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The Spectral Blisses - 92%

Hames_Jetfield, May 4th, 2021

Edge Of Sanity peak achievement? One could be tempted to make such a statement, although you have to bear in mind that all their materials from the years 92-96 are at least respectable and - in their own way - groundbreaking. "The Spectral Sorrows" is primarily the first album of Dan Swanö's band, on which there were elements/influences and the songs themselves so boldly going beyond melo-death. Obviously, these novelties did not replace the heavier side of their music (because it's the one that attracts the most and is the best here), but they showed in a nice way that the band is no stranger to other sounds than the heavy ones.

Another important thing - the atmosphere of the album. On the one hand, it has become more melodic (even in the most extreme moments) and varied (vide: deviations from death metal), on the other hand it has gained even more Swedish "coolness", and thus, even more sandy BOSS HM-2w. At the very beginning it may seem something very inconsistent or incoherent, but it must be clearly emphasized that if there are qualitative (or rather stylistic) leaps on "The Spectral Sorrows", there are not that many of them, and they fit quite well to the "traditional" side of the music. Oh yea, it's full of great songs, both where the band comes more heavily ("Jesus Cries", "Darkday", "Livin' Hell"), focuses on greater catchiness ("Waiting To Die", "The Masque", "Lost") or introduces more elaborate structures ("On The Other Side", "Across The Fields Of Forever") to melo-death music.

The charm cannot be denied to - the aforementioned - pranks, strongly deviating from the EoS style. The first of them is a well-played cover of Manowar "Blood On My Enemies", in which Dan Swanö perfectly enters the manner of pure, sublime singing, while the second, no less important, is "Sacrificed", a song stylized to The Sisters Of Mercy - i.e. with low, gothic singing, but also with eighties-sounding keyboards, modest guitars and drum programming-like percussion. The last surprise is "Feedin' The Charlatan", a song exceptionally sung by guitarist Andreas Axelsson, referring to playing in style of hardcore/grindcore, but being the weakest among all "The Spectral Sorrows". Generally, it was a great style shoot, but in as many as 2 out of 3, it's certainly noteworthy and shows the talent of the Swedes.

The same can actually be said...about this entire album. At "The Spectral Sorrows", Dan Swanö's band showed themselves from an even better and more interesting side to "Unorthodox", while maintaining the extreme nature of the music. It should be remembered that, by melo-death standards, this is not daily.

Originally on:

Spectral melodies and a tad of experimentation - 79%

colin040, June 29th, 2020

I’m not sure how well Edge of Sanity’s early records were received back in the early 90’s, but one thing should be rather obvious: Edge of Sanity never came close to the vigor aggression of early Entombed, Dismember and so on. While Nothing but Dead Remains was pretty much a so-so death metal effort, the aptly titled Unorthodox saw Edge of Sanity head towards a more progressive direction with mixed results. But by the time The Spectral Sorrows came out, things changed for the absolute best; this resulted in an adventurous album that maintained a healthy balance between Swedish death metal grit, pre-Gothenburg melodicism and a progressive approach to songwriting.

After an eerie introduction that sets the tone of the record, ‘’Darkday’’ immediately storms onward like a tornado with its forceful, yet melodic riffing. The break is intense and sees the eerie keys making their presence known around the cryptic guitar lines - it's not until the last minute where one finally gets the chance to catch his/her breath. For a while it seems that The Spectral Sorrows completely lives up to its name, but I just wish it did entirely, as some tracks one stumbles upon later sound rather out of place. ‘’Blood on My Enemies’’ is a Manowar cover that isn’t exactly fun (why bother trying if you have to adjust the vocal lines?) while the catchy gothic rocker ‘’Sacrificed’’ at least features Swanö more in his element. Yet the worst surprise of all is ‘’Feedin’’ the Charlatan’’, which features some of the most horrible vocals that I can think of. They’re either a dry-throated shouts or angsty clean vocals that are just as awful. Clearly there’s a weird side to The Spectral Sorrows; these aforementioned tracks feel more like EP material.

Weird tracks aside - The Spectral Sorrows highly succeeds at blending early Swedish death metal with a (for the time at least) modern twist. Something like of ‘’The Masque’’ flirts with some Maiden-esque riffing and has its emphasis in some groove-y verses, yet you wouldn’t mistake this track for any death’n roll or a melodic death metal track; it’s still death metal at its core but definitely something more out of the box for its time. ‘’Jesus Cries’’ does come close to the melodic death metal territory with those humming leads presenting its chorus, yet the track still has an edge to it; let’s just say that it has more in common with Desultory than that of early In Flames. Only ''Waiting to Die'' still vaguely resembles some of early Entombed's rhythmic groove and it's just too much of a by-the-numbers kind of track. Not bad by all means...but hardly spectacular when compared to the more melodic and progressive numbers that appear on The Spectral Sorrows.

