The atoms from the discarded cheeseburger recombine to create a snarling metal beast rising from the waters off the cape of Jutland...
Mercenary were every bit Danish metal royalty – every record since the groundbreaking 11 Dreams was hyped as a major event in melodic death metal and with solid reason. Since the Sandager brothers’ departure, only the two original guitarists remain. Now, with a bit more breathing room to relax and let their riffs loose from leashes gripped tightly by their former bandmates, Mercenary have stepped back from their unyielding desire to emulate the fleeting glory days of Euro progressive metal (that’s the late 90s) and fusing the heady intensity of the original Gothenburg sound (the precious little mid-90s) to thrash out a record brimming with prime lead breaks, jaw-dropping solos and carnivorous, cracking riffs. They strut with a fearless command of those big, American style arena-electrifying refrains from the very beginning, (Through the Eyes of the Devil) grind relentlessly and parenthetically pound polyrhythms with subtlety and aplomb (In A River of Madness) as honey-coated keyboard accompaniments shine through better than any of their contemporaries (ahem, Scar Symmetry).
Rene Pedersen's stepping up to the microphone to lay down toweringly clean and muscular death vocals is possibly one of the greatest personnel decisions in melodic death metal history. Impassioned throughout, he sounds none more sincere than on Memoria. Pained and ardent cries to his parents had me completely floored, easily making this vocal driven track the best on the record. In Bloodred Shades hides nothing from us; trammeling, crunching riffs dominate no sooner to halt and yield to splendorous progressive inspired passages before twisting and turning back again, keeping us on tenterhooks as we can only feel awed at what they come up with next upon each and every listen.
Songwriting that treads the line between velvety Euro cheese and angsty American teenage posturing yet succumbing to the trappings of neither culminates perfectly on Shades of Gray, cloud-like synth anchoring an “ahhhing” choir while the rhythm section thickly lay chugging riffs down would sound completely stupid if it were cut by almost anyone else, but Mercenary make it work perfectly (principally the stock 80s key change on the bridge: “oohing” in tandem with faux-poetic lyricism: “From the beauty of a single rose / To the night's clear sky / Don't let it pass you by”) eventually wiping away the “somfing wot got in my eye” in the grinder On the Edge of Sanity. Coming out swinging (of the Glenn Miller variety, natch) in the closer The Black Brigade, we must ask: is Metamorphosis metal for the 2010s, the de-spoiler of the metalcore generation? I would be inclined to say it is.