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A lifeless effort from a band on their last legs - 35%

Voice_Of_Steel, June 26th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1997, CD, Black Mark Production

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 , Cryptic 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.

Originally written for www.sputnikmusic.com under my alternate username.

Edge of Sanity Ditches Dan Swano and Prog. - 73%

Insin, May 4th, 2015

In 1996, Swedish progressive death metal band Edge of Sanity released Crimson, a concept album consisting of only one forty-minute song. It was an ambitious project, and later that year, EoS followed it with Infernal, often considered a disappointment due to the internal struggle over the band’s direction showing through into the music. Cryptic is its followup, and the only EoS album without Dan Swano. It’s decent music and stylistically average melodeath, with most of the progressive elements absent. The band’s sound has been uncomplicated and sounds generic, each song speeding along at an unchanging pace, with a few exceptions. Hell Written is the only real prog song on here, switching from frantic metal to a softer, calmer part, like how Opeth writes (only not ten minutes long). The strangely upbeat riffs scattered throughout the album also stand out as different -- but other than these examples, there isn’t much variation, and the band’s innovative side is no longer present.

As mentioned earlier, Dan Swano does not contribute on this album. Instead, Karlsson takes over vocal duties. It’s a slight improvement, but still mediocre. His vocals are little messy, as if he’s slobbering while he growls, and he lets out the occasional “Yeah!” and “Let’s go!” therefore succeeding in sounding somewhat stupid. Clean vocals are completely gone. On the contrary, Cryptic has some good riffs on it, and solos are common, but tend to get buried under the rest of the music instead of standing out in the forefront. The riffs suffer due to uninteresting songwriting, and the bass is audible but could be higher in the mix. Song structures are plainer and uninventive.

Cryptic may be nothing special, and overall sounds passable, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its moments. Dead I Walk has an excellent opening riff, and Hell Written’s brief soft section throws you in for a loop, but the song might have been more effective had it been placed later in the album, instead of as the first track. It could have broken up the monotony of the unchangingly paced, standard metal, and it sets a misleading example for something that does not exist on the rest of the album.

The album is a good length; much longer than its thirty-five minutes, and it would drag. Without Swano, it deviates from Edge of Sanity’s already-established sound: the addition of progressive elements to death metal. Now the emphasis on progressive is gone, leaving only a decent melodeath album with a few untraditional aspects. Still, I’d recommend picking it up, but only after you’ve familiarized yourself with the band’s other works.

Proves a point - 86%

shantanupatni1991, January 28th, 2009

Being the only Edge of Sanity album not to feature Dan ‘GOD’ Swano, I got this one the last; and now I realize what a foolish skeptic idiot I was to question the amazing-ness of this album. Swano left the band after Infernal but guitarist Andreas Axelsson wanted to keep things together so he recruited Robert Karlsson of Pan.Thy.Monium to handle vocal duties, who couldn’t have been a better choice. He doesn’t disappoint at all, heck, you might actually not miss Swano here, what more can one ask for?

You know what’s hard to do while making the kind of music these guys make? It’s making every song sound fresh without slowing down the tempo. Can they do it? Yes they can, effortlessly, and convincingly. I’ve always loved the band’s overall sound and song construction; something which hasn’t been lost in this release. They manage to keep the “progressive” tag and come up with some extraordinary riffs, solos and interludes.

The first track, Hell Written, is somewhat boring till that break at around 2 minutes, after which you are blown away by seeing how perfectly they have created the Opeth feel without making the song as long as 12 minutes or playing the same god damn riff 77 times. Now that they’ve got you in the mood and risen above your expectations, they continue making similar stupendous songs one after another, overflowing with more inimitable riffs. By the time you reach the third track, No Destroy, you’re head banging and air-guitaring like a maniac.

And after one of the shortest half an hours of your life, you come back to your play list, disheartened by why the album was so short. And then you double click on Hell Written, wanting to repeat the whole cycle once again.

Dissonant Sidekick - 74%

OzzyApu, December 20th, 2007

All right, time to take out the baseball bat and find where that little prick Andreas Axelsson is jerking off. That bitch was rolling tough all over the last album on how he wanted to go back to his roots. That was Infernal and this is Cryptic, the one Edge Of Sanity piece everyone was skeptic about. After hearing everything on this album, I figured fate spared these guys, because what we have here is an album that doesn't disappoint. Karlsson isn’t Swanö, but he sure delivers some decent growling. His growls are a mix between throaty bellows and yelling on the uppity side. I also feel like Andreas gave some vocals with the higher screams, considering he did do vocals for Marduk, but it probably was Karlsson as well since he's versatile himself.

Production values are rather topnotch and perfectly fulfilling for the music, which isn't near as progressive as Infernal. I really felt a depression coming on when anticipating this album, but hearing it takes a load off my shoulders. The tunes here are recognizable like crazy, from the psychedelic “Hell Written” to the Grave-esque “Bleed You Dry”. It’s amazing how much of a personal achievement this album is (given the amount of time to write, record, and release it). No track is truly a legend, but the melodies, riffs, and rhythm all work well enough to keep you entertained and coming back. It's one of the few death 'n' roll inspired albums I don't want to outright shut off.

The bass fits well with the overall depth of the album, yet the drums feel louder than the mix. It doesn’t drown out anything, but they definitely are louder and make a rather bleak and dark album seem optimistic. The rhythm really flows tenderly, ranging from slow changes to fast charges to even steady paces – all usually in one song. The album is technically death metal with heavy leanings on groove and rock influences (even punk at times with "Uncontroll Me").

It isn’t hard at all to look at this album as an Edge Of Sanity piece, even though the signature sound is gone. It actually may sound similar to the other records, but it gives off it’s own feeling instead, and one that I at least enjoyed. The length of the album seems just right, so nothing too epic or simplistic for the ears. This could have been the last Edge Of Sanity album and hands downs the most personal next to Infernal, but I guess Swanö felt it was necessary to have the last laugh.