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Mercenary
11 Dreams
October 2004
Released: 2004, Century Media
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall

Hailing from Denmark, Mercenary began in the 90’s then as a melodic death/thrash act with current members Kral (lead vocals, bass) and Jakob Mjölberg (guitar) plus two other guys. It wasn’t until 2002 that they were to take a huge leap forward with the release of the album EVERBLACK. Prior to that they had only released one MCD called SUPREMACY from 1996 and the debut album FIRST BREATH in 1998. EVERBLACK earned some really good reviews world wide and the band recruited the Sandager brothers to join them. One brother took care of the clean vocals and the other brother keyboard and piano. EVERBLACK brought them a deal with Century Media.



11 DREAMS sees more changes for the band as Mercenary took in a new drummer with Mike Park and the guitar is now handled by Martin Buss, making Mercenary a six piece. Jacob Hansen (Invocator, Raunchy, Hatesphere) produced the album and he’s done a really good job bringing out the best in these guys. The sounsdcape is very fresh and new and a lot of space is left to the keyboard, the guitar and the lead vocals. It sounds both hard and aggressive yet melodic in some parts. The album cover is done by Niklas Sundin (Naglfar, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity) and it looks like Century Media actually puts down some money for cover art.



What kind of music do these Danish guys plays then? The bio describes this as a mix between progressive classical Swedish melodic death metal with atmospheric passages and strong choruses, all this combined with a lot of aggression in the music and two singers. Usually I don’t agree with promotional bios but they have done a good description I think. I think these Danish guys have managed to really create their own sound with their heavy metal/melodic death metal. The music sounds a little melancholic on parts of the album but that’s just typical for us Scandinavians. They have help from a female vocalist and she adds some strength and depth to the music.



The title reveals how many songs there are here but I don’t know who’s written those songs. They have put down ten original songs and one cover of the Swedish pop song “Music Non Stop”.



This Danish act really impresses and I have nothing to complain about. The music is well played, they have nice arrangements, they have well written material and two singers that really take the songs to another level. They have really managed to create something new with their unique mix of melancholic Swedish melodic death/thrash/heavy metal. I can’t quite understand why they had to put two ballads on this otherwise stunning album and that drags down the rating some. They could also have done something more creative with the cover than just play it straight off as it is. But altogether this album is absolutely worth the money and I suggest you go and buy it straight away.
Track Listing

1. Into The Sea Of Dark Desires (intro)
2. World Hate Center
3. 11 dreams
4. reDestrucDead
5. Firesoul
6. Sharpen The Edges
7. Supremacy
8. Music Non Stop
9. Falling
10. Times Without Changes
11. Loneliness

Lineup

Mikkel Sandager – lead vocals
Kral – lead vocals, bass
Jakob Mjölberg – guitar
Martin Buus – lead guitar
Mike Park – drums
Morten Sandager – drums


Next review: » Mercenary - 11 Dreams
Previous review: » Mental Metal Meltdown - Board Game

Mercenary
11 Dreams
March 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman

Remember when you first heard In Flames or Soilwork? Remember when you first heard Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time? Imagine a Bizarro-World blend of the two. Now add some more keyboards and vocal layering. Got it? Well, you’re still not even close.

A twisted mixture of classic In Flames and Strapping Young Lad, this is what would happen if Devin Townsend recorded a Melodic Death record at Studio Fredman. Touches of Natural Born Chaos-era Soilwork and Projector-era Dark Tranquillity creep in and out…but really, this is fairly original, and not that easy to describe. There is a power metal influence on some tracks (a la Gardenian); but it’s never quite enough to merit the “prog-death” tag that bands like Into Eternity hold. The title cut is a prime example of this—there are influences from all over the map (from thrash/death to 80’s rock!); but it never seems chaotic, as Devin Townsend projects tend to be. At times, it seems as if Mercenary are shooting to be the Journey of Melodic Death—but even that seems too simple. There is just no good way to describe this, without selling it short in some fashion—it’s almost too unique to bear a tag. They could tour comfortably with Disillusion, or even Saviour Machine.

If nothing else, it is most certainly, uniquely, European. There are no traces of Metalcore or punk-rock tomfoolery; the keyboards—while ever-present—are unusually cliché-free for this type of music. Generally, prog-keys sound like Rick Wakeman or Kevin Moore (Dream Theater)—not here. These synth sounds are progressive in a different way.

The vocals make a difference: Mikkel Sandager has a magnificent voice—his range completely confounds me (think Ripper Owens meets Chuck Billy), and I’ve been at this for awhile. Even when he over-emotes (“reDestructDead”), it sounds just fine—I can’t decide whether it’s the super-gloss production, or the fact that the man just wails like no other out there. I’m alternately reminded of Geoff Tate and Timo Kotipelto, both of which he manages to channel in the album’s out-of-fucking-nowhere power ballad (!), “Sharpen The Edges.” .

