Edge of Sanity were one of the most unique Swedish death metal bands of all time for any number of reasons -- not least of which being that they eventually went away; breaking up and staying broken up (for the most part) unlike so many of those government funded Scandinavian groups, and this is why neophytes and late arrivals alike were eventually blessed with the option to purchase a career retrospective like 2006's When All Is Said: The Best of Edge of Sanity. Naturally, super fans and perfectionists aren't entirely wrong (are they ever?) in suggesting that no greatest-hits CD will ever do the band's incredibly influential discography justice, but choice, as they say, is a wonderful thing, so you Edge of Sanity completists can go listen to your old albums (there are no rare or unreleased goodies of any kind here), and here's what you newbies need to know about When All Is Said. This remastered two-disc set comes adorned with extensive liner notes, lyrics, and photos, and attempts to summarize Edge of Sanity's restlessly innovative trajectory over nine releases (eight albums and one EP) and some 13 years, as they rose from the crowded Swedish death metal scene of the early 1990s to distinguish themselves with ever more progressive and eclectic works under the stewardship -- and eventual borderline dictatorship -- of vocalist/guitarist Dan Swanö. A man whose workaholic tendencies and long creative tendrils stretch across the Swedish heavy metal scene, Swanö seemed like just another team member on Edge of Sanity's competent but relatively unsurprising debut LP, 1991's Nothing But Death Remains, and, to a certain extent, the following year's Unorthodox, which boasted just one truly shocking departure -- clean vocals, ambient synths -- with the epic "Enigma." But as fans quickly discovered on increasingly adventurous ensuing efforts like The Spectral Sorrows (1993), Purgatory Afterglow (1994), and the Until Eternity Ends EP (also 1994), the singer and his bandmates seemed willing to challenge most any extreme metal taboo obstructing their path, culminating in the 40-minute prog beast, Crimson (1996), which -- opinionated purists notwithstanding -- is considered one of the greatest achievements in death metal history. In fact, Crimson proved so creatively and emotionally draining (not to mention divisive) that Edge of Sanity had almost nothing left to give after its release. The fractured group would wrestle through another album, Infernal (1997), where Swanö and guitarist Andreas "Dread" Axelsson literally ping-ponged their experimental and back-to-basics approaches from track to track; and then, following the former's departure, the same year's Cryptic saw the foolhardy remaining quartet hiring new singer Robert Karlsson in a short-lived attempt to keep the band together. In the end, Swanö would have his vengeance in 2003, when he took back the Edge of Sanity name and recorded Crimson II with a crew of hired henchmen. For the purpose of When All Is Said, both Crimson albums are squeezed (with the help of some minor editing) onto disc number two (as completists cry foul yet again!), leaving room for 14 tracks from the remaining releases (chosen by fans via online poll) for chronological profiling on disc one. Is it perfect? Well, no, but it's as close to a comprehensive Edge of Sanity retrospective (1999's Evolution was an odds & sods affair) for new fans to sink their teeth into -- at least until Swanö succumbs to temptation and calls his old colleagues back for a Crimson III.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Track Listing - Disc 1