"Crimson" is the 5th full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Edge of Sanity. The album was released through Black Mark Production in April 1996. "Crimson" is quite a unique album (at least for it´s time) as it solely consists of one 40 minutes long sci-fi/fantasy themed track. It also marks a change in the band´s songwriting dynamics as "Crimson" is more or less lead vocalist Dan Swanö´s project. On all preceding releases songwriting credits were more evenly distributed, but "Crimson" was solely written by Swanö, who also performs rhythm guitars and harmony guitars, clean and acoustic guitars, and keyboards, in addition to growling- and clean vocals. The rest of the band also performs on the album, but everything sounds strictly orchestrated by Swanö. Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth performs session guitar leads and vocals (the occasional raw blackened vocals on the album).
Stylistically the music on the album concludes the transformation from an old school Swedish death metal act to a full blown progressive death metal act, that the band initiated on "Enigma" from "Unorthodox (1992)". "Crimson" is the peak of Edge of Sanity´s stylistic development and to my ears also the peak of their recording career. While the music on "Crimson" is still in some ways at it´s core old school Swedish death metal, it far transcends what is usual for the genre, by incorporating both progressive rock, goth rock, and black metal elements. A contemporary artist like Opeth is a valid reference although at this point Opeth were only in the early stages of their career, and not at all as prolific or as influential as they would later become. So when "Crimson" was released, it was quite a unique sounding release.
Edge of Sanity successfully combine the various stylistic elements and the listener is caried through the album´s many brutal, melancholic, epic, tranquil, and adventurous sections with a seamless ease. "Crimson" is a dynamic release and one moment you´ll be exposed to death metal brutality and growling vocals, or blackened coldness with raspy screaming vocals, and the next a mellow beautiful section with clean vocals. While there are many sections featured on the track, and the structure is relatively complex, it´s actually reasonably easy to follow, and many sections are repeated or tweaked a bit and occur again during the track, so there is a high recognisability factor throughout the composition. Structure wise I´m reminded of a progressive rock classic like "Thick as a Brick (1972)" by Jethro Tull, which also consists of one album long track, featuring reoccurring themes. Knowing Swanö´s appreciation for classic progressive rock, it wouldn´t be a surprise, if he took some inspiration from that particular release.
The musicianship is as usual on a high level. While everything is certainly delivered with the needed skill and precision, there is a charming organic touch to the delivery, which works really well with the material. The instrumental part of the album is delivered with passion and conviction, but it´s the vocal part of the album, which takes the prize. Swanö´s growling vocals are distinct sounding and intelligible and his clean vocals are strong and pleasant (his harmony and choir vocals are also quality work). Åkerfeldt also deliveres a strong vocal performance, which help ensure variation in the vocal department.
"Crimson" is well produced, featuring a raw, organic, and detailed production, which suits the material perfectly. A more clean and clinical sounding production probably wouldn´t have suited the material as well. The album was recorded and mixed by Swanö at his own Unisound studio. Upon conclusion "Crimson" is a high quality release in every possible way. It features a well sounding production, strong musicianship, and adventurous songwriting, which was unique for the time, and a 5 star (100%) rating is fully deserved.