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Morbid beginnings - 86%

Cause of Death, April 5th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Black Mark Production

Edge of Sanity's 1991 debut was a relatively by-the-numbers slab of brutal, old school death metal. While many have gone on to praise later work by the band (including the album immediately following this one, "Unorthodox"), this one hasn't received as much attention. Personally, I find this album to be amazing, but not my all-time favorite Edge of Sanity release. While powerful and a very solid release, this style has been done before (and far better) and the band had not yet begun to show the creativity and progression that made the band so unforgettable with later works.

Having said that, some elements of later works are still prevalent on this release. Keyboards are used on several tracks on the album (check out "Maze of Existence"), and the album also used some more melodic elements (just a dark, sickening kind of melody instead!). As well, Dan Swano's incredible death grunt is as evident as ever on this album, and in fact it comprises the entire disc unlike later albums where he threw in some clean vocals, and other band members attempted to do death growls (and failed miserably and hilariously in Sami Nerberg's case). The riffs are pretty simple, but pretty catchy (especially on "Angel of Distress") and have a very dark, sickening atmosphere that brings to mind what Autopsy does (though I wouldn't go as far as to say the riffs themselves actually sound like Autopsy. It's just riffs that are phrased similarly and have a similar atmosphere). In a way, though, this album managed to create it's own sound even within this relatively primitive and basic release. What I mean is, there are very few moments where the listener will pick out a riff and say, "That sounds like Morbid Angel" or "This riff reminds me of this other riff that was on 'Leprosy'". A lot of the best riffs on here are like the verse riff in "Impulsive Necroplasma", which is actually a really cool and actually pretty clever riff idea, or the slower, chunkier ones that open up "Immortal Souls".

The album's biggest problem is just how simple it is. While the band had the right idea, and they put out a very good album here, this album doesn't feel like the band had really 'found their sound' yet. The songwriting feels a bit unimaginative and the music itself doesn't seem like it's played with a ton of fire or passion when compared to, for example, other bands like Dismember, Desultory, or Entombed. That said, the album does harbor a pretty dark, desolate atmosphere (accented by dark, sickening riffs like the ones mentioned above) and I would say that the band were pretty good at this style. "Nothing But Death Remains" is a great death metal album that really shows Edge of Sanity's beginnings, but I wouldn't call it a classic or even a particularly good representation of this style. It fucking rules, but the best was yet to come for Dan Swano & crew...

More Death For Your Buck - 57%

OzzyApu, December 20th, 2007

Compared to the rest of their library, Edge Of Sanity’s debut isn’t progressive and, therefore, isn’t as memorable. Not to say they need to be progressive to be memorable, but this band didn't have the best compositional skills to write flat-out death metal songs (even with Swanö!). This album is by far the band's heaviest release, but there's nothing here to be their most interesting. Literally, the guitars chug their way into your head harder than any jackhammer. They aren’t very distorted as on later albums, but they aren’t as melodic either. Occasionally they’ll pull off some impressive leadwork, but each song mostly delivers either mid-paced or briefly fast riffs that’ll leave you headbanging. The deal is that the bass really makes the riffs worth anything. What the production took away from the drums, it gave to the bass, and therefore we have an album that has tons of booms all around. Every string plucked not only hits some kind of note, but it has that lasting power behind it.

Now about those drums… yeah… don’t get mad or anything, but they just don’t compete. They work, I’ll give it that, but only the bass drum can do its job. The snares and toms sound too hollow, the cymbals too thin, Larsson’s sticks are probably made of fail like his face, and so only the bass drums work. The really sad part of this album though is how redundant it is. After repeated listens, I still can’t really identify which tunes go with their tracks. As a song it may be heavy, but if it's mundane, then that's the song's fault.

The biggest addition to this problem is Swanö himself. His growls are fit the music with more of a deep bellow; a beast ready to beat the shit out of you like you owe it money. While the songs go about their respective paces, he clearly tries to embed his vocals in the mix, but it doesn’t work well and, as such, isn’t impressive at all and almost makes him sound like some additional member tagging along. The unity as band members hasn't sunk in yet, like on Unorthodox when the experimentation and maturity in the writing became the priority.

Edge Of Sanity may have been the best Swedish progressive death metal band in the '90s, but they sure as hell didn’t look like they'd attain that status with this debut. At such a young age, who can blame them? Just expect some average death metal tracks with very simple musicianship. A fairly enjoyable album for those that want bare bones death metal, but nothing you’ll come back to often.

In the beginning... - 80%

Drowned, November 29th, 2005

"Nothing But Death Remains" was recorded in January of 1991 at Montezuma Studios, and some of the material was written as far back as 1989. The death metal scene in Sweden (and anywhere for that matter) was basically just getting started in the late 1980's, and it wasn't until years later that Swedish death metal became categorized into styles like 'Sunlight', 'Gothenburg', etc. Swanö and company were always doing their own thing, even in this early stage of their career. If I had to draw comparisons then I would place the sound of early Edge of Sanity next to the works of Hypocrisy and Grave, rather than more trademark Swedish outfits like Nihilist and Carnage. You can hear similarities in the music to the above bands as well as early American death metal, but in the end the only way to really describe this is simply labelling it 'Edge of Sanity'.

The production on this album is pretty lackluster, particularly in the drumming and vocal departments. The bass drum sits extremely high in the mix and pounds heavily, but the rest of the percussion and other instruments sound bland and distant. A similar drum production was used by Beherit on their "Drawing Down the Moon" LP, but the contrast in highs and bass wasn't as strong there. Beherit were able to pull it off because their music and overall image was deliberately primitive, raw and dirty. Edge of Sanity, on the other hand, never really fit that profile and seemed like a genuinely talented band in need of more experience and practice that just happened to land a shitty producer for their first album. Dan Swanö's growling vocals are powerful and generally audible, but they're not always used to their fullest potential. There are times when his voice sounds very dry and crackly, notably during the faster sections of the songs where the overwhelming bass drum takes center stage. In addition to the above oversights, the production also suffers from random changes in volume level. It's especially noticeable during the first 60 seconds of the song "Human Aberration." The pleasing sound of the bass and rhythm guitars is a definite plus, but doesn't change the fact that whoever produced this record failed to deliver.

The music itself varies from mid-paced to fast thrashy death metal, with the occasional melodic leads thrown in. Most of the songs are fairly generic in structure, but the guitar riffs and vocal patterns make it fun to listen (and headbang) to. Songs like "Decepted By the Cross" and "Immortal Souls" are pounding, fast-paced compositions that induce an adrenaline rush in the listener. Two songs on this LP are part of the "Epidemic Reign" series, which later continued onto Edge of Sanity's second album "Unorthodox". Contrary to what one may think, these songs aren't particularly 'epic' or anything of that sort. They're just your typical death metal cuts that happen to share a continuing story divided into chapters. The musicianship on the album is simple, but what do you expect from a bunch of teenagers? The guitarist has some cool ideas for the riffs, but it's obvious that he hasn't been playing for very long. The same goes for the bassist. As for the drumming, it consists of very simplistic thrash beats varying in tempo. There's little double bass or blasting on this album.

Edge of Sanity's debut doesn't exactly stand out as a landmark album in Swedish death metal, but it's worth owning if you're a fan of the band's early days (the demos and following 2 albums). If you're strictly into later-day Edge of Sanity, then I wouldn't recommend this to you unless you're really interested in hearing what these guys sounded like in high school.

Highlite tracks: "Human Aberration", "The Dead", "Immortal Souls"