The Damned)', which could easily come out of a Night In Gales album without any trouble.
This is something of a silly album and only half the songs are really listenable, but it's kind of fun to have simply because everyone who so desperately lauds Edge Of Sanity as masters of the art of progressive death metal tend to focus on one album and ignore the fact that they had seven others that no one cares about. This album is only half good, but when it's on, it's pretty on. I like the rockish melodeath tracks a lot and if this were an EP of just those I'd probably listen to it on a regular basis. As it is, though, with the worthwhile content scattered every which way, it's more a curiosity piece than anything else.
"Crimson" changed my life. "Crimson II" further enhanced my view that firstly Dan Swano was one of the greatest metal men in the world, and that Edge of Sanity could be one of the most influential progressive bands in living history.
Then I got "Infernal". I think the word that best describes it is disappointing. It isn't a horrendously bad album, by any stretch of the imagination, and there are certainly worse efforts out there. But there is something about Edge of Sanity that makes you excited about their work, and with hype like that when you get an album so... average as "Infernal", it takes you back somewhat.
There is a distinct lack of experimental death metal progressiveness on "Infernal" and while the band are no doubt musically very talented, you get a feeling that they got bored with this one. Even Dan Swano's vocals, which have a harsh edge to them that sets him apart from his contemporaries (even the mighty Mikael Akerfeldt!) just don't seem to be putting the same effort into them as they do on either of the Crimson albums.
The one shining light in this album of mediocrity is the last song, rather appropriately titled "The Last Song" This song is a fantastic piece of musicianship, and oddly, the only track in the album that is completely different to the rest of it. It starts with a melodious yet minor-keyed piano solo, with a guitar coming subtley in after the first couple of bars. Then Swano starts to sing. His voice is deep and rich and slow, bringing a new side to the band completely. After singing for about 2 minutes in this down tempo fashion, accompanied by the piano, there is a split second gap, and suddenly the rest of the band bursts into action. The last 3 minutes or so of the song are just an instrumental of heavy riffing with a melody being played over the top. It is almost beautiful in it's simplicity yet you could still have a good head bang to it.
Aside from that last song (incidentally, the reason I gave this album a mark above 50) the album is a disappointment from such a talented and interesting band. If you are looking into getting anything by Edge of Sanity, get both the Crimson albums, and leave this one alone.
The swedish death metal band Edge of Sanity has gone a long way in their career. And one member has gone an even longer way. That member is Dan Swanö. Yes, the man with million bands (Nightingale, Bloodbath, Pan-Thy-Monium among others). While early Edge of Sanity was mostly death metal of the swedish kind the later Edge of Sanity has incorporated lots of melody in it. On Infernal they have taken some of the progressive rock influences Swanö had mostly used in his side projects (Nightingale mostly). Well, actually the influences show only on a few songs but more of that later.
The members list shows that there are two vocalists, two guitarists and two basists on 'Infernal'. Yes, that is the case BUT only one of each on every song, except for 'The Bleakness of it All' where Axelson provides the rhythm guitar and one Peter Tägtgren plays the leads. The larger than usual number of vocalists and bassists is because of that the all of the members didn't participate on all of the songs. Benny Larsson played all of the drums on 'Infernal' but that's where the consistency ends. Of the eleven tracks, five of them are totally played and composed by Dan Swanö and the rest six are composed by the rest of the band. Of those six, Swanö sings on four and Axelson takes care of the vocals on 'Helter Skelter' and 'The Bleakness of it All'. It is quite confusing and diversifying.
Since the band seemed to have inner conflicts (or so I believe) they couldn't (didn't want to) work together and hence the albums sounds a varied, a lot varied actually. The songs which Swanö didn't touch at all sound quite much straight death metal (even a bit black metallish) and all of Swanö's songs have at least some amounts of progressivity in them and some of that famous Edge of Sanity groove. I mean the lead guitar effect on '15:36' just screams prog rock. Swanö's songs also have a larger amount of leads and clean vocals in them. In fact the songs which Swanö hadn't composed (but did the vocals on) don't have any clean vocals on them. I guess the rest of the band wanted to go back to the old days of brutality but Swanö wanted to go forwards with the progressive sound.
The varying in the songs makes this album quite hard to stomach. Comparing the much more brutal stuff like 'Helter Skelter' with the Nightingalish, almost rockish, 'Losing Myself'. The gap is really huge. Something about Swanö's composing tells the fact that though I usually prefer the more brutal and heavier stuff, Swanö's composings are superior compared to the stuff made by the rest of the band although 'Damned (by the Damned)' is also quite good a song. Also the songs written by Swanö are catchier by a mile. They stick into your head like glue which isn't necessarily a good thing. The songs wear out rather quickly.
'Helter Skelter' is really quite a boring song with just two different parts and both have boring riffs. 'The Bleakness of it All' isn't much better either. The riffs aren't as boring but still fall short of average. The main thing about the two songs are the vocals. Anders Axelson isn't the right man for the job. He sounds alike with dozens of growlers out there. Also when the unavoidable comparation with Swanö's vocals comes, Axelson doesn't stand a chance. Swanö sounds much more aggressive and ballsier.
The rest of the non-Swanö songs aren't much better either. Swanö's vocals carry them a bit farther but their mediocrity drags the album down. Overall the five Swanö songs are quite good but don't really carry this album through.
(Originally appeared in the webzine Tuonela (c) 2001)