Saturday, August 22, 2009
CD Review: The Hours That Remain, by Mercenary (2006)
Denmark's heavy metal band Mercenary has been around since 1991, a relative eternity of plugging away in an obscure backwater of the music landscape, and with only five studio albums to show for it. The Hours That Remain from 2006 was the band's fourth album.
The band has some good intentions, and definitely some good ideas. But they also have some clear limitations. Mercenary's sound is defined by a deep drum-heavy sound, matched to vocals by Mikkel Sandager that are mostly clean and relatively high pitched. Given that Mercenary are aiming for a combined Power - Melodic Death Metal combo sound, the high pitched vocals take some getting used to. The guitar work is mostly above-average but fairly basic -- the solos generally meld into the songs.
The songs are melodic, accessible and feature traditional structures -- they are almost too simple in many instances. Many tracks, particularly in the poor first half of the CD, end up with an uncomfortable mix of unfocused meandering and needless repetition. Year of the Plague sounds like bad Judas Priest, while Lost Reality is a particularly bad example of misguided epic intentions: it goes on forever and achieves exactly nothing.
Nevertheless, there are some highlights. Opener Redefine Me is a solid blast of energetic power. The clever Soul Decision, with its jaw-dropping intro, makes an appearance half-way through the CD to introduce an unusually better back-end to the album. Simplicity Demand scores the best melody on the CD, laced with the soulful keyboards of Morten Sandager, and a good but short guitar solo. My Secret Window lets loose with a lot more throaty vocals and speedy riffs that hint at territory where this band might have thrived.
The Hours That Remain is a decidedly uneven effort, perhaps indicative of how the band has survived for so long, but with limited success.
Mikkel Sandager - Vocals
Jakob Molbjerg - Guitars
Martin Buus - Lead Guitars
Morten Sandager - Keyboards
Mike Park - Drums
All bass duties by Jacob Hansen.
Songlist (ratings out of 10):
1. Redefine Me - 8
2. Year of the Plague - 6
3. My World Is Ending - 6
4. This Eternal Instant - 7
5. Lost Reality - 5
6. Soul Decision - 8
7. Simplicity Demand - 8
8. Obscure Indiscretion - 7
9. My Secret Window - 8
10. The Hours That Remain - 7
Produced, Engineered and Mixed by Jacob Hansen.
Mastered by Ziggy.
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