Released by Black Mark Productions in July 1991, Nothing but Death
Remains is the first L.P. from Sweden's Edge of Sanity. The music on this record is nothing more and nothing less than
pure, horror-inspired Swedish Death Metal. It is often ignored in favour of such albums as Left Hand Path, Dark
Recollections, Into the Grave and so on, but it definitely has a place amongst such classics and is an essential
There was a time when I, myself, fell into the same trap and disregarded
this record after a few months of listening to it. The first track, "Tales...". was of course a staple of the Swedish Death
Metal mix tape that I kept in my car (among many others), but I rarely came back to the album as a whole. Then, upon discovering
The Spectral Sorrows, I wrote this one off for some time. It was only later that those more melodic elements wore thin
and I found myself yearning for the pure death feeling of the first L.P. Nothing but Death Remains is characterized
by a primitive approach and maintains a barbaric feeling throughout. The faster sections are played with intensity and a sense
of urgency. These guys were definitely feeling it and not just phoning it in as so many bands have done. Just listen to the
fast break near the beginning of "The Dead", for example. Here, one can really feel the forcefulness of the music making your
heart feel as if it will burst from your chest. There is a variation in tempo that helps the songs come to life, with every
part fitting together very well. Everything is influenced by the old school bands of the late '80s, such as Death, Pestilence
and Morbid Angel. Still, there is also the more European tendency to include epic and evil doom riffs that do so well to create
a darker atmosphere. As well, there is some tasteful use of synth during some of the slower parts, accentuating the feeling
of horror, such as in "Maze of Existence" or the aforementioned monster of a song, "Tales...".
"You can't live forever,
But can you be dead forever?
Some have criticized Swanö's vocals for being generic, but he actually
has a good sound on this record. He doesn't just seem like some guy puking on a mic, his growls are roaring and powerful at
times, though somehow... undead, in a way. As if there is a level of decomposition that prevents him from always fully emitting
the sounds that he is attempting, and it works perfectly with this material. The lyrics are obsessed with death and darkness,
as one would expect, but with a very virulent hatred for humanity and Christian nonsense. Several of the tracks depict the
hypocrisy of this religion of idiocy and express a good deal of anger toward the Great Lie.
Regarding the production aspect of this aspect, it leaves a bit to be
desired. The guitars have a good sound, overall, but do not possess a similar tone to their peers. Only with the following
releases would Edge of Sanity go on to adopt something more akin to the typical Sunlight guitar tone. And while there is no
real problem with not sounding like the others, the job here was not necessarily so competent. There are times when the volume
sort of drops out, something one would expect from a demo rather than a studio album. The bass frequencies are a bit overbearing,
as well, which was something that was going on in a lot of Death Metal at the time, but just seems a little overdone.
Nothing but Death Remains is solid, old school Death Metal in
its purest form. It is full of intensity and atmosphere and memorable riffs and vocals. Though there could be minor improvements,
there really is no reason to dwell on them. This is the masterpiece of the Edge of Sanity discography, not the progressive
and melodic pretentiousness that came later. I vomit upon the nostalgia that clouded my mind some years back, when reviewing
The Spectral Sorrows. While it's a good record, this is the one true essential piece of music from this band. It is
(10 Feb. 2016)
Edge of Sanity's sophomore effort, Unorthodox, was released in
July 1992 and is considered by Dan Swanö to be his masterpiece. While some of the material is quite strong, this album is
definitely inferior to its predecessor. Its running time of nearly one hour is far too long for a Death Metal album, as well,
making it a bit much to sink one's teeth into. It should not be dismissed, entirely, but do not approach this with high expectations.
First impressions are often very important and is the main reason why
most bands want to start out their albums with one of the strongest tracks they have. However, Unorthodox does not
put its best foot forward. Rather, Swanö chose to open the record with a criminal act for Death Metal. Not even a minute into
the first proper song, "Enigma", everything calms down and there is this hideous segment with clean vocals. This brief part
serves to kill the small bit of momentum that was building, as well as the goodwill from the previous album. For me, it was
immensely off-putting and left me with less interest in the rest of the tracks. I don't care about the story or concept of
the song, there is no excuse for a Death Metal album to feature some melodic voice singing, "God gives you shelter at heaven's
shore, abandon your thoughts to the mighty"... Upon first hearing this, I began wondering if Swanö had converted to Christianity
in the time since the last album. Though the rest of the song is quite good, it was just difficult to get back into things,
following that atrocious detour.
As for the rest of the material, there is a small amount of decent songwriting
on here. Right off, one will notice the 'improvement' in production, though it probably does more of a disservice to than
anything. This time around, Tomas Skogberg was brought in to assist, and the music is a bit more powerful and less muddy.
It actually borders on being a little too clear and well-produced. Songs like "In the Veins/Through the Black" and "Everlasting"
stand out, slightly, but mostly for the melodic additions that were to be further explored on the following record. As well,
the dark and barbaric feeling of Nothing but Death Remains is completely absent from such uplifting and optimistic-sounding
riffs as can be found in "After Afterlife". Some of the tracks seem like pure filler, for the most part; "Nocturnal", "A Curfew
for the Damned" and "Cold Sun", in particular. The latter was on the right path, until being derailed by unnecessary groove
sections. Throughout the record, there are pretty good Death Metal riffs, along with some doomier ones, but they're often
used to bridge one melodic section with the next, rather than being the prime focus of the compositions.
However, all is not lost. The more pure tracks are those like "Incipience
to the Butchery" (despite the worthless breakdown in the middle), "Beyond the Unknown" and "The Day of Maturity". The latter
two mix intense, fast-paced assaults with slower riffs that give rise to an eerie sensation. These, more or less, hearken
back to the more primal feeling of the debut L.P. There are traces of synth, adding a kind of horror effect, as in the past.
"Dead but Dreaming" is also a pretty good track, at least attempting to create a darker feel as the album reaches the end.
In this case, the melodic ending works alright since it leads into the next song.
"When All Is Said" is the best track on this album, by far. It's slow,
melancholic and possesses a similar vibe to some of the Death/Doom that was beginning to emerge concurrently. Had Swanö opted
for this sort of style throughout, Unorthodox might have been a much better record. The sorrowful atmosphere created
by this song would be very suitable as someone lay bleeding to death in the darkness. There is a sense of finality, appropriately
enough. The riffs are oppressively crushing and there are bits of synth that accentuate the mournful vibe. It almost feels
like a funeral procession, to an extent.
On the whole, Unorthodox is a tedious endeavour. The pure and
crushing Death Metal of the previous album is here replaced with too many melodic and so-called progressive elements. It ends
up turning into a convoluted mess, for the most part. Even the better tracks fail to match up to such songs as "Tales...",
"Decepted by the Cross" and "The Dead". Nonetheless, "When All Is Said" is a brilliant track and is worth the trouble of obtaining
(21 Feb. 2016)
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.
(3 Sept. 2012)