One of death metal’s great byproducts is its ability to stimulate one’s imagination and to me The Spectral Sorrows is yet one of albums that does this rather well. ‘’Across the Fields of Forever’’ resembles the abstract landscape of the cover artwork. It’s a fantastic song with an uncanny feeling to it and funny enough its uplifting guitar solo brings to mind the vocal melody of Uriah Heep’s ‘’July Morning’’ – out of all bands! The aforementioned ‘’Jesus Cries’’ is another vivid number; from the dramatic chorus roars to the upbeat march that resembles a gathering crowd to witness the horrors that unfolds during the tortured ending, it’s absolutely superb. While The Spectral Sorrows is obviously full of splendid guitar riffs, compositions also benefit from the occasional help of keys and guitar leads. ‘’On the other Side’’ becomes a bit more hopeful by the time those shimmering keys break the tension that was earlier presented through the busy riffing and that melancholy ending wouldn’t be as impressive if it weren’t for Swanö’s masculine croons and those Aeternus-esque folky leads.

The Spectral Sorrows might not be an ideal gateway record as far as Swedish death metal goes, but it should probably please who are already familiar with the Swedish essentials and yearn for something somewhat similar in style yet differently executed.

This review was originally written for

Timeless - 95%

TheAntarctic, March 21st, 2014

I feel Dan Swano is hard done by. For all of the brilliant solo work he's done, for all of his work with Bloodbath, Edge of Sanity and even his latest project Witherscape, he somehow escapes the recognition that he truly deserves, as one of the greatest driving creative forces in progressive metal. Hell, he's probably lesser known than most of his contemporaries in Bloodbath. Unfortunately, Edge of Sanity appear to have suffered from the same fate as their frontman, despite having put out three majestic albums in 'Crimson', 'Purgatory Afterglow' and 'The Spectral Sorrows', the last of which truly is Dan Swano's Magnum Opus.

This is an album of contrasts. As early as the opening title track and it's successor, the listener is exposed to crushing overdriven insanity with pounding off beat drumming and roaring, abrasive vocals - and then is caressed by beautiful mellow sections displaying expertly twinned lead harmonies punctuated by atmosphere-providing keyboards. While slower, these mellow sections sound no less evil than their faster counterparts, a sound consistent throughout the album; if I had to choose a word to describe the general feeling that this album elicits, it would be insanity. A perfect example of this might be the chorus of 'Livin' Hell', a sonic madhouse of tremolo picking and blast beating with backing vocals akin to cries echoing through the halls of a lunatic asylum. But guess what? Even during this mental song, the pace is dropped, harmonies materialize and the keyboards come further forward in the production, resulting in a slow section that combines both hopeless minor sections, and even an uplifting, major riff. More examples? Skip one song ahead, to 'Lost'. The verses alternate between sadness and anger, emotions that suggest that a jazzy acoustic break might be out of place; then it happens, at 1.19. These are just a few examples of many, as almost every track on this album displays these wonderful contrasts while staying consistent to the general sound and theme of the album (the most notable other than the examples given being 'Jesus Cries' and 'Across the Fields of Forever').

Dan Swano's vocals are excellent throughout this album, mostly in the form of his rich, deep growl that still packs enough punch to exaggerate the insane feel to the album. There are moments on this album when his growls sound immensely powerful, such as the slower chugging sections of 'Livin' Hell' and 'Waiting to Die'. These are slightly offset by the much weaker vocals of Andreas Axelsson, who when contributing more than just backing vocals sounds rubbish, resulting in 'Feeding the Charlatan' probably being the weakest song on the album. Swano also uses clean vocals on this album, on 'Sacrificed' and the Manowar cover 'Blood of my Enemies'. His clean vocals sound, well, like a clean version of his harsh vocals - rich and deep, with a slight rough edge.

I feel that Edge of Sanity did 'Blood of my Enemies' justice in this cover. Swano really excels during the chorus as he strains for slightly higher notes. Spoken vocals are also used during the verse of 'Across the Fields of Forever', which kind of make me feel like he's telling a heroic, yet saddening tale, akin to one of Homer's epics. This works brilliantly, as 'Across the Fields of Forever' is one of the best tracks on the album, combining acoustic guitar, twin overdriven guitars and spoken vocals, held together by an awesome snare beat out of Benny Larsson during the verses, and a simple but epic chorus.

