overground scene

What happened to us? #3 Edge of Sanity and Dan Swano

A classic break-up was the separation of Dan Swano from the rest of Edge of Sanity in 1997. Back then Dan was widely perceived to be the creative force behind Edge of Sanity’s music, if not the undisputed band leader. I remember that when Cryptic came out and Dan was not part of it, it was not received well among me and my friends, and Dan’s absence was the main reason why. Back then I viewed it as an incomplete version of Edge of Sanity, but over the years I have come to appreciate it and now I consider it as one of the best Edge of Sanity albums and definitely one of the top Swedish death metal albums of the late 1990s. A few years later, in 2003, Dan resurrected the band without the other four members and released Crimson II, which is my least favourite album by them.


From left to right: Benny Larsson, Anders Lindberg, Andreas Axelsson, Sami Nerberg, and Dan Swano.

It appears that several factors contributed to the break-up of this legendary line-up responsible for some of the greatest and most innovative albums in the history of death metal. According to an interview with Dan, he was kicked out of the band in 1997. His exit, according to him, was the company’s (Black Mark) decision. From his account of the situation it is unclear why the label had to choose between him and the rest of the band to grant permission to use the name Edge of Sanity. It is implied that him and the rest of the band were two entities by that point, so the label decided to go with the entity that resembled more a functioning band, and that entity was the one with the four musicians on board (Andreas, Sami, Benny and Anders) rather than only Dan. 

I was unable to find official accounts on why by that point the band was split between Dan and the other band members. However, there is plenty of information available to help fill in this gap. First of all, there is evidence to suggest that Dan and the rest of the band had different, potentially conflicting, creative visions and drew inspiration from different genres; Dan from symphonic rock, pop and soft rock, the rest of the band, extreme metal and punk. Both Andreas Axelsson and Dan have made this claim (see here and here respectively) and from Andreas’s account it could be inferred that different creative visions can be a problem. Conflicts based on creative differences have also been implied by Dan, who has argued that the rest of the band refused to incorporate more Gothic rock elements in the band’s style. Sami Nerberg has also suggested that Swano’s departure was a positive thing as the band’s style became more coherent.

The notion that Dan was the leader of the band could have been another cause for conflict among band members. Sami has even insinuated that Dan had taken over the band (read an interview with him here). While this is also the popular sentiment, in another interview Dan does not take credit for the significance/legacy of Edge of Sanity, and explicitly points out that Edge of Sanity’s magic was a collective effort. However, his discourse farther ahead suggests that he does consider himself the quintessential element in Edge of Sanity’s sound. He was indeed bitter about the rest of the band recording Cryptic without him, saying “[Crimson II] was revenge towards the other guys for doing the Cryptic album”, and he goes as far as to describe the latter as “anti-Edge of Sanity”. For him, the legitimate Edge of Sanity vision corresponds to his own, and the Edge of Sanity chapter should be closed accordingly. 

Linked to the previous argument, there is also a chance that Dan and the rest of the band drifted apart over the years because Dan did not think highly of others’ (apart from Benny’s who is objectively a genius) musical skills. I remember reading an interview back in the day on a Greek metal zine on which Dan explained that the reason he played on the songs he composed on Infernal was because the others couldn’t play them properly (if I remember wrong someone could correct me?). This might have been a reason for Sami, Anders and Andreas to dislike Dan.

Dan has also acknowledged that while the rest had always been friends with one another beyond the band, he was an outsider. His association with Sami, Benny, Anders and Andreas, was only in the context of Edge of Sanity, a band that begun as one of his numerous projects. Not being friends outside of the band meant that it was easy for them to drift apart.

It should also be considered that different band members were differentially invested in the band. For example, in the case of Dan, Edge of Sanity was only one thing amongst other important ventures such as his recording studio and his other projects. In a 1996 interview with Andreas on Chronicles of Chaos, the interviewer asks him why the band does not tour much. Andreas’s answer suggests that the reason behind the band’s reluctance to tour was Dan’s job as a studio owner. It could be hypothesised that the rest of the band considered Dan an obstacle to the band’s success.

Finally, we should not ignore that the death metal genre was dying in the late 1990s, and morale was low for many death metal musicians who felt that the potential for money or recognition was limited. For these reasons, maybe Edge of Sanity was not a priority for Dan in the mid-90s. Indeed, recognition seems to be an important consideration for him. On this interview he very eloquently describes his conscious effort to associate his music on Crimson II with the Edge of Sanity “brand”, because it would receive the attention it deserved (in 2003 when death metal was again on the rise), instead of being overlooked under a different, unrecognised, moniker. 

Nevertheless, it looks like Dan and the rest of the band did not end their creative relationship bitterly. Dan has suggested that his decision to resurrect the band back in 2003 was not done against the will of the old band-members, and Andreas argued a few years ago that him and Dan were still good friends. Since the first and second demise of Edge of Sanity, Dan has been involved in numerous bands, either as a producer or as a musician. I thought that the Moontower album was an excellent example of progressive melodic death metal. The Jesusatan album with Infestdead as well as the first album he did with Bloodbath were also ace. Benny Larsson now plays in the death-thrash ensemble Plague Warhead. Andreas remains rotten to the core with his new incredible band, Tormented. Dan, Andreas and Benny released the crust album Total Terror in 2009.


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