Retro-review: ‘Crimson II’ by Edge of Sanity

Ever since I read the original review for Edge of Sanity’s album Crimson in Metal Maniacs way back in 1996, I’ve always been curious to give the rather epic-sounding single song album a listen.

Of course, 22 years later, I have yet to sit down and really listen to Crimson.

So, it may sound kind of odd that I’m reviewing Crimson II first.

Well, as anyone who reads this blog with any frequence knows that I do my reviews based of fifth-years. That means five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and so-on years ago since the release. Crimson II, released on Aug. 26, 2003, fall on a fifth year here in 2018. The original Crimson, released in 1996, does not.

Simple eh?

Crimson II is the eighth and final album by the band, which headed by Dan Swanö, who handles lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, drums and other percussion . He also handled the production, mixing and engineering. It ought not be a surprise that he also composed the music for the album.

What might be surprising, though, is that the lyrics were wrote by Clive Nolan, a British keyboardist who wasn’t even a member of the band.

Dan Swanö

 Supporting Swanö are Roger Johansson, who handles some lead vocals; Jonas Granvik, who handles some backing vocals; Mike Wead  on lead guitar as well as some engineering; and Simon Johansson on lead guitar.

Anyway, Edge of Sanity is kind of an odd duck. They’re a death metal band, but they’re also what a lot of people like to qualify as “progressive.”

I guess that’s fair. There’s a lot of things that harken back to bands like Queensryche here, especially the fact that Crimson II, like its predecessor, is a concept album composed of a single song.

Other bands that are brought to mind when listening to this album are Rush, Styx and Dream Theater. If it weren’t for Swanö’s growls, you could easily drop the vocalist of one of the mentioned bands and not really know that the song isn’t theirs.

The album

The story here is basically that the woman who caused so much harm in the original Crimson story is freed from her imprisonment and causes havoc across the land. Then the story goes to containing her once again.

I’m actually tempted to say that this would not be considered a death metal album, save for the growl. The music itself is more in line with what you’d find in power metal groups like Blind Guardian and Dragonforce. Like those two bands, the production of Crimson II is very clean, almost too clean, if you catch my drift.

Being a single song, Crimson II is divided into movements instead of “tracks.” Each movement tells a different part of the overall story.

It starts strong with “Forbidden Words,” a fast pace number that seemingly kicks things into high gear. It’s not raw or gritty, but it is pretty heavy despite sounding so polished. From their it goes into almost straight-forward power metal, sans Swanö’s growl, with “Incantation.”

Like many other movements, the keyboards are pretty prominent in “Incantation.” You’ll find this in other movements like . Whether they add something or not is really left to the ear of the listener. To me, they usually sound pretty unnecessary on Crimson II and don’t really add anything to the music. I don’t think anyone would feel like anything was missing if they disappeared from most of the album.

In that way, Crimson II is kind of a throwback to 1993 when a number of death metal bands seemed to be in love with keyboards. In love to a point where keyboards were in EVERYTHING, whether they enhanced the music or not.

Passage of Time” is the first movement that really stands out above the rest. It’s got a good aggressive quality to it and some good soloing. It’s pretty heavy and sounds pretty good. It’s followed up by another standout, “The Silent Threat,” which makes excellent use of tone.

One of the big problems I have with Crimson II is that the further you get into it, the less distinct the movements sound. By the time you reach “Covenant of Souls” you find that you’re hearing the same music you did in “Incantation.” I figure much of this repetitiveness is intentional because Crimson II is a single song.

On the other hand, there’s parts of “Covenant of Souls” that distinguishes it from the other movements, like its heavy midsection. It feels like a couple of different songs actually.

With “Achilles Heel” we move back into prog-rock territory with copious amounts of keyboard, hearkening back to those prog-rock bands of the late 70s-early 80s. It’s followed by the very melodious “Face to Face.”

The penultimate movement, “Disintegration,” sounds very much like something you’d hear from Dream Theater.

Things close with “Aftermath,” a pretty decent number, but very similar to various other bands that were on the rise at the time like Moonspell and Lacuna Coil.

The verdict

I’m kind of split on Crimson II.

On one hand, you have excellent songwriting in tying all of the parts of the story together and a showcase of great technical skill and precision. On the other hand, you have a way-too-polished production and a lot of repetitiveness.

I can appreciate the work that was put into this album, creating a single 43-minute long song where each piece has to feel like it belongs to the one preceding it and the one following it.

On the other hand, I can’t jump up and down and sing the praises of this album, which many, many fans are wont to do.

If it sounds like something you’d be interested in, give it a try. Crimson II is on Youtube. I wouldn’t recommend it, simply because so much of the album sounds like other bands. Yeah, I know Crimson fans are going to tell me how wrong and stupid I am, but I feel that’s just the case with the album.

I guess it’s just not my cup of tea.

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