4/14/2011 - Review by: Eric Compton
Gone - Vocalist Mikkel Sandager, drummer Mike Nielsen, keyboardist Morten Sandager, label Century Media
It has been a long and winding road for Danish veterans Mercenary. Three years ago the band released their last solidified effort in "Architect of Lies". Since then the group have lost a singer, drummer, keyboardist and record label.
The whole story...well you and I both know that the amount of strain put on this band was just overwhelming. After 20 years in the biz this band had the weight of the world on their backs and the corner beckoned with just too little left to do with their current scenario. Sure the band is more Swedish than Danish and at times the mining of Soilwork became inevitable but the back catalog stokes the coals of metal's brightest fire. With "11 Hours" and "The Hours That Remain" this HUMAN act had tremendous boots to fill. Depending on which circle you stand in this band was YOUR next big thing--the next Dream Theater, the next Soilwork and the next Blind Guardian in terms of sub-genre peers and their proverbial leaders.
The band's blended deposits created a sense of awe and wonder, often leading the band to defy genres completely and run the gambit with a sense of un-purpose, as if walls and boundaries simply didn't exist and labels had no input. By "Architect Of Lies" and 17 years on the clock what else is there to do? You there, you the metal professional and avid reader? Where do you turn if your band is in the upper echelons of power metal but at the same time basking in the glow of the cold and frosties?
Who do you please?
Do you continue on more clean cut paths with tons of power tendencies? Do you go metal-core and breakdown with melody? Or do you venture into the land of Goth and make your band stand with Finland's best? What about the Swedish comparison and the ease of drifting into In Flames and Soilwork sounds? When you have mastered so many formulas where do you go from here? How do you interact with the population and how do you produce without reproduction?
This is what we have done to this band by constantly demanding one or the other but never quite embracing the hybrid. Call it greed, call it famine, I'm not sure but Mercenary were never treated well by fans. Sure the big tours, the American shows and labels like Century Media were fair and bid success (and farewell).
So, now we are here with a broken band--your broken trinket and toy that simply failed under pressure. I've read the negatives and understood going into this new Mercenary regime that they can do no right at this point. The wrongs are wrong and the rights have been silenced with the departure of the band's majority. I warranted a new band name going in and I received a logo change. Thus the new Mercenary was discarded and abandoned months before "Metamorphosis" even hit the stores. This is doomed and I'm part of the cursing.
But I'll be damned if I'm not standing on the outer circle now cheering this bloody thing on while the rest gawk and stare and wonder why "Metamorphosis" exists at all. Kudos and cheers all around from this household, Mercenary rebound in a big way with this all-purpose entry or re-entry into their creative realm. This is the best of their career and I'm proud of it. Call it what you want--and name callers have fun with it--but this is a fantastic album and one that begs...simply begs...to be explored, prodded, poked and appreciated for what it is; the light at the end of the tunnel that definitely is the fires of the phoenix being reborn. Mercenary are back with new vocals that handle aggression and melody in much the same way that it has been treated all along--the rich blend of layer upon layer of emotion and dramatic effects neatly placed as a cabaret of talent and execution. The growls and clean vocals are exceptionally well done amidst a sound that is more... gulp...metalcore in nature than previous work. Are we even still calling it metalcore these days? The denim and leather crowd never liked the band in the first place and now really hate them for doing so much so fast. The band are emphasizing metalcore screams and growls that fully embrace clean passages that are just beautiful to hear. This sort of thing shines with a power metal flash that enhances the backbreaking finesse of the whole rigid scheme of things. This myriad of sounds is easily comparable to the old stuff but still is a new beast altogether. I'm sure that it will please the Killswitch/Bullet For My Valentine crowds and displease the mopheads that say this stuff isn't cool to begin with. These are the same weenies that attend a Slayer show, jam out to Skid Row on the radio and then dismiss "Youth Gone Wild" for being the personification of cock-rock while they sing every word.
I like this new Mercenary sensation, this All That Remains roar with Queensryche slickness. I like this break it and soothe it approach and the use of phenomenal clean vocals that don't serve to break up verses but explore new dimensions in sounds. I love this atmosphere and this dreary blanket of sorrow and doom--the whole thing just moves me the way "11 Dreams" did but in different ways. The atmosphere is power ballad at times, raging full on beatdown often and its all so relevant without the burden. This band knows the Soilwork crowds but this time finally allowing their identity to soak in and absorb the ears.
With "Metamorphosis" the band have moved into a territory that is dangerous--many fans and press alike have already started the stoning and the band is okay with that, these same throwers are the ones that wanted the band on tour with Maiden and a pitch at Andy Sneap as producer. These same fans(?) were intent on Hansen being removed from the production line while still applauding his efforts on "11 Dreams".
I love this band, I love their spirit and the integrity and the stamina. These Danes never say die and constantly evolve and create with longevity. Call me a fan and a loyalist at that. Mercenary are consistently determined and never weary by proving that hours are never all that remain.
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