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It seems Mercenary are out to emphasise changes within their personnel that they announced back in November 2009. Drummer of seven years, Mike Park Nielsen announced his permanent departure from the Danish metallers which then prompted bassist/vocalist René Pedersen and guitarists Martin Buus and Jakob Mølbjerg making the decision to separate from brothers Mikkel and Morten Sandager (vocals and keyboards respectively) for the purpose of taking Mercenary's music in a heavier, faster and more contemporary direction. So here we have long-awaited new album 'Metamorphosis', a name never more apt for a band's revised objectives together with minimalist artwork and a brand new logo. So, like I said, changes in the Mercenary camp have been made boldly emphatic through such symbolism, but does this follow through in the music? Kind of yes and no. The new material is not as radical a departure as one might expect. 2008's 'Architect of Lies' hinted towards a heavier direction - being the first album to feature Pedersen, they made full use of his growled vocal delivery over the riff-based heavier passages, which led to a contraposition of dissonant death sonics and the melodic prog-power of its predecessor 'The Hours That Remain'. All those elements are present on 'Metamorphosis', albeit the heavy is discernibly heavier which further emphasises the contrast with melodically underpinned sections. Keyboards still feature courtesy of Buus, Perdersen alternates between a growled and clean vocal delivery with the latter surprisingly not too dissimilar from Mikkel Sandager (albeit not with the high-end of his range), and they have a fantastically dynamic new drummer in Morten Løwe. As such, the music on 'Metamorphosis' has definitely progressed but is still instantly recognisable as Mercenary. Songs are still chock-full of Buus' virtuosic soloing, resonantly chunky riffs and quasi-prog structures so established fans can be reassured that the band are very much still Mercenary in essence. There are, however, moments that are perhaps uncharacteristic of their general aesthetic such as a down-tempo passage just over three minutes into 'In a River of Madness' with a very effective use of keyboards that brings to mind defunct Norwegian deathsters V:28, and the occasional extreme metal brutality of 'On the Edge of Sanity'. But then you also have the likes of 'Shades of Grey' which is inherently linked in style to material from 'The Hours That Remain' such as 'My World Is Ending'. My overall advice for established fans of the band and newcomers alike is to put all preconceptions aside and revel in the majesty of Mercenary's return for 'Metamorphosis' is a seriously kickass slab of contemporary metal. It's good to have 'em back.
NoiseArt Records
Review by Mark Holmes
28th February 2011
1) Through the Eyes of the Devil
2) The Follower
3) In a River of Madness
4) Memoria
5) Velvet Lies
6) In Bloodred Shades
7) Shades of Grey
8) On the Edge of Sanity
9) The Black Brigade
"...the music on 'Metamorphosis' has definitely progressed but is still instantly recognisable as Mercenary."