Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Edge of Sanity - Nothing but Death Remains (1991)

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 record. 

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 highly recommended!