Sunday, February 21, 2016

Edge of Sanity - Unorthodox (1992)

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 this album.