Mercenary // Metamorphosis
Rating: 2.0/5.0 —Core is hell
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: mercenary.dk | myspace.com/mercenarydenmark
Release Dates: EU: 25.02.2011 | US: 03.29.2011

Mercenary - MetamorphosisWell, we can’t be expected to love everything that comes out this year, although it seems at times like we have been. Although I really enjoyed the earlier releases by Denmark’s Mercenary (especially 11 Dreams and The Hours That Remain) and was looking forward to this release, the massive upheaval that led half the band to flee after 2009’s Architect of Lies has clearly taken its toll. After losing their drummer, keyboardist and singer, they were forced to retool and regroup and I’m sad to report that the 2011 incarnation of Mercenary is only a shadow of what it once was. While their sound always had elements of the dreaded metalcore style, it was merged with many other influences and thereby rendered tolerable. On Metamorphosis, they’ve emerged from their cocoon as a full blown metalcore-melo-death butterfly, just like the eight million others out there (I know the cover shows a phoenix but this is way closer to butterfly, trust me). Gone is the intriguing blend of death, power, thrash and progressive metal that graced their earlier material. Gone is that special something that made their songs so impactful and addictive. Now it’s generic metalcore with poppy, radio friendly choruses all day, all night. While fleeting moments of the old sound can be heard here and there, overall this is a very different entity and to these ears, a much lesser one. In fact, this is inferior to their previous work in every possible way.

With lead track “Through the Eyes of the Devil” it quickly becomes apparent the band is going in a more commercial, mainstream-core direction. The vocals are now being handled by bassist Rene Pedersen and he brings a 100% average screamo/core style to the microphone. For the choruses he naturally goes clean and while he can clearly sing, he sounds too emo for my taste and he is nowhere near the level of former singer Mikkel Sandager, who is sorely missed. While some decent riffing is offered and things are predictably poppy/catchy, it feels very stale, generic, predictable and average. Tracks like “The Follower” recall older Mercenary with their structure and riffing but eventually lapse into full fledged metalcore and get tedious and tired. More than half the songs are painfully derivative, dime-a-dozen metalcore with nothing to set them apart from all the myriad bands doing exactly the same thing. That’s frustrating when you realize that these guys had their own unique thing going for awhile. Now they’re just another face in the core crowd. A few songs stand out as better than average like “Memoria” with it’s more impassioned vocals and feeling and “Velvet Lies” with it’s gothic melodrama (although it goes on way too long and gets aimless toward the end). Mercenary 2011 Elsewhere, “Shades of Gray” is completely ready for alt-rock radio and likely would be a minor hit. From beginning to end everything here is less interesting than the previous material. The writing, the playing, it’s all bland and average and run of the mill.

Beyond the obvious problems in musical direction, Metamorphosis is saddled with that big, clean, over-polished modern metalcore production and it helps drain the life from the album. Overproduction is a blight and whatever bite some of these songs might have had is robbed by it. In addition, this thing is mastered too loud.

This isn’t any different musically than Killswitch EngageAll That Remains or the new Lazarus A.D. If you’re a metalcore fiend, this will make you happy. If you liked the older Mercenary material, you likely won’t enjoy this very much. After a few days soaking in the reality of what these guys have become, the mass exodus of band members looks like a pretty smart move on their part. Stick a pin in this thing, it’s done.

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  • benjamin

    i don´t agree with your review.. ok we knew this wouldnt sound near the old mercenary classics.. but i think it is a faily good album.. i love 11 dreams and everblack, i like the hours remain but the aproach they had on the harsh vocals wasnt my favorite.. i think architecs of lies was a good album.. but metamorphosis is better than what i was expecting from them.. i hope they keep getting better and better with this new lineup.. cheers my friend.. keep rocking this blog..

  • johan

    They’re pretty much the antithesis of Evergrey, Evergrey had lineup changes and made a better record, Mercenary did the exact opposite after their changes. It’s a shame because The Hours That Remain was a personal favorite of mine, but oh well. There goes another formerly good European metal band that is imitating bad American metal for publicity.

  • Steel Druhm

    I have to agree with the Evergrey comparison. At this point I don’t see why any band would lean toward metalcore but then again, what do I know?

  • DJ

    After listening to 10 seconds of one song on the V forum, I feel that the score is way, way too high. Maybe a -10 would suffice?

  • Zadion

    Well, so far I’ve only been able to hear Through the Eyes of the Devil, and I’m actually feeling a modern In Flames sound in it. If that one song is a good representation of the entire album, I can’t say I agree with your review. A commercialized sound isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing (even though it seems that one sometimes). It’s definitely not as good as their last two albums though.
    Again, from that one song alone, I don’t hear any metalcore sound either. An Americanized metal sound (also similar to modern In Flames, which is not metalcore) is present, but a strict metalcore sound. I suppose I’ll have to hear the entire album to judge it properly though.

    • Zadion

      not a* My bad.

  • http://kwendland73.blogspot.com kwed

    I personally think this is right behind 11 Dreams or Architects of Lies for me…if not equal to those. I don’t hear the metalcore sound you say plagues the album. The material sounds more aggressive now than it did on past albums, especially The Hours That Remain, due to the lack of a dedicated keyboardist.

    And I can’t believe that Hours is so highly regarded here because of the total lack of harsh vocals on that album. That album reminds me of power metal album more than anything else.

    • Steel Druhm

      I think this is a far far cry from the 11 Dreams and Hours That Remain albums. They slipped in the qualiy of the writing, the performance and the overall direction. They now sound just like every Americanized modern metal band with core influences.