MERCENARY — The Hours That Remain

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MERCENARY - The Hours That Remain cover
4.25 | 8 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2006

Tracklist

1. Redefine Me (6:06)
2. Year of the Plague (5:29)
3. My World Is Ending (5:26)
4. This Eternal Instant (6:10)
5. Lost Reality (8:02)
6. Soul Decision (5:03)
7. Simplicity Demand (6:35)
8. Obscure Indiscretion (4:46)
9. My Secret Window (6:29)
10. The Hours That Remain (8:07)

Total Time: 62:17

Line-up/Musicians

- Mikkel Sandager / Vocals
- Jakob Mølbjerg / Guitars
- Martin Buus / Guitars
- Morten Sandager / Keyboards
- Mike Park / Drums

Guest musicians:
- Jacob Hansen / Bass
- Björn "Speed" Strid / Vocals (on "Redefine Me")
- Marcus Bischoff / Vocals (on "Soul Decision")

About this release

Full-length, Century Media Records, August 21st, 2006

All songs written and arranged by Mercenary.
All lyrics by Mikkel and Morten Sandager.

Limited edition bonus DVD:
01. Firesoul (Video Edit Version) (04:56)
02. Intro/Redestructdead (Live Dynamo 2005) (05:45)
03. Firesoul (Live Dynamo 2005) (08:04)
04. Intro/World Hate Center (Live Dynamo 2005) (06:45)
05. 11 Dreams (Live Dynamo 2005) (08:20)
06. Intro/Redestructdead (Live Pratten 2006) (06:18)
07. Firesoul (Live Pratten 2006) (08:27)
08. Sharpen the Edges (Live Pratten 2006) (05:42)
09. Into The Sea/World Hate Center (Live Pratten 2006) (06:51)
10. 11 Dreams (Live Pratten 2006) (08:18)

Also includes a "making of" documentary directed by the band.

Thanks to UMUR, Diogenes for the updates

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MERCENARY THE HOURS THAT REMAIN reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

UMUR
"The Hours That Remain" is the 4th full-length studio album by Danish metal act Mercenary. The album was released through Century Media Records in August 2006. It´s the successor to "11 Dreams" from 2004 and there´s been one lineup change since the preceding album as Kral (growling vocals and bass) has left Mercenary. Kral´s departure has a significant impact on the sound of "The Hours That Remain", as the use of extreme vocal styles is heavily reduced on the album (there are a few parts doubled with shouted aggressive vocals, but that´s it). As the band didn´t manage to find a suitable replacement before the recording of the album, producer Jacob Hansen recorded all bass parts.

The music on the album is melodic and quite epic metal. A kind of power metal/melodeath hybrid (without death metal vocals). Lead vocalist Mikkel Sandager is given a lot of space to showcase his vocal arsenal and he generally has a dominant role on this album. He has a strong voice and is a skilled vocalist, so the fact that he has taken over most of the vocals (there are a couple of songs with guests vocalists who provide harsher type vocals. Björn Strid from Soilwork is one of them) isn´t necessarily a minus. Personally I miss the variation that Kral´s growls gave the music but I´m sure that´s an aquired taste.

The music is generally very melodic and keyboard/synth heavy and the listener is treated to strong melodies and a wall of epic and layered harder edged power metal. The album is consistent in style and in the quality of the material, but the tracks have a tendency to sound a bit too similar. It has much to do with the constant loud wall of sound and layering of vocals and instruments. It´s a relief the few times the band strip the whole thing down to guitars, bass, drums, and a single vocal track (which they do very seldom), because then when the epic keyboards/synths, vocal layered/choir/harmonies come in they feel more intense and effectful. When everything it cranked to 11 at all times, it loses effect because of lack of dynamics, and that´s what happens when you listen to "The Hours That Remain". Although it´s completely different music, it´s actually the same effect you get from some brutal death metal albums, where after a few tracks you don´t really feel the impact of the brutality anymore, because of the constant pummeling brutal energy and lack of dynamics.

When that is said "The Hours That Remain" is still a high quality power/melodeath album and tracks like "Redefine Me" and "My World Is Ending" are for example powerful and memorable tracks, and that actually goes for all the material on the album. Pick any song from the album and you´ll be met by high level musical performances, professional songwriting, and a well sounding clear and polished production, which suits the material well.

"The Hours That Remain" is arguably a more streamlined and professional sounding release than "11 Dreams" (2004) (or any of the other preceding releases), but personally I prefer the more gritty, varied, and sometimes anarchistic sounding predecessor. That album featured a dark magic and a more dynamic writing approach, that are not present on "The Hours That Remain", and which this album could have prospered from. So when it comes to rating "The Hours That Remain" I´m strongly biased, because it is a high quality release on all possible parameters, but the lack of dynamics makes it an exhausting listen to me, but a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating isn´t all wrong.
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.

Members reviews

Grann73
Mercenary’s 2006 release demonstrates improving abilities both in terms of musicianship and songwriting compared to the previous release “11 Dreams". Lead singer Mikkel Sandager deserves a special mention because his vocal melodies and his soaring vocals define the Mercenary sound. There are a number of stand-out tracks on this album; the two “epic” tracks “Lost Reality” (8:02) and the title track (8:07) show almost progressive tendencies and “My World is Ending” demonstrates the band’s ability to write catchy songs without losing the oomph. “Soul Decision” never fails to send shivers down my spine and the song works wonders in a live setting as well. Mercenary would go on to improve their ability and musicianship even further on the 2008 release “The Architect of Lies” but this release is impressive in its own way and it definitely belongs on the shelf or hard drive of fans of melodic death metal.

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