|©2004 Century Media
1. Into The Sea Of Dark Desires
2. World Hate Center
3. 11 Dreams
6. Sharpen The Edges
7. Supremacy V2.0
8. Music Non Stop
10. Times Without Changes
12. 11 Dreams (3D Mix)
13. 11 Dreams (radio Edit)
Mercenary is a six piece epic/melodic/power/progressive metal band from Denmark. They don’t really sound like any one band in particular, but their influences are fairly obvious, and include classic Malmsteen, Fates Warning, as well as the current crop of Swedish melodeath bands. Surprisingly, I also hear a lot of John Sykes/Blue Murder on this record, but the similarities are probably accidental, because I doubt these fellows spent much formative time listening to Whitesnake’s erstwhile guitarist and his majestic post-hair-metal band. This makes for an interesting conflagration of sounds, especially when it comes to the vocals, which range from mellow melodeath grunts to strong midrange epic melodic bellows to high-pitched semi-operatic wails, the latter of which are used sparsely, to my great relief. The songs are relatively long and fairly elaborate, but never fall into the ignominy of true progressive metal’s convoluted song structures, stultifying instrumental sections and incessant time signature changes. The music is slower and the songs are longer than much “pure” power metal (Stratovarius they ain’t) because of the strong Fates Warning undercurrent, but the band still manages to avoid the stunning tedium of Fates Warning’s entire discography by switching speeds, moods and vocal styles every now and again.
The lyrics are predictably somewhat cheesy and self-righteous, but not completely cringe-inducing, and their vocal delivery sounds sincere enough that the lyrical content can be at least tolerated, if not actually enjoyed. One oddball song does stand out, however, and should probably have been saved for an EP or thrown away altogether – “Music Non Stop” sounds like a qualifying single for the Eurovision contest, metal division, and the ever-so-heartfelt lyrics about (what else?) music are simply hideous. The keyboards are ubiquitous and serviceable, but also hampered by weak, artificial-sounding sounds, and they frequently fall very short of their intended majestic effect, especially on the opening track. The musicians are clearly very competent and exhibit tight interplay and strong chemistry, but some might find the soloists to be singularly lacking in individuality in a very crowded field, and I wouldn’t blame them.
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by how compelling and strong the compositions are, especially after I made peace with the fact that the lyrics are best ignored and the keyboards best filtered out. The melodies are well thought-out, and while a lot of chord progressions, themes and arrangements are predictable, they rarely sound rehashed and tired, unlike so many other bands in similar spheres.
I must admit that sitting through the whole album sometimes feels like you’ve had one ham and cheese baked potato too many, but when you’re in the mood for slightly bombastic Northern European musical cuisine, Mercenary beats the pants off most of the competition.
Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier
Review date: 01/2005