Tracks like “Firesoul” are positively surreal—the vocal multi-layering against the melodic-death backdrop and anthemic 80’s.references should not work by any means…but Mercenary somehow make it come together. While the quality production is indeed factor, my money is on the songwriting, which remains consistent from track to track.

At times, the tracks get a little too epic for their own good—“Supremacy v2.0” is a good example of this. But then, the album’s numerous surprises (such as their cover of Kraftwerk’s “Music Non Stop”) more than make up for the more misguided endeavors and self-indulgent nuances. If there’s really anything wrong here, its that we’re given too much of a good thing—by track #9 (“Falling”), you’re positively exhausted. I hate to say it, but this CD needed to be shorter.

This will likely get tagged as “progressive,” and perhaps it merits it—but really, it’s just forward-thinking. If you check out a new band this year, you would do well look this up.

.
Track Listing

1.Into the Sea of Dark Desires (intro)
2.World Hate Center
3.11 Dreams
4.Redestructdead
5.Firesoul
6.Sharpen the Edges
7.Supremacy v2.0
8.Music Non Stop
9.Falling
10.Times Without Change
11.Loneliness
12.11 Dreams (3-D mix)
13.11 Dreams (radio edit)

Lineup

Vocals : Mikkel Sandager
Guitars : Jakob Mølbjerg
Bass/vocals : Henrik Kral Andersen
Drums : Mike Park Nielsen
Keyboards : Morten Sandager
Guitar: Martin Buus Pedersen


Next review: » Mercenary - 11 Dreams
Previous review: » Mental Metal Meltdown - Board Game

Mercenary
11 Dreams
March 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland

5/5, 6/6, 10/10, 100/100…yes, it’s true. However it is measured, 11 DREAMS, the latest CD from Denmark’s Mercenary, is deserving of every compliment, accolade, kudo and rave review that is being been written about it. Many times, the press can jump on a release and proclaim it the greatest thing since sliced bread but in the case of 11 DREAMS, it really is THAT GOOD! The band’s heads must be so big their necks can barely support them with the nonstop praise being flung at them but one listen to 11 DREAMS and it becomes blatantly evident why this is happening. Improvements have come tenfold in the band’s songwriting, musicianship and most notably, production since 2002’s EVERBLACK. 11 DREAMS is an absolute sonic monster that is as devastatingly heavy as it is soothingly melodic. The employment of two vocalists—one clean, one harsh—as well as two guitarists create a wall of sound that can only be compared to a less manic Strapping Young Lad in its breadth and ambition. Jacob Hansen of Hatesphere continues his lush treatment of Mercenary’s sound over these eleven tracks drawing listeners deep into the soundscape presented before them. Every cymbal hit, bass shudder, keyboard tinkle, vocal line and guitar solo is expertly laid down creating one of the most impressive production and mixing jobs that this reviewer has ever heard. The band, production team and everyone else involved with bringing 11 DREAMS to fruition should take a well-deserved bow.



The symphonic intro of “Into The Dark Desires” readies the listener for the majestic experience about to encompasses him/her as “World Hate Center” kicks in with a double bass attack and sizzling guitar riff a la THE JESTER RACE-era In Flames. The rhythm section is gargantuan here as Kral’s bass and Mike Park Nielsen’s drums execute a punishing assault. This track is just the beginning of the perfect blend of melody, aggression and heaviness found on 11 DREAMS. With Kral picking up the harsh vocals and Mikkel Sandager unleashing something that can only be described as the bastard child of Devin Townsend, Rob Halford and Geoff Tate, the signing is unsurpassed in metal today. The title track is an insanely catchy keyboard-driven number that never drifts into the dreaded gallows of prog-metal, or worse, cheesy 80s power metal territory. Like Strapping Young Lad, Morten Sandager seems to have a handle on maintaining the slippery slope between ethereal sonics and overdone keyboard presence (many bands can learn from this example). “Firesoul” is a thousand tracks rolled into one. Shades of emotive Evergrey, frenetic Strapping Young Lad, complex Dark Tranquillity and melodic In Flames come at the listener like a heavy metal dervish, implanting a seed of anxiety that is only eased once the calming vocals of Monika Pedersen kick in. The twisted lyrics of “Firesoul” as well as “Sharpen The Edges” show the band’s darker, creative side. Mercenary is far beyond the archetypal lyrics of sex, drugs and rock & roll! “Sharpen The Edges” is a semi-acoustic piano ballad that borders on prog but the homestretch unleashes some intense vocals that truly showcase how well the voices of Sandager and Kral complement each other. When juxtaposed alongside the mammoth guitar and drums of “Falling,” the band’s treatment of “Music Non Stop” (originally a 2000 hit in Europe for the Swedish band, Kent) is pure fluff but never distracts from the overall power of 11 DREAMS. It is purely the sign of a band having fun with an obscure (in North America, anyway) personal favorite. “Times Without Changes” might be dubbed “one for the ladies” by a closed-minded metalhead but anyone willing to see the scope that Mercenary displays on this release will soon realize that the band is not merely “forcing” out a ballad just to be diverse. Many bands strive to be eclectic; few can be this talented, as well.



