Released: 2013, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
One album removed from a dramatic sonic and line-up overhaul – with the Sandager brothers Morten (keyboards) and Mikkel (vocals) and drummer Mike Park Nielsen all leaving in 2009 as a sextet shrank to a quartet - Denmark's Mercenary seem to have solidified things. At least for the time being – this is, after all, a band with only one remaining original member, rhythm guitarist Jakob Mølbjerg.
But the same four fellas who played on 2011's aptly titled Metamorphosis return for Through Our Darkest Days and, having survived one go-round, continue in the more heavily melodic, at times even symphonic, direction the band took with the last album. Fans hoping for the return of Mercenary's death metallier tendencies will be pretty disappointed, I'm afraid, as those moments, as on “Welcome To The Sickness,” are fleeting.
Mercenary's musical transition is not unlike what In Flames underwent starting with Reroute To Remain – and, unfortunately, about as effective. Indeed several tunes, notably the “Cloud Connected”-like “Beyond This Night,” recall In Flames – only with a much greater emphasis on keyboards and synths, here performed by Martin Buus who does double duty as lead guitarist.
Bassist René Pedersen does him one better, handling clean and growling lead vocals in addition to providing the bottom end. And here the clean vocals figure much more prominently, with the growls and grunts relegated largely for emphasis, except on the almost black metally “Generation Hate,” easily the album’s most aggressive track.
Like In Flames, or Soilwork, Mercenary deliver loads of hooks and epic choruses on Darkest Days, and its overall sound is pretty damn grandiose. The songs, however, tend to follow a familiar pattern that build on said hooks to arrive at said choruses.
And despite having some obvious progressive chops – which, like the brutality, are employed sparingly – the band seem insistent on taking the safe route and aiming for something catchy instead of clever or wicked. So while Darkest Days is aesthetically pleasing, it doesn't have a lot of soul, and though it seems to want to be more explosive the band unwisely hold it back.