Another song that deserves special mention is 'Jesus Cries'. Not only is the title of the song a tribute to Swano's lyrical dexterity, the number of musical styles used in this song is astounding. From the opening harmonies, to the progressive/death metal bulk of the song, to the almost pop - rock riff beginning at 3.20, all seamlessly woven together, finished by the disturbing screams of Jesus's crucifixion. This is another of the stand out songs on this album.

The guitars on this album play an almost solely rhythmic role; there is very little soloing or guitar trickery used throughout. However, a wide range of techniques are used in the riffing, from tremolo picking to huge palm muted sections that challenge the listener not to turn the volume up to max and break things. For all modern metal bands - if you want an idea of how to write a 'breakdown' that you can use in your songs, see 2.19 of 'Waiting to Die'. This is the exact reason why we don't start on our lowest string - so we have something to go down to. The tremolo sections are no less notable - the riffing in 'Dark Day', 'Livin' Hell' and 'The Masque' in particular is exquisite. There are also many simple chord progressions used in the chorus of songs, which contrasts with the far more technical riffing of the verses. Finally, in the slower sections found on most of the songs in this album, twin harmonies are used, beautifully written and executed and in perfect balance with the keyboards, which take a back seat during this album.

Furthermore, Benny Larsson does a great job on drums. There's one technique he uses which I particularly love, which can be found at 3.01 of 'Across the Field of Forever' and during the verses of 'Waiting to Die', where he couples the hi-hat and the crash, making a change from the double bass porn heard in so many death metal bands. He almost makes good use of blast bleats, generally over tremolo sections, adding to the mad feeling of the album, but they aren't overused. I feel that the general use and sound of the drums on this album are very passive - they act as a glue holding the songs together. The snare is tight, and is very changeable throughout this album. It sounds great during 'Lost', but completely different during 'Dark Day', during which it changes sound every hit. I can see how this may annoy some listeners, but I rather like the raw sound that it brings to the album.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic album that is vastly under-appreciated. There is very little wrong with it, bar the poor backing vocals, and I would truly recommend giving it a chance - you might just enjoy it as much as I did.

The Spectral Sorrows - 91%

Noctir, October 12th, 2012

Dan Swanö has created quite a musical legacy in the underground, over the past couple of decades, and it all goes back to Edge of Sanity. While not as well-known as some other Swedish death metal bands, such as Entombed, Dismember and Grave, Edge of Sanity still released some quality material in the early-'90s, before fading into mediocrity and then obscurity. The band's third studio effort, The Spectral Sorrows, was released in November 1993 and may be the true highlight of their discography.

This album eluded me for quite some time, not that I put that much effort into finding it. I had obtained the first Edge of Sanity album, Nothing But Death Remains, back in high school but it failed to make a great impression on me. It was a solid offering of old school death metal, yet it did not seem to draw me well enough to warrant seeking out more. Some years later, during my first visit to Sweden, I ran across Unorthodox and The Spectral Sorrows in a Stockholm record shop. The latter was, by far, the more impressive of the two and managed to spend a lot of time in my stereo, alongside Necrophobic's The Nocturnal Silence.

Recorded in Unisound / Hellspawn Studios, this was produced by Dan Swanö and shows that his skills are much more appropriate for death metal. Rather than the flimsy jobs given to Marduk and Dark Funeral, among others, this album has a strong production that suits the music quite well. It is odd to think that only two years separate this from the first record, as the sound quality has vastly improved. There are no random drops in volume and the instruments are quite clear and easy to follow, without being overdone and sterile. The guitar tone is fairly thick and heavy, capable of crushing your skull right in. The drums are a little lower in the mix than one might expect, at times, but this is a good thing and only serves to place more emphasis on the guitar riffs. The production also worked well to connect each song, remaining consistent enough for the varying material to be tied together, so to speak.

As for the songwriting, itself, there is a lot of variation present on The Spectral Sorrows. There is a solid foundation of old school death metal; however, Dan had worked with so many different bands that he was clearly becoming bored and it shows on this record. Though the core remains the same, this album is much more melodic than its predecessors, which can be heard in nearly every song. In most cases, this has to do with the guitar melodies, such as the tremolo riffs in "Darkday" and "The Masque". Even songs that seem more traditional and primitive progress to become more introspective and involved, such as the way "Livin' Hell" slows down and features riffs that are more akin to doom than death metal. This continues on tracks like "Lost" and "Across the Fields of Forever", which are more slow-paced and expand on the sombre atmosphere touched on by other songs. "On the Other Side" takes this a step further with the inclusion of truly despondent clean vocals, near the end. Even the intro and outro carry a rather melancholy feeling. "Waiting to Die" feels a little generic, compared to the rest, but is still decent enough to earn its place among the rest. For the most part, this album does really well to mix all of these elements together in creating the band's masterpiece.