Despite its August 2004 European street date, North American audiences are just being treated to a domestic release, which justifies my prediction that 11 DREAMS will grab LotW’s oft-coveted “Album of the Year” nomination for 2005. The only thing Mercenary should worry about is how they can possibly top 11 DREAMS. I fear that their next release will suffer under the same scrutiny that befell such acts as Soilwork with NATURAL BORN CHAOS and Strapping Young Lad’s CITY, who had the bar raised so high with those releases that their follow-up CDs were seen as subpar in comparison. In the meantime, Mercenary can bask in knowing that they can add yet another perfect review of 11 DREAMS to the seemingly endless list of praise being heaped upon them.



**The North American release of 11 DREAMS features two bonus tracks not found on the European release. The title track is presented in an aurally jaw-dropping “3D” version that absolutely must be heard with a good pair of headphones to be believed. A shorter version of the song is also available.



KILLER KUTS: “World Hate Center,” “11 Dreams,” “reDestructDead,” “Firesoul,” “Sharpen The Edges,” “Falling”
Track Listing

1. Into The Sea of Dark Desires (Instrumental)
2. World Hate Center
3. 11 Dreams
4. reDestructDead
5. Firesoul
6. Sharpen The Edges
7. Supremacy v2.0
8. Music Non Stop
9. Falling
10. Times Without Changes
11. Loneliness
**BONUS TRACKS
12. 11 Dreams (3-D Mix)
13. 11 Dreams (Radio Edit)

Lineup

Mikkel Sandager—Vocals
Henrik Kral Anderson—Vocals/Bass
Jacob Molbjerg—Guitar
Martin Buus Pedersen—Guitar
Morten Sandager—Keyboards
Mike Park Nielsen—Drums


Next review: » Mercenary - 11 Dreams
Previous review: » Mental Metal Meltdown - Board Game

Mercenary
11 Dreams
July 2005
Released: 2005, Century Media
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: MetalGeorge

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This album is perfect. One of the few releases where I think that EVERYONE in the press is unanimously praising, Denmark’s Mercenary have simply released the album of their lives with 11 DREAMS. My first experience with the band was with their 2002 EVERBLACK release, which was an amazing release in it’s own right. It’s exquisite mix of tasteful clean singing and epic, melodic Death Metal songwriting stood head and shoulders above many of their contemporaries, and delivered the promise of superb things yet to come.



Said promise has been fulfilled and then some with 11 DREAMS. Following in the footsteps of the sorely missed forward thinkers Gardenian (Swe), Mercenary combine a delicate, emotional sensibility with the most majestic elements of both extreme and traditional metal.



Mikael Sandager’s powerful, commanding clean vocals lead the charge while bassist/vocalist/songwriter Kral Andersen delivers the goods as his venomous counterpart. All the while, guitarists Jakob Molberg and Martin Buus delight and dazzle the senses with a riff tour de force which recalls Nevermore’s best moments, as well as the aforementioned Gardenian. Fluid, melodic leads also flow in and out of each song, demanding the listener’s attention, while Morten Sandager’s omnipresent keyboards add the epic, majestic touch missing from so many Death Metal bands today.



11 DREAMS is simply a triumph, and should become THE album to break the band wide open, if there’s any justice. It’s going to be a hard act to follow, however. Let’s just hope that the band doesn’t pull an At the Gates and decide to split up on us, because with an lp like this, it’s only a matter of time before Mercenary become living legends.
Track Listing

1. Into the Sea of Dark Desires
2. World Hate Center
3. 11 Dreams
4. reDestructDead
5. Firesoul
6. Sharpen the Edges
7. Supremacy v2.0
8. Music Non Stop
9. Falling
10. Times Without Changes
11. Loneliness
12. 11 Dreams (3-D Mix) –bonus
13. 11 Dreams (radio edit) –bonus

Lineup

Mikkel Sandager-vocals
Hans “Kral” Andersen-vocals and bass
Jakob Molberg-guitars
Martin Buus-lead guitars
Mike Park-drums
Morten Sandager-keyboards/piano/backing vocals


Next review: » Mercenary - EVERBLACK
Previous review: » Mental Metal Meltdown - Board Game





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