Mercenary // Through Our Darkest Days
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Out of the darkness and into the right (direction)
Label: NoiseArt Records
Websites: mercenary.dk  |  mercenary-official.bandcamp.com
Release Dates: EU: 2013.07.26  |  NA: 07.30.2013

MercenaryMercenary is a band that’s given me fits over their career. I was very much taken with their fusion of melodic death, power-prog and metalcore on early albums like Everblack and especially The Hours That RemainArchitect of Lies lost some of the charm the older stuff had and didn’t hit me as hard, but it was still decent. However, things really fell apart on their 2011 Metamorphosis release which came across like a generic mix of emo/screamo metalcore and pop. I wrote it off to the massive line up changes the band was weathering at the time and there were a few decent tunes that gave hope they could regain their footing on subsequent releases.

Despite this half-hearted optimism, the eternal Law of Dimishing Returns [Ahem. That’s Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™ — AMG] suggested their best days were behind them and I wouldn’t find much to praise on their new album. Apparently these once great Danes anticipated such attitudes and instead of crawling further down the metalcore rabbit hole, they took stock of what worked for them, tweaked their sound and found a happy medium between the infectious early albums and their more modern style. Through Our Darkest Days sees them make a partial return to the kind of melodic, catchy song writing that graced The Hours That Remain and the metalcore-ish tendencies are tempered by a good deal of big choruses, keyboard noodling, proggy touches and influences from Darkane, Dark Tranquillity, Nine Inch Nails, Machine Head and Killswitch Engage. While it doesn’t fully recapture their glory days, this is a massive improvement over Metamorphosis and has a goody amount of slick, enjoyable songs which successfully walk the delicate line between the old and nü.

Through Our Darkest Days follows the very simple and well-worn pattern of harsh riffs and vox until the super poppy, hooky chorus arrives. There are loads of big, crunching and mechanical riffs and a lot of the time they sound like Darkane mixed with Machine Head. While that isn’t usually my cup of tea, the writing is so effective and the choruses are so damn hook-tastic, I can’t help but go along. Songs like “A New Dawn” feel light and buoyant, despite the on and off harsh vox and when the chorus arrives, it’s an ear worm bomb. The rest to the album flows right along in the same mind share and “Welcome to Sickness”, “Dreamstate Machine”, “Starving Eyes” and the title track all throw huge hooks at you.

MERCENARY band

Some songs are way more edgy and aggressive than others and when they dial-up the punch in the riffs, they make sure to also dial-up the melodic touches come chorus time. There aretraces of Dark Tranquillity‘s cold, remote vibe and NIN‘s weird electronica on “Beyond This Night” and they even throw in black metal symphonics and blasts during “Generation Hate.” They use the keys to add a touch of extra melody and prog sensibility, but they’re generally understated and not as out in front as on the old albums.

None of the songs sound like filler and the album has a high level of consistency, though “Generation Hate” is a bit cheesy and “Forever the Unknown” runs on a bit too long. The biggest issue with the writing is that it feels so tightly confined to the specific template and overly formulaic. They give you ten songs in the same style and though each has merit, it does feel a bit forced at times.

Being that this features almost the same line up as Metamorphosis (Peter Michael Mathiesen joins as the new drummer), it offers ample evidence of just how far the band chemistry and song writing has improved. Every aspect of their style sounds more mature, thought out and complete.  Jacob Molbjerg and Martin Buus Penderson don’t try to reinvent the wheel with their riffing and a lot of their leads have been heard many times before, but they amplify those with some interesting ideas and nice solos and the end result works well enough.Merc The vocals by Rene Pedersen are much improved and while I don’t care for his screamo style, he mixes it with enough death roars to make it tolerable. His clean singing however, is very good and he shines on every chorus. He has a great tone to his cleans and really makes the transitions pop while causing their sound to lean toward power-prog like the old material did.

I was really disappointed with their last outing so it’s an extra nice surprise to see Mercenary finding their strengths again. While I take issue with them being dubbed “the Danish Killswitch Engage” by some wonks, I can’t deny the metalcore elements in their sound, but when they fire on all cylinders as they do here, I don’t care about that like I usually do. If you liked their old stuff, you may want to give this a spin. It’s a big slice of hook pie, core or no core.

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  • Madam__X

    My faith is restored, can’t wait to hear this. Oh and so intrigued to hear the NIN influence!!

  • MeatWolf

    As their recent facebook statement suggests, the drums on this record were played by their new guy, Peter Michael Mathiesen, who has been in the band ever since 2011.

    • Nice catch, I mised that in the promo.

      • MeatWolf

        So the 2nd picture is outdated since it features Sorensen while the 1st one reflects the current line-up.

    • Argh! Facts!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Seems like Melodic Death Metal is the only subgenre escaping the “2013 wave of lackluster records”.

    • Which is fucking weird, right? Totally, totally weird. Since melodeath hasn’t had a good year for a long fucking time.

      • MeatWolf

        I’d say there were a lot of decent to great melodeath releases over the recent years, e.g. Insomnium, MyGrain, Omnium Gatherum, Before the Dawn, Solution. 45, Kalmah etc.

        • gelblad

          there´s a pattern.. I Would like to ad Zonaria, Mors Principium Est and Cipher System to that list of bands which have put out decent records in a last couple of years.

  • gustman17

    Glad to hear they are back on track. The tracks they had released so far sounded on par with Architect Of Lies, which is fine for me. What I’m really expecting to hear about though is Firesoul, the new project by Mikkel Sandanger and Kral,

    I never understood the “Melodic Death” label for Everblack and 11 Dreams though. They sound more similar to Anubis Gate and even a bit of Strapping Young Lad than, say, Soilwork (though they did get onto that sound with THTR).

  • Not even going to bother with this. This used to be one of my favorite bands until Mikkel Sandager and his brother left, and then it was all downhill from there. There are far more worthy albums to listen to this year.

    • I’d at least give it a spin or two. It’s surprisingly good.

  • David Rosales

    Well, this is really good news, I had completely given up on them after I listened to Metamorphosis ( I did not listen to anything else by them). Their track Generation Hate definitely sounds like an improvement.

  • MeatWolf

    So now when it’s leaked I can say that it’s moderately good album, three highlights (A New Dawn, the s/t and Starving Eyes) and a bunch of “other” tracks. Though those other tracks are more well-done this time that it usually happens with Mercenary. The sound is generally softer and less harsh, the keys are more prominent as well. All in all, an enjoyable listen.

  • brutal_sushi

    BIG Mercenary fan here, although I’m a tad late here, the more I spin this record the more it grows on me… The bridge vocal section in ‘A Moment of Clarity’ is just jaw dropping… It really shows how Rene shines as a vocalist… I don’t think they can ever reach the same songwriting, production, and sound that was on “11 Dreams” or “The Hours That Remain”, but the fact that they can still move forward and create such a strong album gives me the hope that Mercenary will remain a contender in the MeloDeath genre for years to come.