MERCENARY
Death Metal • Denmark

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Mercenary is a six-piece metal band from Denmark that combines both power metal and melodic death metal genres, and in their earlier work thrash metal; however, they are "tagged" as a melodic death metal band by many. The band was formed in 1991, they have released a total of five albums.

Mercenary was formed in Aalborg, Denmark, in 1991. After the release of two demos, they were able to sign with Black Day Records, and released a four-song EP, Supremacy (1996). In 1997, they were signed to the Danish label Serious Entertainment, and in 1998 they released their full-length debut, First Breath.

In 2002, the band decided to expand their sound with the addition of vocalist Mikkel Sandager, as well as his brother Morten, who introduced keyboards into their songs. This new line-up added new dimensions to their sound, blending more melody into their more aggressive heaviness.

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EverblackEverblack
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Hammerheart Records 2004
Audio CD$18.88 (used)
Through Our Darkest DaysThrough Our Darkest Days
Prosthetic 2013
Audio CD$7.89
$7.10 (used)
MetamorphosisMetamorphosis
Prosthetic 2011
Audio CD$6.89
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First BreathFirst Breath
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Hammerheart Records 2012
Audio CD$8.05
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101 DISTRIBUTION 2012
Audio CD$16.12
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Audio CD$3.15
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Century Media 2005
Audio CD$118.02
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Century Media 2006
Audio CD$44.99
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MERCENARY Discography

MERCENARY albums / top albums

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
First Breath
Death Metal 1998
.. Album Cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Everblack
Death Metal 2002
.. Album Cover 4.46 | 4 ratings
11 Dreams
Death Metal 2004
.. Album Cover 4.19 | 7 ratings
The Hours That Remain
Death Metal 2006
.. Album Cover 3.75 | 6 ratings
Architect of Lies
Death Metal 2008
.. Album Cover 3.76 | 3 ratings
Metamorphosis
Death Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 2.10 | 2 ratings
Through Our Darkest Days
Death Metal 2013

MERCENARY EPs & splits

.. Album Cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Supremacy
Death Metal 1996

MERCENARY live albums

MERCENARY demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

MERCENARY boxset & compilations

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MERCENARY movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

MERCENARY Reviews

MERCENARY Metamorphosis

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"Metamorphosis" is the 6th full-length studio album by Danish metal act Mercenary. The album was released in February 2011 by NoiseArt Records. Great changes in the lineup have occurred since the release of "Architect of Lies (2008)" as lead vocalist Mikkel Sandager, keyboard player Morten Sandager and drummer Mike Park Nielsen have left the band. New drummer is Morten Løwe Sørensen. Bassist/ vocalist René Pedersen who delivered the harsh vocals on "Architect of Lies" have been promoted to lead vocalist on "Metamorphosis" and now sings both harsh and clean vocals in addition to handling the bass. Guitarist Martin Buus Pedersen now also handles the keyboards making Mercenary a four-piece on "Metamorphosis" instead of a six-piece as they were on "Architect of Lies".

You´d think losing especially the Sandager brothers would have a great effect on how "Metamorphosis" sounds, but that´s actually not the case. "Metamorphosis" is through and through a Mercenary album. Mikkel Sandager was a skilled vocalist but René Pedersen also delivers his clean vocals in style and with conviction. The music on the album is the usual mix of melodic death metal and power metal with sequenced electronic elements. The latter element is only used sparsely on this album though. The harsh vocals have a slight "core" sound to them and they are more screaming than growling. The tracks are vers/ chorus structured with harsh vocal in the verses and clean vocals in the choruses. The choruses are pop oriented, anthemic and memorable. Not completely unlike the pop oriented nature of fellow Danes in Raunchy. The tracks are a bit too formulaic though and while they are all quality material to my ears, Mercenary are best when they break out of their comfort zone. A harsher styled track like "On the Edge of Sanity" proves that point. I wish they would do that more often.

The sound production is professional, polished and suits the music style perfectly. Add to that excellent musicianship and you have a quality metal release right there. The last two albums by the band "The Hours That Remain (2006)" and "Architect of Lies" had a somewhat similar sound, and while the keyboards/ synths have been toned down slightly on "Metamorphosis", Mercenary pretty much continue down the same path they had such great success with on the last couple of releases. I´m sure the fans will be delighted. As a more casual listener I´m probably a bit more critical though and while I think the album is an instantly enjoyable listen I´m questioning the longevity of the release. Fans of pop oriented melodic death metal/ power metal will probably disagree with me but I´m simply not sure I´ll take the album out in 10 years and think it´s a fantastic timeless release. A 3.5 - 4 star rating is still warranted though.

