After dedicating most of their existence to defying death metal templates with a string of form-challenging albums that culminated in 1996's truly unprecedented, uninterrupted 40-minute prog metal landmark, Crimson, Edge of Sanity would arrive at the crossroads of their career with 1997's Infernal, their sixth album. Here at last, the ever-questing imagination of vocalist/guitarist/workaholic Dan Swanö was put in check by his heretofore mostly complicit bandmates, who, apparently led by guitarist Andreas "Dread" Axelsson, put their collective foot down and demanded a certain amount of "traditional" death metal flavor be reinstated for sanity's sake (or at least their sake). As a result, Infernal was recorded and even sequenced like some sort of manic compositional tug of war between Swanö and Dread, with the first's still frequently eclectic contributions alternated almost tit for tat with the latter's generally more straightforward and uniformly violent offerings, making for a very uneven listening experience -- one that wasn't without its rewards, however, including Swanö's aggressive opening gambit, "Hell Is Where the Heart Is," featuring a startlingly melodic guitar solo; the intriguing cryptology exercise "15:36"; and the latter-day Carcass-inspired "Forever Together Forever" (co-written with Mikael Åkerfeldt of Edge of Sanity's creative heir apparent, Opeth). For his part, Dread and his habitual co-writer, drummer Benny Larsson, delivered the refreshingly basic and brutal "Helter Skelter," a decent rot & roller in "Damned (By the Damned)," and a nostalgic mini-epic mood-swinger in "Burn the Sun." But Dread and Larsson also struck out as frequently as they connected a good shot, and even the normally infallible Swanö met with embarrassment when his alternative rock dalliances yielded the Gin Blossoms-gone-metal of "Losing Myself." So as the shadows grew long on Infernal and the group launched into the obviously named, piano-led "The Last Song," one can see the remnants of Edge of Sanity's once imposing musical legacy evanescing into the ether along with this inconsistent LP -- a must for die-hard fans only. Swanö would quickly move on to other creative pursuits both as an artist and producer, while his bandmates foolishly tried to carry on without him for one more album -- that same year's Robert Karlsson-fronted Cryptic -- but they quickly realized that, love him or loath him, there could be no Edge of Sanity without their former singer.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia