Now THIS is the shit we live for. A new unsigned band that almost no one’s talking about puts out their first full-length album and it’s a total fucking monster. We’re talking goosebump inducing waves of aural pleasure that’ll knock you on your dumbfounded ass. Yeah, The Edge of Sanity by Sweden’s Structural Disorder is that good and the more we listen to the damn thing the better it gets. The band’s sound is a mixture of complex, inventive and slightly quirky progressive rock, metal, a very sophisticated melodicism, amazing vocal harmonies (including both clean and death vocals) and a slightly modern edginess that fits the music perfectly. Also, uniquely, the band has an electric accordion player (Jóhannes West) as an integral part of their sound which adds a nice folkish element that is not at all gimmicky but feels like a well-thought out and very necessary element to the band’s music. In addition to the accordion, the band members are bassist Erik Arkö, drummer Kalle Björk, guitarist/keyboardist Hjalmar Birgersson and guitarist/lead vocalist Markus Tälth and all band members except for drummer Björk sing and that adds some fantastic four-part harmonies to much of the album.
The Edge Of Sanity with its lyrical themes of love, loss, internal struggle with insanity (and I’m guessing is named after the legendary Dan Swanö’s amazing ‘90’s progressive death metal band) is a long album at 70 minutes but has so much richness and diversity that it goes very quickly and easily leaves you wanting more. After a short intro song, Rebirth, a song about freeing oneself from mental illness is a great intro to Structural Disorder’s sound with impassioned vocals (both clean and death), heavy driving rhythms and great keyboard and guitar melodies. Peace of Mind, a song about love abandoned, has a wonderful and rather poignant vocal performance over accordion and soft acoustic guitar that quickly morphs into a keyboard led melodic section with a great urgent bass/drum rhythm and our first real taste of the great vocal harmonies that these guys do so well. The Longing and The Chokehold has a maniac heavy intensity throughout and its headbanging grooves amply illustrate the passion of the narrator losing his grip on reality. Again the great keyboard lines drive home the emotional intensity over some very heavy guitars. Each song thematically and lyrically builds on the prior songs so Funeral Bells does not slow down the pace but instead gives us some amazing syncopated grooves focusing on great, sophisticated guitars lines.
The album shifts gears midway through with the amazing heavy prog rock instrumental Sleep on Aripiprazol which could be the best song on the album with its swirling accordion/slow dramatic melodic beginning before closing out in a wild frenetic ELP-esque prog metal take on a Swedish folk melodic style. What a great song it is and hard to believe that a band as vocal oriented as this one is can do such a great instrumental piece. Corpse Candles, another lyrically dark song with a rather upbeat, hard-driving sound with a great soft, accordion-led mid-section and a simple beautiful guitar solo to close it out. These guys really know how to keep their music as simple as it needs to be in order to really affect the listener and, just when you think you know what these guys can do, they pull out The Child In The Ocean which begins with a hauntingly dark guitar arpeggio the leads into a fantastic intense metal section that is so simple and memorable. For great contrast, the band puts in a softly beautiful melodic section before reprising the heaviness of the first part of the song. Impossible to really put into words but trust me when you hear this great song, you’ll have it on repeat for days.
After a short, rather creepy ambient piece, The Fallen is a rather upbeat Beardfish-esque melodic prog rock song and leads into the vocal showcase Pale Dressed Masses (after another short instrumental.) The four-part vocal harmonies here are just stunning and damn do these guys know how to write some great melodic songs that build continually to fantastic conclusions – the kind that will stick with you for days. The album closes with the eleven minute title track and it does not disappoint at all. It’s a great amalgam of what’s already transpired and is a very well-crafted, progressive showcase of drama, melody and slowly building heaviness (the video for the song is at the bottom of this review.) Honestly, rarely has 70 minutes of my life gone by so fast as it has on this truly great album that will easily be on our top album list for the year. Count on it!
Sweden had a really fertile prog rock scene in the 70’s and we love seeing newer bands like Moon Safari , Beardfish and now Structural Disorder really creating their own beautiful spin on progressive music and crafting some of the best sounds being produced these days. Of course we love it when the big genre names get a ton of press like Dream Theater getting nominated this year for a Grammy award again (who would have predicted that even a few years ago!) but a lot of very worthy bands just ain’t getting enough attention and we aim to do something about that by hopefully featuring more newer bands as great as this young Swedish group. If you like, you can hear the entire album of The Edge Of Sanity via the Spotify playlist below and you can also purchase a copy of the album via the Amazon.com link, also below.
Review by Jeff Stevens
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