“First Breath” and “Everblack” were good albums and although they showed some cool approaches and well handled instrumentation they never brought anything new to the table. 2004 sees Century Media and MERCENARY presenting a new remedy called “11 Dreams”, a product that shakes up the finest qualities of Power, Death, Thrash and Symphonic Metal.
The Danish sextet has evolved towards a more adventurous melodic sound while still holding on to their heavy and atmospheric trademark. The songs on “11 Dreams” are lengthy, there’s not a single track that’s under five minutes (I’m not counting the instrumentals and the cover of KENT’s “Music Non Stop”) and that might be a problem to some people but not me, I think they’ve come out fresh in putting the album together.
There’s a lot to discover, the sonically brilliant sound and detailed arrangements make it tough to see through the songs right away; it’s not that the structures are complex or anything progressive (there are a few passages mind you) they just like to add little things as the individual song gets bigger and bigger the longer you travel into it, you know, that extra something for the crowd, it’s called showmanship people.
The primal side of MERCENARY runs untamed in faster songs like “World Hate Center” and “ReDestructDead”. There’s a SOILWORK vibe in these two songs mainly because of the shredding solos and simple keyboards backdrops (reminiscent of “The Chainheart Machine”). The band likes to play it mid paced and through most of the album’s duration they succeed in keeping me hooked; I wouldn’t mind getting more variations tempo wise in the eight minute scorcher “Supremacy V2.0”, but that’s just me.
A new side has been weaved into the band’s sound, don’t know how to describe it exactly but it’s a gothic touch created by the keyboards and multiple vocals, it has a scent Finnish melancholia to it, yeah that’s it. The title track demonstrates this new approach extremely well, listen to the sample above (behold the weeping solo parts) and you’ll get the idea. Talking about melancholy, I suspect that “Loneliness” was written in a secluded forest somewhere deep in the heart of Finland (possibly while listening to CRIMSON GLORY’s “Lonely” hehe), what a sad and gloomy closure, a powerful mix of thrusting guitars, foggy keyboard shades and Mikkel Sandager’s pleading vocals, great song.
Mikkel’s singing is what truly separates MERCENARY from the rest, an expert in hooks and harmonies, he has incredible ranges when he frees his vocals and thankfully it works with the extreme music. His counterpart (and bass player) Kraal growls with such intensity, I keep wondering on his technique regarding those voracious Death/Power Metal screams.
I was going to call this the Glam version of Extreme Metal (no, I was not thinking about the image) but alas I take it back and label it Atmospheric Modern Metal. This is definitely a refreshing output, I sense a breakthrough coming for the band after the press has fully absorbed the album, time will tell. (Online October 4, 2004)