Album Title: “Through Our Darkest Days”
Label: Prosthetic Records / Noiseart Records
Year Of Release: 2013
Isn’t it nice when a band fulfils the potential that you’ve known was there and releases the album of their career? Well, that’s exactly what has happened to Danish metal band Mercenary with the release of album number seven, entitled “Through Our Darkest Days”.
I have three or four albums of Mercenary’s back catalogue nestled within my collection and so I’ve been with the band for a fair portion of their 22-year-long musical journey. For me though, it started in 2004 with the third studio effort, “11 Dreams”, an album that will maintain a special place in my affections as it exposed me to this interesting band. However, as good as the previous albums are, I always had the feeling that there was better to come from the quartet.
From the moment that I pressed play and heard the first notes of “A New Dawn”, I had a feeling that “Through Our Darkest Days” would be the monster record that the band had so often hinted at. And so it has proved. Mercenary’s approach has always been to blend aggression and melody with the aim of producing heavy yet accessible and memorable metal music. It is here that the band has well and truly succeeded.
The core of the sound is, arguably, melodic death metal but there’s a lot more going on than just that. Indeed, elements of thrash and harder-edged power metal are interwoven into the compositions in order to provide an air of brutality. Occasionally, there is even a nod in the direction of metalcore, just to spice things up and to acknowledge more modern metal trends.
The aforementioned opening track, “A New Dawn” is, in essence, a microcosm of the whole album. It begins with an up-tempo riff that’s drenched in keyboards and accented by a strong rhythm section. The verse takes things down a notch before the chorus explodes, reintroducing the glorious opening melody line to great effect. As the song unfurls, I’m gently reminded of Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity, principally because of the guitar and keyboard interplay but there is plenty to distinguish between the bands. There is a demonstrable thrash element to proceedings, and towards the end of the chorus, the vocals do veer into Killswitch territory for a fleeting instant.
Having listened to this album almost obsessively, what becomes abundantly clear is that there are no stand-out tracks per se. The fact is that each of the ten compositions offers the listener something interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. Whether it is the metalcore-inspired opening to “Welcome To The Sickness”, “Holding On To Serenity” with its initial nod towards Darkane or the more in-your-face approach of “Generation Hate”, you can guarantee that there is not a weak moment to be found anywhere.
One of the strongest ingredients on this record however, is in the melody department. Just about every single track benefits from a killer hook, infectious lead or melodic vocal line. The result is an album that hits you with anthem after anthem. I tend to think that the word ‘anthemic’ is overused in metal reviews but it seems entirely apt here. Just listen to the choruses of either “Holding On To Serenity” or “A Moment Of Clarity” as just two very easy examples to more than adequately illustrate my point.
Speaking of vocal lines, one of the most unique aspects of the Mercenary sound overall, that ‘je ne sais quoi’ that all bands need in order to pique the interest of listeners in a crowded market place, can be found in the vocal department. Every musician within Mercenary, be it drummer Peter Mathiesen, guitarist/keyboardist Martin Buus or rhythm guitarist Jakob Molbjerg, is very accomplished but it is the voice of bassist René Pedersen that stands out for me. The guy can growl and shout with the best of them but it is his cleaner delivery that is so impressive. It is so difficult to describe but it sits somewhere between a melodious croon and an impassioned scream. It is so powerful, yet apparently effortless and lends the material added depth and a genuinely epic quality.
If you are looking for a band that can put a smile on your face whilst bludgeoning you over the head, Mercenary may just be the band for you. Overall, “Through Our Darkest Days” is an outstanding album and very definitely the best of their career.
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