"Mercenary" is the 6th full-length studio album by UK death metal act Bolt Thrower. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in November 1998. After releasing "...For Victory (1994)", lead vocalist Karl Willetts left Bolt Thrower, and the band recruited former Pestilence/Asphyx frontman Martin van Drunen as a replacement on the subsequent tour. Martin van Drunen did two European tours with Bolt Thrower before leaving the band in 1997. Willetts temporarily returned to record the vocals for "Mercenary", but left again after the recording sessions. For the subsequent tour he was replaced by former Benediction frontman Dave Ingram. The drummer position also saw changes before the recording of "Mercenary", as original drummer Andrew Whale decided to quit the band. He was first replaced by Martin Kearns who played with the band in the period between 1994 and 1997. Kearns was then replaced by Alex Thomas who plays the drums on "Mercenary".
Bearing in mind all those lineup changes and general unrest in the band, it´s amazing how consistent Bolt Thrower are. From the first notes of "Mercenary" they sound unmistakably like themselves. Downtuned heavy riffing, war/battle themed lyrics/imagery and in front the brutal yet intelligible growling vocals by Karl Willetts. I sense a slightly more melodic approach than earlier, but this is by no means a melodic death metal album. This is old school and gritty to the core. The stoic/epic atmosphere of the last couple of albums is also intact and you can almost smell the gunpowder, the fires and the blood of the battle field and hear the screams of the wounded while listening to the album. I guess song-titles like "Powder Burns", "Behind Enemy Lines" and "No Guts, No Glory" speak lourder than words. It´s at the same time stories of the horrors of war and the glory of battles won.
"Mercenary" is yet another great album in a long line of excellent releases by Bolt Thrower. The only issue I have with the album is that the sound production is weaker than the sound on "...For Victory (1994)", but it´s not a major issue. A 4 star (80%) is fully deserved.