When people think of metal nowadays, a country being named can quickly bring a band or band’s style to mind. Mention Sweden, and people think In Flames and At The Gates; Norway brings Emperor and Dimmu Borgir to mind; Finland immediately sparks: Bodom. When it comes to a band flying the flag high for metal in Denmark, it’s Mercenary.
Mercenary formed in 1991, but the first time I was ever able to hear them was in 2004 with their 11 Dreams album. I had always been very influenced by Melodic Death Metal, but I had never heard this sound… blending elements of Melodic Death with searingly high, catchy Power Metal-ish vocals, Progressive moments, etherial Keyboard layering- and quite exciting production ideas. The Hours That Remain that came out in 2006 quickly became a favorite contemporary metal album for me.
The melancholic, yet crushingly heavy sound that Mercenary began honing in even further was a true ear-catcher as far as originality goes.
Mercenary has been hit with many line-up changes and difficult obstacles in their way as far as the music business goes; and unfortunately it has caused them, in this writers opinion- to not be heard by enough people. Mercenary is a gem of a band; an incredibly original, mentally engaging band- and now with Metamorphosis, I feel they have created their magnum opus.
As musically familiar Metamorphosis is, it takes on a whole new level of sound that Mercenary has yet to discover until now. When I had heard that Mercenary lost their vocalist, I was quite nervous for the band due to the quite versatile vocal delivery to date; however, with new vocalist Rene’ Pedersen - it’s as if he was a missing link in achieving greatness.
Rene’ can do it all. Whether really intense mid-ranged guttural-resonated screaming, into shrill higher black metal rasp territory - the screaming is something you feel in your stomach. It’s emotive and powerful. Rene’s singing voice? The things he can do will leave other singers jealous. Rene’ is just as comfortable in the lower range of singing, all the way into Halford-esque territory; the very first time Jakob sent the new record to me, and I heard the chorus to the opening track - all the hairs on my arms stood up and I got goosebumps.
The choruses on this new record are catchier than ever vocally - with really fantastic lyrics; the music is layered thick and done just right. Ranging from heavy kick drum/ guitar syncopated riffs that weave in and out of melodic ranges; to pedal tone style riffery; then into some new territory that has yet to be heard from Mercenary. “The Follower” has a verse unlike any previous Mercenary album.
To quote styles purely for the sake of example to someone who hasn’t heard Mercenary yet; this album has reminders of styles from Melodic Death Metal, Power Metal, an almost post-hardcore approach to some clean arpeggiations and patterns that I’ve never heard on a Mercenary record; and choruses that are NOT your typical metal choruses. The choruses delivered on this record are more anthemic than metal choruses can usually ever hope to be.
Musically, the drums and rhythm guitars are perfectly complimentary together- everything is mechanically precise while still delivering a powerful feeling to the listener. The solos are better than ever; and very tastefully planted in the right spots amidst the songs. The variations in what happens sonically on the album at the same time give the listener a truly exciting production again - during a locked in rhythm section, there will be an intricate-yet concise melody passage; vocals with great layering (classic Mercenary scream/sing blends), and etherial sounding keyboard passages happening. The album’s production sound is the best of all the records to date as well.
"Memoria" is the star of the show in my opinion. There has never been a song like this from Mercenary. Every single thing is a hook. The melodic guitar work and the rhythm guitar work in the intro alone are instantly classic hooks; the verse and prechorus are perfectly crafted with a Mercenary-esque pop approach. The emotion Rene’ conveys in his lyrics can be felt while you listen- using his range effortlessly (I’m listening to the post-chorus right now as I type and I felt goosebumps on my face.) His vibrato is tasteful, lyrics are spot on, and the music lends a perfect backdrop to what’s happening on the song.
I love this band; I love this album. Fans of Metal, Rock, Hardcore, Metalcore, Power Metal, Melodic Death Metal, and music in general should check this album out.
Mercenary’s Metamorphosis is a record that needs to be heard by the masses. Support this band.