Unfortunately, there are some things that do not seem to fit in quite as well as the rest. They don't exactly drag the album down, all that much, but they may be a little difficult for some listeners to digest. The Manowar cover, "Blood of My Enemies", is done really well and is far more listenable than the original. Dan uses clean vocals for this song, which was probably the right choice once deciding to record it. Other than that, the song sort of fits in where it is, and doesn't possess an atmosphere that is really at odds with the surrounding songs. The song that is most shocking has to be "Sacrificed", which is a complete departure from death metal of any kind. This song sounds like Dan's tribute to goth rock like Sisters of Mercy or The Cure, and that is exactly what it sounds like. As crazy as it may sound, he pulls it off about as well as possible and it is atmospherically consistent with the rest of the album, as it maintains somewhat of a depressive feeling. "Feedin' the Charlatan" is probably the one tune that fits in the least, strangely enough, with terrible vocals by Andreas Axelsson (which is odd, considering that he did such a great job on Marduk's Dark Endless).

In the end, The Spectral Sorrows is a very solid album and is likely the best that Edge of Sanity ever recorded. There is a bit of experimentation, to be sure, but it is more than countered by the large amount of high quality material that is found here. It features a good balance, while not getting overly progressive as the band would later do. This is likely to appeal to fans of old school Swedish death metal just as much as to those that prefer a bit of a melodic edge to things. The dark and mournful atmosphere may even make this attractive to fans of black and doom metal, and the multitude of memorable riffs will have you returning for countless repeat plays. This has easily stood the test of time and is far superior to most that have tried to follow suit with a similar style.

Written for

Underrated Album by a Underrated Band - 88%

mikeald, November 19th, 2011

Edge of Sanity, quite possibly the most underrated metal act ever. Not as heavy as Dismember, Entombed or Grave. Not a melodic as At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity or In Flames. Their prog/death fusion overshadowed by Opeth.

This album marks the beginning of Edge of Sanity’s progressive death metal stage. Not as melodic as Purgatory Afterglow but more melodic than Unorthodox. The hard “edge” of both Nothing But Death Remains and Unorthodox is still present but tends to take a step back. The Spectral Sorrows’ emphasis is on melody and song structure. Songs tend to focus on a fewer ideas rather than riff after riff, which usually becomes tedious after a few tracks anyways. However, you still get a good taste of old school Swedish death metal riffing here!

The vocal department is a step up from previous work. Swano’s hoarse death shout is still powerful as the last two albums but feels more controlled and audible. Clean vocals return but are not overused. Those looking for more of an emphasis on clean vocals should check out the albums preceding this one.

Production still has that early Swedish death metal sound. The drums are VERY thin as compared to Unorthodox. This is something you might pick up right off the bat. It’s not a bad thing but adds character to the record, which is something charming about this era of metal. Unlike most trigger happy drummers nowadays, you can tell that Benny Larsson actually played them.

Unlike Unorthodox, The Spectral Sorrows doesn’t suffer from too much repetition. We hear lots of song variation within13 tracks, an intro (The Spectral Sorrows) and outro (A Serenade for the Dead). We have standard death metal songs such as Darkday and Livin’ Hell. Melodic death numbers such as Lost, Jesus Cries and Waiting to Die. Progressive tinged numbers like Across the Fields of Forever and The Masque.

But we also have the odd numbers! The Manowar cover, Blood of My Enemies. The catchy Goth rock song, Sacrificed and the hardcore inspired Feedin' the Charlatan. Although credited for all vocals, I’m not sure if Dan Swano’s actually singing on Charlatan. These track are out of place but aren’t bad tracks! Like early albums such as Metallica’s Kill Them All or Slayer’s Show No Mercy, these tracks are cheesy but a blast.

Overall The Spectral Sorrows is a solid release of early Swedish death metal with nice progressive/gothic elements added into the mix. For fans that recently got into Edge of Sanity (I’m guessing Crimson or Crimson II) The Spectral Sorrows is a nice place to start backtracking since you get a good mix of everything Edge of Sanity was about.

Fruity Death Metal - 90%

OzzyApu, February 16th, 2010

Can you fathom such an evil? So sinister, so coerced into madness that it leaves nothing but carnage and lost hope in its wake? The Spectral Sorrows did what Unorthodox couldn’t – leave its mark in the form of a black, venomous stain where nothing is holy. Unorthodox was a collective effort that brought creativity to the realm of death metal, but it was here where Edge Of Sanity truly left a barbaric (yet refined) crease in the very earth that was just a breath away from exploding (the awesomeness was overwhelming).