MERCENARY Architect of Lies

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Diogenes
Oh, Architect of Lies. How I loved you so, back in high school. You are so flawed, and yet…I couldn’t keep my ears off of you. Of course, I am into other things now (mainly human females), but you will always hold a special place in my heart and music collection. I promise that I will one day dust you off and take you for a spin in my CD player, even though I have long since copied you to my iPod. That’s how much I love you.

Now…okay, so this wasn’t released all that long ago (2008). I’m not trying to act like those old people that go around telling people how Master of Reality was their jam back in the old days. I just wanted to make a point that Architect of Lies, despite falling short of being an essential, is a timeless album…for me, anyway. Here goes.

Mercenary have always had good vocals. That’s usually not the first thing you’re looking for in a metal band (and if you’re looking for vocals ahead of everything else, then I’m sorry), but on Architect of Lies it’s unavoidable: the vocals on this album absolutely floor you from start to finish. Mikkel Sandager, after making a name for himself as one of the best metal vocalists in Scandinavia on The Hours that Remain, gives another stunning performance here. His cleans are obviously very good, most noticeably on the album’s infectious choruses, but where Mikkel really shines is in the falsetto department. His shrill screaming, layered over bassist Rene Pedersen’s core-ish shouts, creates something special (the verses of New Desire, I Am Lies, and Bloodsong are the best examples of this). No, it isn’t the wall of sound that Mercenary achieved on 11 Dreams, but it works all the same. Also worth noting is his expressiveness; whenever Sandager’s voice hits the upper register, you feel it. The combination of vocal technique and eloquence on this album is again, special.

On Architect of Lies, Mercenary claimed to be aiming for a more streamlined sound. To a point, they got it right; this album is considerably shorter than most of their other work, clocking in at a bearable 52 minutes. The songs are, for the most part, written with the same structure, verse/chorus yadda yadda. This makes it plenty accessible. There are your fair share of hard riffs, best shown in Execution Style and The Endless Fall. Fortunately, almost zero quality is sacrificed, with the traditional Mercenary sound intact as always: layers upon layers of guitar melodies with a tasteful keyboard atmosphere to compliment the soaring vocals. I wouldn’t call it melodic death metal, straight up…I’d say that it’s more of a melodeath/power metal hybrid would be more fitting. As for the drums, Mike Park Nielsen gives the best performance of his career. His excellent double bass work, benefited by the album’s beefy production, sounds more like a tank than a drum kit. Park’s style fits the band’s “not really technical, but why should it be?” attitude perfectly, and as such he’s as big a part of this album’s success as anyone. As a whole, think of the sound on Architect of Lies as modern Soilwork on steroids. What kind, I don’t know…songwriting steroids? Does such a thing exist? Hrm.

However, the strengths on Architect of Lies can also very well be considered its weaknesses. The album’s consistency might suggest that there are no standout tracks (although I disagree with this, I can see where it’s coming from). The harder sound (Pedersen’s vocals in particular) might be too metalcore-y. Worse still, when used alone, they are taking away from Sandager, leaving the band’s main vocalist to wait until a chorus or bridge to shine. This “problem” came to a head when Mikkel left the band in 2009 because of “creative differences”. Of course, most if not all of these viewpoints are arguable, making the sound on Architect of Lies an acquired but accessible taste.

As I mentioned earlier, the songs mostly follow the same format, and they’re all very good. You have Embrace the Nothing, striking the perfect balance between melody and aggression, Bloodsong with its amazing vocal trade-off, I Am Lies and its thrash riffage. Then you have New Desire. My goodness, this song rocks. I must have listened to this hundreds of times. The verse is great. The chorus is catchy. The bridge is probably one of the best things Mercenary has ever done. Just listen to that drumming! AAH! I’ll bleed your name! Yeah, it’s sick. The perfect album opener. And as an aside, the bonus track, Death Connection, should not be a bonus track. I don’t know what Mercenary were thinking, because this track kills. Look it up on Youtube or something, it’s just as good, if not better than the other material on Architect. Woof.

