When I first started writing reviews for Amazon, I made a promise to myself that I would not write reviews for albums I had heard only once. Well, here I am, wallowing in embarrassment, because A. I'm breaking my promise and B. Today is the first time my ears were ever graced with the beast that is Crimson.
Sure, Edge of Sanity was one of the first "must hear" metal bands I learned of when I re-entered the world of metal three years ago, but after purchasing the only release Tower had available of this Dan Swano led force, Crimson II, I was not impressed (ducks flames), and made the foolish mistake of turning my back on Edge of Sanity.
Well, one cannot simply continue to ignore outstanding review after outstanding review (23 five star, 1 four star review(s) to be exact), especially when they come from esteemed peers who have opened my eyes to countless delights before.
So this morning, on this wonderful holiday from work, I listened to the 40-minute opus, and to me, what separates it from Crimson II can be explained through the format of the two albums themselves. While Crimson II is one long song split into many different tracks, Crimson is one long track. One seamless trail of such cohesive structure and relentless grandeur, that I would say this album obliterates the only comparable metal competition, in terms of structure and intent, I can think of: Green Carnation's Light of Day, Day of Darkness. Granted, that album is doom-based while Crimson has a pervasive death metal feel with liberal use of melody and progressive elements, but any such lofty attempt is susceptible to stagnation and/or mindless meandering, and Crimson has not a speck of either.
Swano delivers a death metal vocal performance for the ages, effortlessly switching between his growl of desperation which can be matched only by Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, a low chant of vampyric goth not unlike that made famous by Type O Negative's Peter Steele, and a more traditional clean style which gives credibility to Dan as an actual singer.
Still, the presence of such remarkable vocals would amount to nothing without instrumentation that can stay fresh and engaging for an uninterrupted 40 minutes. With top shelf proficiency, Edge of Sanity tears through riff after memorable riff, paying tribute to all the metal that came before it. Smatterings of Slayer, Obituary, Sepultura, Anthrax, Carcass and Metallica can all be heard here, but Swano channels them in such a way as to declare that he is the accumulation of metal. He is the beast that has formed from the years of blistering speed and unbridled aggression. It is hard to listen to this masterpiece and dare think otherwise.
Those of you who frequent the Listmania and So You'd Like to lists here on Amazon, looking for those hidden gems which allow you to continue to expand your metal horizons have undoubtedly come across this album many times. Do not make the same mistake as me by passing it by. This album is better than you've heard, because no perfect construction of lavish praise can capture the true feeling of this experience. Uncompromisingly dark and heavy with a catchy vibe that runs the spectrum of metal styles, Crimson contains exactly what such a daring undertaking must: a stunning collection of unforgettable emotion and composition. Not only does Crimson fit the bill, it has set the bar which, 10 years later, has yet to be surpassed.