Written by: AP on 25/02/2011 14:04:02

Anyone with even the slightest knowledge about the Danish metal scene will recognize Mercenary as one of its proprietors. But the band's long-standing reign has not been without turmoil; the double decade history of Mecenary is riddled with line-up fluctuations stemming from visionary differences, most notably and dramatically the sudden exit of vocalist Mikkel Sandager, his keyboard touting brother Morten Sandager, and drummer Mike Park Nielsen in the wake of "Architect of Lies". At this point the future of Mercenary was shrouded in doubt, the skeptics calling it an imminent demise. Then, near the end of 2009, the band restored communications, unveiled a new, complete roster that saw bassist René Pedersen assume lead vocal duties, lead guitarist Martin Bruus double on the keyboard (in the studio, mind you), and Morten Løwe introduced as the new drummer. Reduced to a four-piece thus, Mercenary had the odds stacked against them, and understandably, the reaction to news that the band would release a new album - "Metamorphosis - in early 2011, were mixed. Would Mercenary be still be a force to reckon with in their current reincarnation?

At first glance, "Metamorphosis" has all the characteristics of rebirth: a new logo adorning an album cover that depicts a phoenix rising from the ashes as if to suggest that the band has emerged from darkness with blood on their teeth. It's a theme that - while not a substantive change in musical direction - carries through the album in terms of musical and lyrical content, too. A resolute melodic death metal album speckled with influences from progressive- and power metal, "Metamorphosis" combines everything people have come to love and respect about the band with a rejuvenated sense of confidence, purpose and self-awareness. René, in particular, has risen to the task, and has subsequently become one of the key assets accounting for the success of their magnum opus. Showcasing a natural ability whereever he dares tread, be it the thunderous howling of power ballad "Velvet Lies", the soaring clean vocals of "Shades of Grey", or the intermittent guttural growling in the likes of "Through the Eyes of the Devil", René's performance on "Metamorphosis" deserves tremendous praise.

With a quarter of a century of collective experience, misters Bruus and Mølbjerg ensure there is little reason to complain in the instrumental channels, too. Both guitarists are characteristically enamored by their instruments in best old school fashion, using these to unleash a wealth of infectious melodies, intelligent fills and mouthwatering solos, never lapsing into pointless chugging or riffs that outstay their welcome. The electronic elements - courtesy of Bruus - too, have a significant role in the enormity of songs like "In a River of Madness" and the monumental album-closing masterpiece "The Black Brigade", recalling the band's past extreme metal tendencies. But even in the midst of brilliance there are moments that do outstay their welcome in baffling filler tracks like "Memoria" and "Shades of Grey" that engage the autopilot and expose balladry that come disturbingly close to Sonic Syndicate's recent musings. Even lead single "The Follower" has such tendencies, extending close to a pointless five minutes with no other rationale behind it than to avoid being stigmatized with stereotypical radio running length.

Fortunately there is more than enough in the remaining six songs to compensate for such discrepancies; and certainly enough to reinstate Mercenary in the absolute elite of Danish metal. "Metamorphosis" is the sound of a band comfortable with not breaking new ground but refining their sound with near-clinical scrutiny. Unlike the host of other contemporary metal bands in Denmark, Mercenary are indifferent to the elusive ideologies that dictate what can and cannot be said or done within a specific genre; resulting in the amalgamation of melodic death metal with overt pop sensibilities that is "Metamorphosis". If bands like In Flames, Mnemic, Raunchy and Soilwork are frequent apparitions on your playlist, then "Metamorphosis" comes with the highest recommendations.


Download: Through the Eyes of the Devil, In a River of Madness, On the Edge of Sanity, The Black Brigade
For the fans of: In Flames, Mnemic, Raunchy, Scar Symmetry, Soilwork
Listen: Myspace

Release date 19.02.2011
NoiseArt Records

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