Mercenary - 11 Dreams('04) - 2/5
First off, I have to admit that i had a tough time getting into and then digesting this album. I think this was due to the crossed messages I had gotten from the lead off track. While this Danish unit are described as a power metal/melodic death metal band in the Metal Archives, my initial reaction to the opening track(after a naff standard pseudo-classical lead off), "World Hate Center", was one of confusion. Yes, the song contained many of the trademarks of the group description. Namely, it had the expected double bass barrages, the accessible type of black shriek usually attributed to MDM,clean vocals of a most pleasing timbre, adequate riffage, and sky burst semi hooky chorus. But then something strange occurred to me. While all of the elements were good to excellent in execution, the band seemed to be shooting wildly at various styles while not really having an identity of their own. As the song progressed,I was hearing many things that I had heard elsewhere, and it almost seemed like the band was progressing through a checklist of influences, leaving not a one unrecognized(it even features a Zep styled Middle Eastern bridge section fer Chrissakes!!!). Overall, I felt that it was well executed but uninviting and scattershot.
While this was hardly the beginning I had anticipated, I hoped that track two(the title track) improved on things. No dice. A clean voiced bore, the song was almost nu metal in vibe. The next track in line also didn't peak my interest, being another mid paced, cleanly sung tune, but again, not overly appealing to me in construct or delivery.
Needless to say, and this was after three attempts to get into the album, I was not really looking forward to slogging through the rest of the album for this review. Then, out of the blue came "Firesoul", in my opinion, a soaring masterpiece of spectacular breadth. Wow!! Where did this come from? On this ripping riff fest, the band seem to have found the perfect marriage of the styles that they strive for. Brilliant vocal work from Mikkel Sandager(the bands ace in the hole) coupled with a guest appearance by Monika Pedersen,carving axework, and a crunchy passion stamped with authority over every hallowed second.It also features terrific melodic hooks that most bands could only dream of. Now this is metal at it's most emotively effective.
So, things are looking up you think. Well, my hopes were peaked after this creative tour-de-force for sure. But alas, it is not to be. Without getting into much more detail in this already long winded review, what we get after "Firesoul" is a morbid semi-power/death ballad, a Fear Factory/Pantera clone,a new wave/dance toon(!?!?!?), another FF/Pantera clone, and must I go on? Again, identity fades, and a confusing mish mash of genre hopping occurs again.
While this band features many elements that are commendable(exacting solos, spartan but effective keys,solid drumming, solid production),the real reason for anyone to check it out is for Sandager's electric vocal performance. Able to do death grunt/black shriek with aplomb, and possessing of a pleasing clean vocal(Mike Patton is the closest comparable I can come up with), the man is a gem that needs discovering, and I would recommend this album on that merit alone.
Highly Recommended: Firesoul
By J. Costigan