Truthfully, I don’t know what makes Architect of Lies so special to me. It’s a great album, no doubt, but it’s not the best of its genre, nor the best of Mercenary’s discography. But you know what? I love it. I love it to death. For me it’s timeless, for you, I can’t be so sure…but it would certainly be well worth your time and money to find out.

MERCENARY Metamorphosis

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Diogenes
I don't get it.

How does a band go through so many key lineup changes and still make such great music? The Mercenary name must be cursed or something. A good curse. Y'know, like King Midas.

When I heard that Mikkel, Morten, and Mike had all left the band around November of 2009, I was pretty bummed. "The Hours That Remain" is one of my favorite metal albums of all time, and "Architect of Lies" is nothing to sneeze at, either. With three tremendously talented musicians splitting from Denmark's finest metal band, I had serious doubts about Mercenary's ability to continue. But here, the band shows that they can keep pumping out killer metal no matter how many lineup changes they go through.

So, what's the secret? This time around, it's Rene Pedersen. I was skeptical about his vocal talents; his shouts on "Architect" were good but somewhat out of place, as the band’s effort to recreate the vocal magic of “11 Dreams” only resulted in the “This band is nothing without Kral” crowd tripling in size. Naturally, replacing a vocalist such as Mikkel on his own was something I didn't think Rene could do. Bluntly, I was dead wrong. He fits the band’s sound like a glove. This man can scream, sing, growl, grunt, shriek, whatever you'd want in a metal vocalist. I, and many others, had no idea what he was holding back on "Architect". Mercenary is in good hands with him as their frontman.

As for the rest of the band, well, it's what we've come to expect. Jakob Molbjerg and Martin Buus are both fantastic and versatile guitarists, with endless melodies flowing from their instruments. Both technically skilled and creative, these two have cemented their position as one of modern metal's top guitar duos. On the drums, Morten Lowe’s death metal-filled background flourishes, most notably on faster tracks like “On The Edge of Sanity”. His style is different than Mike Park’s, but in this case change is good…very good.

As expected, the overall sound has changed a bit. It’s definitely heavier compared to past Mercenary works, with the keyboards taking a back seat here, but those fearing a metalcore album will be relieved to hear the traditional Mercenary style: plenty of hooks, catchy melodies, and powerful choruses. Extremely powerful choruses. Seriously, they’re golden. You’ll be humming a few of these for weeks after listening to this album. Anywho, the variety here is a pleasant surprise. Songs like “Memoria” and “Velvet Lies” feature both poppish verses and choruses and some brutal riffing later on. After the somewhat streamlined sound of “Architect”, it’s good to hear just how many good ideas this band still has.

As you might have guessed, the songs are great. There is little filler here, maybe with the exception of “The Black Brigade”, a Megadeth-esque song that doesn’t seem to be an ideal album closer, and “Shades of Gray”, which is just a little too poppy for my tastes. Otherwise, everything on “Metamorphosis” is extremely solid. “Through the Eyes of the Devil” gave me the same feeling that “New Desire” did when I first listened to “Architect”…the “yes, this album is gonna kick ass” feeling. “The Follower” is unlike anything Mercenary has ever done. “Memoria” is my personal favorite, with an excellent vocal performance from Rene and plenty of unforgettable melodies.

There isn’t much more to be said. Just look at the album cover and the title, and you’ll get a good idea of what is going on here. Mercenary has added yet another gem to a discography full of them. 4 stars

MERCENARY The Hours That Remain

Album · 2006 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Diogenes
Everyone loves a good underdog story, yeah? In 2004, Mercenary released one of the most original melodic death metal albums ever in 11 Dreams, garnering a hell of a lot of praise for both their excellent musicianship and unique take on the genre. That was all fine and good, but founding member Henrik “Kral” Andersen up and left the band shortly thereafter, essentially killing both hope for an album in the same vein and any death metal aspects the band had. Nevertheless, Mercenary continued on, reinventing their sound to create and album even better than its predecessor. The Hours that Remain is, quite simply, the finest metal album that both Denmark and the melodic death metal genre have to offer.

Let me get something out of the way first. The term “melodeath” is a bit of a misnomer when talking about this album, since most straight-up death metal influences flew out the door with Kral while it was being written. However, the heavy riffage and occasional screaming combined with its connections to 11 Dreams keeps the tag hanging on by a thread, and that’s good enough for me.