Unorthodox left me wanting more – it was a solid effort that greatly surpassed the rather stale debut, providing hints of progressive experimenting without bailing on its core elements. Songs on there such as “When All Is Said,” “Enigma…” and “Cold Sun…” had enough depth to them to match the second void in the cover art, but only a couple other songs could reach the same effect out of the dozen (and a couple) that made up the album. There wasn’t a whole lot of substance that held the songs together, either; while a sturdy sophomore as one unit, the pieces were less than impressive. Needless to say that the issue had been fixed, which means The Spectral Sorrows reigns not only as Edge Of Sanity’s heaviest offering (aside from the debut), but the songs are backed by some sick leads, doomtastic riffs, grimy bass, cryptic atmosphere (Seagrave artwork says it all), and perhaps Swanö’s most ferocious vocal performance in the band.

The one thing I didn’t mention above was the drum kit. Larsson, for all the ugliness he encompasses, knows how to drum – this is undeniable. Between his choking blast-beats and echoing cymbal crash-course, the man knows how to lay down some trickling patterns and curbstomping support. However, his snare drums (Tama Drums are to blame, according to the booklet) suck donkey dick. It’s the exact same problem as virtually every Edge Of Sanity album of the 90s; these snare drums are so pathetic: weak, frail, thin, underproduced (waka waka waka!). The snares sound like plastic kiddy baseball bats hitting steel rods… yeah, because I’ve honestly heard what that really sounds like. It doesn’t detract from the high-like experience, but it’s the most notable flaw that always irks me (for any band). Drumming on “Lost” and “Sacrificed” in regard to snares is actually not bad at all; “Lost” has a thicker tone which should have been the case for all the other songs and “Sacrificed” might just be programmed beats, but anything goes when it comes to Swanö.

Contradicting these pussy snares are some beefy guitars by Dread, Nerberg, and Swanö (on various occasions); Dread and Nerberg switch between lead and rhythm like it’s their day job. The hellish, grubby tone is something to uphold like a king – a tad grinding; that is, grinding like a mechanism churning limbs into mush. Nothing speedy, but galloping riffs, skull-crushing tempos, morbid melodies, and more fun than a bag of body parts can be found throughout the album. Pretty much every track from the chilling intro, to the melancholic “Darkday,” past the tormented screams in “Jesus Cries,” and through the forest of lead licks in “Across The Fields Of Forever” and “On The Other Side” is packed with complacent riffs. The sense of identity – where one song has that underlying support to stick to its goal – is highly prevalent and was the missing piece of Unorthodox. You feel like you can speak to songs like “Lost,” “The Masque,” and “Waiting To Die” without waiting their entire track length for a redirection to technical support in India.

On the repressive end is Swanö himself, still just shy of his early 20s. The man is a demon incarnate; his growling on here is unique – tormented, but not mutilated. Like a lion’s roar, but in a studio instead of the African plains. His growls come from within – lots of stomach power and spaghetti went into getting these cramped growls down to perfection. The Manowar cover, although laughably bad at first, will automatically make you pick up a sword and decapitate a water bottle (face it, you don’t keep peasants in your room). His style on this cover becomes more of a hoarse form of yelling; half mean-singing and half utterance through growls.

The only song Swanö doesn’t growl on at all is the hip “Sacrificed,” which really comes out of left field. It isn’t his only other clean performance on the album, but his deep, possessed voice will definitely catch your attention on this one. The song holds the strongest melodies, even if it isn’t death metal (more like gothic rock); still extremely catchy and simple. Dread does some backing vocals on it (“Deeper down down…”), but his main vocal contribution is on “Feedin’ The Charlatan.” I’ll give the man credit for his charred screams on Marduk’s debut and on other Edge Of Sanity songs, but his hoarse yelling / fettered growling on this track is so unappealing that it hurts. He goes in and out of deep growls and plain babbling that just makes you wish he performed with his boiled shrieks. When they’re distorted, he actually sounds like Jonathan Davis from Korn – yeah, just stick to those good old screams, Dread.

Today, The Spectral Sorrows remains one of Edge Of Sanity’s best albums, primarily because these songs have the riffs to talk shit and the depth to comfort in. The brooding atmosphere will send chills up your spine if Swanö’s decrepit growls don’t do the trick, but the more melodic moments will be sure to make you feel right at home. Not outright like melodic death, but not fully death metal anymore either – a nice hybrid of sorts that’s still more death metal, but the last of it they’d end up doing, too.