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Beats the pants off the big names of the genre - 97%

Aeturnus65, April 4th, 2006

Simply put, 11 Dreams represents the essence of what bands like In Flames and Soilwork envision when they commence writing on a new album. For what Mercenary have accomplished here is an assured cementing of their status as one of the single best hybrid bands, their style being a hybrid of melodic death and dark power. While the big names falter time after time to the point of irrelevance, lesser-knowns like this Danish six-piece are quietly assembling an absurdly solid catalog, one which could easily teach all the has-been and never-will-be bands a number of things.

The trick to this style is finding someone talented enough to pull off the vocals. To steal a phrase, the dichotomy of raspy verse-work and whiny, clean choruses has been ridden way too hard and put away dripping wet. Which is why the vocal approach of Mercenary is such a welcome change, with main vocalist Mikkel Sandager handling everything but the deep growls, those being provided by now ex-bassist “Kral”. Sandager’s greatest strength is his ability to naturally slide in and out of a number of styles and ranges. The result is a much less jarring experience than that employed by the surfeit of melo-death clone bands using the raspy-whiny mix. Thus, there’s really no distinction between vocal styles, as in “I like the clean vocals he uses in song four…”. They’re just vocals, never purely clean or harsh save for a few of the ultra-deep backing growls (and, thank the Gods of Metal, there is nary a hint of the awful mumbling that apparently passes as singing these days).

Musically the band is again tight as hell, this being partly the result of the massive Jacob Hansen production. Keyboards are used frequently but just about always in a complimentary ambient role, covering the whole thing with atmosphere like a thick coat of paint. Guitars are largely focused on laying down dense, meaty riffs that, while not overly technical, are still recognizable as being descended from the classic melo-death stuff that started the whole genre. However, Hansen’s production seems to put much more of a focus on the crushing rhythm section, so perhaps don’t expect as many solos or light melodic leads as some of the genre stalwarts. Put another way, if you want something that sounds exactly like “The Jester Race”, keep looking.

Finally, the other two guys – aorementioned bassist “Kral” and drummer Mike Park. Once again, Hansen does the bassist and the band a large favor in making the sound very heavy on the bass. Not the noodly, Steve Digiorgio style, but the crushing, cement-slab heavy style. Likewise, new drummer (for this album) Park does very well on the drums, hammering out lots of double-bass but also keeping things interesting with restraint and a variety of fills, something very important when a band starts to move into the six-seven-eight minute song length territory, as Mercenary often do.

Others have already picked out the good songs, but I’ll add that there are hardly any tracks on here which aren’t complete ass kickers, save for perhaps the Kent cover. It isn’t bad, but seems too soft and out of place, especially coming right after the scorching “Supremacy V2.0”. Mercenary are simply one of those bands that really ought to be a household name as the previous household names turn to shit one by one. Powerful and heavy, yet with a good deal of melody and even catchiness, Mercenary have always had the talent and vision to become an absolute winner, and with “11 Dreams” they’ve done just that. As requiem99 mentioned in his review, keep an eye on these guys, as they’re destined to become huge. In the meantime, run out and buy this disc, as it comes very highly recommended.