Well, 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, predictableÂ 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). 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 Engage, All 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.