'Crimson II' - Edge Of Sanity (8/10)
Anyone who has heard the original 'Crimson' will hopefully have had a similar experience to the one I had. Although I was already a fan of death metal, Edge Of Sanity's defining opus astounded me beyond virtually anything else I had heard in the style. A while after 'Crimson' came out, Edge Of Sanity disbanded, and the musicians proceeded to go their own ways. However, frontman and Edge of Sanity mastermind Dan Swano decided to revive the band's name with one final output. Although something more of a solo album by any standard, Dan Swano would bring in some guest musicians for his prospective sequel of his magnum opus. 'Crimson II'- like many sequels- can be the target of some controversy, as the result of following up such a successful concept work. Although I would tend to agree with the consensus that the sequel no where near reaches the same majesty as the original, 'Crimson II' is an excellent album with some fantastic moments of its own, and can stand alone as a strong work of progressive death metal.
Unlike the first- which thrusts right into the fray of heaviness- 'Crimson II' begins more conventionally as an epic; beginning with a symphonic introduction which is reprised later in the album. Before long though, the listener is hit with some rapid riffs and technicality which seeks to outdo anything heard on the first 'Crimson'. Although the opening riff and many that follow here are more complex in nature than much of the material on the first, they do not enjoy the same powerful, epic feel to them. That being said, 'Crimson II' is much more about the riffs and individual sections than Edge Of Sanity made the first out to be, which tended to have a greater overall cohesion. Of course, albums are best judged based on their own merits, but Dan Swano obviously intended this album to be matched up against the sequel.
A large development here is the greater presence of keyboards in the mix. Although the composition is still driven by the heavy guitar work, the keyboards add a new dimension to the sound, that at times is slightly overblown but does tend to give the sound a greater depth and melodic feel than before. The performance of the instruments here is also on par, and at times even better than on the original 'Crimson'; quite ironic considering that this is essentially a Dan Swano solo project being compared against a full band effort. Stranger still is the fact that the production here seems quite weaker than before, despite- and possibly in relation to- the addition of new sounds. 'Crimson' the first had an organic feel to it, but 'Crimson II' feels a little too doused in reverb, giving it a muddy feel that takes away from what is otherwise a great record.
'Crimson II' offers some incredible moments of its own, and expertly throws in some ideas from the original to give a sense of continuity. It does feel as if the 'Crimson' series has taken a bit of a dip with this one; after all, how could the original ever be topped? But make no mistake; 'Crimson II' is an excellent work of its own, and would probably receive many more accolades from listeners, were it not always held in comparison with what I consider to be a near-perfect album.