Mercenary - _The Hours That Remain_
(Century Media, 2006)
by: Kostas Sarampalis (9.5 out of 10)
There are some bands that are imaginative and talented enough that their music defies strict categorization and brushes tags off with the nonchalance of a real artist.

The fourth album from the Danish super group that surprised everyone and your granny a couple of years ago with the near perfect _11 Dreams_ now sees them not only meeting the high standards they set with it, but surpassing them in every imaginable way. _The Hours That Remain_ is a tour de force of an album. Dynamic yet subtle. Gripping yet casual. Powerful and imposing, yet emotional and detailed. Having changed their singer, I was afraid that the new material would lose the magnetic voice of the predecessor; but if anything, Mikkel Sandager is an even better vocalist. This is his album and he drives it with passion. As in earlier albums, Mercenary play metal music that has a purpose, that tells a story, even though this is not a concept album. There are certain lyrics and certain riffs and motifs that are repeated throughout to make the listening experience that of a complete piece of work, rather than individual songs crammed together one after the other.

Unlike their previous albums, _The Hours That Remain_ requires several listens in order to be absorbed, as it is a more complex entity. "Redefine Me" is a great opener that sets the mood for the rest of the album, whereas "My World Is Ending" sees the first repetition of themes. The tempo is rather more muted this time, as is the production, but it all works towards a more concise and tight effort. "Simplicity Demand" acts as a more straightforward and dynamic break towards the middle of the album, and the album-titled final track sums up the atmosphere, even ending with a piano and voice over some static. You won't find many traditional solos in here, as the music seems to be a vehicle for the vocals; and with three members providing them, from clean singing to more death metal hoarse voices, one thing the album is not short of is variety and experimentation.

Mercenary deserve praise not only for their talent and musicianship, but for the simple fact that they create music that is involving and evolving. The more times you listen to _The Hours That Remain_, the more little gems you will find in the songs. The band allows you to choose how to listen to the album: as a backdrop to other activities that from time to time demands your attention, or as an absorbing experience that consumes you. In any case, there are so few albums that have the capacity to do this that it would be a crime to let it slip through your audio radar. Magnificent.


(article published 14/10/2006)

6/9/2005 A McKay 5 Mercenary - 11 Dreams
9/1/2002 A Lineker 6.5 Mercenary - Everblack
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