So, what makes The Hours that Remain so great is that it’s nearly impossible to pick out any one instrument at any time. What I mean by this is that Mercenary plays metal that’s geared towards a wall of sound, rather than just a lead being played over a riff. Sure, there are technically “leads” and solos, but they fit into the equation in a way that I have never heard before. Every single melody, drum fill, synth effect, and so on are all part of a carefully crafted atmosphere that is both heavy and soothing, aggressive and beautiful, crushing and delicate. There isn’t a lot of technicality being thrown at you, but c’mon…is that really needed?

The cherry on top of the ice cream in this case is without a doubt vocalist Mikkel Sandager. This is one of the greatest vocal performances in metal history. I’m not kidding! What the man does on this album is nothing short of magic. His voice is distinguishable. He can hit amazingly high notes with ease, while sounding nothing like a chipmunk on helium. His vocals are powerful and full of emotion, a stark contrast to all of the sterile boy-band garbage that’s making more and more of an appearance in metal. The melodies are far beyond catchy. Every single individual accolade I can hand out is well-deserved here, and yet the best part of Sandager’s vocals is the way that they are layered to act in conjunction with the rest of the band. It’s like his singing is both the center of attention and part of the atmosphere at the same time; so simple in concept, but so damn rewarding.

If there’s one flaw to this five-equals-one approach, it’s how much it’s drawn out; Hours clocks in (HA!...anyone?...okay, fine) at just over an hour, which is a little long for just ten tracks. But hang on a second…when listening to this album, it’s impossible to get bored. I swear. Even though the tracks all might sound alike at first, there are hooks running amok to keep your attention past the first, fifth, and hundredth listens. Take the album’s main cut, Lost Reality, for a spin: 8 minutes, but not a single moment where you’re inclined to turn it off. Hook, buildup, climax, repeat…again and again and again. Why can’t more metal bands do stuff like this?!

The final piece of the puzzle comes not from Mercenary, but from producer Jacob Hansen. Okay, he did play bass on this album in lieu of a full-time four-stringer, but his engineering makes Hours what it is. The guitars are thick, the keyboards add rather than take away, and all of those layered vocals couldn’t have been mixed any better. Go go Denmark metal posse!

Every time, it’s the same old story: metal bands that focus on writing good songs while playing as a band yield the best results. I’m almost getting sick of writing stuff like that. I feel like some sort of deranged preacher. But for music like this, it’s totally worth it. The Hours that Remain started off good, got better, and has not stopped rising in my collection of favorites; truly a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

Re-wrote review 10/7/11 to justify my increased rating, and because I hated the old one.

MERCENARY Architect of Lies

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
Architect of Lies is the 5th full-length studio album by Danish melodic metal act Mercenary. The album was released in March 2008 by Century Media Records. Since the release of The Hours That Remain (2006), bassist/ vocalist René Pedersen has been added to the lineup. This means that there is a more varied vocal style on this album compared to the vocal style on the predecessor.

The music on the album continues the power metal/ melodeath style of The Hours That Remain but as noted above the addition of René Pedersen to the lineup means that the harsher type vocals are back in the band´s sound. A positive feature IMO. The music is still very melodic and keyboard heavy. Great melodic guitar solos, lots of guitar harmonies, loads of keyboard layers, a powerful rythm section, the strong clean vocals by Mikkel Sandager, a great polished production and a very professional approach to songwriting are some of the ingredients on Architect of Lies. Mercenary´s strength lies in the fact that they are not merely a power metal act or a melodeath ditto. They borrow heavily from both genres and the outcome is, while not completely unique, very succesful. The 10 tracks on the album are all well written, well played and my only complaint is the same I had with the predecessor and that is that I don´t think enough of the songs stand out. There are simply not enough highlights on an otherwise really strong and consistent release. The opener New Desire, Embrace The Nothing and the power ballad type closing track Public Failure Number One are the exceptions where the band branch out in other directions. This is only slightly though and even those songs stay very close to the known formula.

All in all Architect of Lies is another high quality melodic metal release by Mercenary and a 3.5 star rating is deserved. The next release by the band might be quite different though as the Sandager brothers, lead vocalist Mikkel and keyboardist Morten have both left the band. I suspect this will have a vast impact on the band´s sound.

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