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While I usually find melodeath to be nothing more than a contrived, monumental failure that does nothing more than mix minimal elements of death metal with an otherwise power metal sound and structure, Mercenary is one of the very few bands in this genre that I can truly appreciate. This appreciation stems from two main points; one being that Mikkel Sandager is an objectively excellent clean vocalist, and the other being that Mercenary have always been honest in their musical arrangement. The latter point is the prime reason that The Hours That Remain is easily the best album in melodeath. Granted, that isn’t saying too much, but it’s still a great album overall.
When I say that Mercenary is honest in their musical arrangement, I mean that they are a vocal-centric band. At it’s core, melodeath is a very pop-oriented sound. That is, the song structures are often very simple, the production is often super-polished and clean, and the music itself is rather palatable. Some bands, such as N*Flamez and Soilwork try to pass this off as legitimately heavy music, when it’s nothing more than pop metal. On the other hand, Mercenary practically embraced this pop metal ideology with The Hours That Remain, and in doing so, perfected the style. Mercenary’s sound is primarily rooted on Sandager’s vocal performance, which at all points holds center stage, and rightfully so. The vocal melodies on this album are a serene as ever for Mercenary, simply soaring above the rest of the music, which wisely takes a back seat and simply establishes rhythm instead.
The songs here are all laden with catchy and memorable vocal hooks that easily embrace you and make you feel the intensity of the delivery that’s going on here, and frankly, that intensity is beautiful. To aid the vocal hooks, we’re given some generic melodeath chugging riffs and drums, but hey, they work. They don’t interfere by ever trying to be “br00tal.” Instead, by taking charge as little as possible, they let us keep focusing on the vocals, which is definitely for the best. Most importantly, though, is that no matter what is going on rhythmically in the background, Sandager’s vocals have the uncanny ability to just jump over them and never fail to impress. How the fuck does any band let a vocalist like this leave?
But of note should be the rather long songs on this album. Some of them, such as ‘Lost Reality,’ really take advantage of their length to create great build-ups, ultimately culminating in a satisfying vocal apex. Even the instrumental work on these songs, which still definitively melodeath, is still entertaining to say the least. The solos are simple, melodic, but thankfully fun.
My only gripe with this album is when it tries a bit too hard to be heavy. ‘Year of the Plague’ is probably the most blatant offender here, but even that is excusable after a few listens. Most occasions of harsh vocal presence on this album just seem unnecessary in my opinion, mainly because they’re ultimately much inferior to the clean vocal section that Sandager provides, but they do seem to aid a bit in some cases.
Overall, The Hours That Remain is a very honest album. It immediately establishes its purpose as a pop metal album with its lead track, ‘Redefine Me,’ and it never reneges on that throughout its duration. Instrumentally, it’s inoffensive melodeath that happens to be structured and composed incredibly well around Sandager’s great vocals. If you hate Scar Symmetry and the ilk, this music might not be for you, but if you like a good clean vocal performance, regardless of subgenre, then this is worth a listen.
Written for http://thenumberoftheblog.com/
The Forth chapter of the Danish metallers mercenary came out after 3 consecutive successful albums. Those have left a memorable impact on the metal heads worldwide. Definitely a huge pressure was on these guys, because any quality unlike the previous releases will bring them down the hills. Then the question comes, did they progressed? And yes, they definitely did. However they still keep the unique sound they have always done perfectly. Though, with this masterpiece, Mercenary have proved their good reputation, and showed more maturity qualified this album to be another gem of their precious discography. Whatever, I have always claimed, this band as their musicianship as their production. Likely, all the instruments individually are easy and clear to distinguish. The sound is perfect and clean; you just relax and set your mind on what’s going on the music.
The musicianship in this great album is fairly incredible. Mercenary are masters when it comes to make synthesis of melodic death metal with progressive and power metal mixture. The hours That Remain offer unique vocals performance. It often ranges between soft powerful singing and harsh and high pitched growls all genuinely done by Mikkel Sandager. Mikkel still like to spread his smooth beautiful voice that plays on the nerves sweetly. Only this time he was forced to contribute with some kick ass harsh vocals and he did that perfectly. This synthesis is often seen on a regular basis throughout the album. Though, I can’t recall a similar band do such work as mercenary, and I mean the perfect timing and the overall atmosphere. However, in the songs My world is ending and Obscure Indiscretion the harsh vocals are less presented, unlike in Redefine Me, Years of the Plague and Soul Decision.
After Kral left the scene sadly due to personal circumstances, mercenary was forced to find an instant replacement to fill up the bass duties. Then the Danish mastermind Jacob Hansen was the right one. Certainly this man has skills that many of the musicians wish to have. His bass deliverance was more of much solid and complement, just made this piece of art very brutal. The bass lines are high in the mix and fit perfectly with the guitars work. The other Jacob is not less competent. The main guitarist of Mercenary still likes to deliver some brilliant solos every now and then, they are great, sharp and beautiful, and therefore they complete the rhythm provided in the music. In addition to the great riffs and melodies that added firmly a heavy sound. Another worthy instrument here is keyboards. The brother of Mikkel, Morten, has done some decent job here. The piano melodies are more presented in this album like in My world is ending, The Hours That Remain and Simplicity Demand. Furthermore, head banging effects were thrown nicely throughout the procession of the sound. The songs Lost Reality, Obscure Indiscretion, Redefine Me and Soul Decision are some great examples. Finally to mention the huge effort the drums did through. Park Nielsen is very talented drummer, his double bass and technical patterns still very competent. He is very consistent, personally when I like to enjoy some good drums work, I always go straight forward to mercenary’s stuff because I admire park’s style.
All in all, mercenary’s successive releases still flow, however, Jacob Hansen left after the recordings of this album and Rene was the permanent bass filler for Kral. The improvement over 11 Dreams is very noticeable, and that’s the most important thing, keeping improving and increasing in the style in every album. With such pace, I expect even more greatness in the next releases. Very recommended to every metal fan, this is professional to the edge. I’m confident enough to say this is definitely the album of the year on its genre.
Written for Encyclopaedia Metallum 17-03-2010
After the huge disappointment of 11 Dreams, Mercenary completely redeemed themselves with The Hours That Remain an instant favorite of mine. This time around Mercenary decided to increase the influences of thrash, and progressive metal while still retaining their traditional hybrid of melo-death and power metal. Improving upon the formula of 11 Dreams The Hours That Remain is heavier, faster, more complex, has better atmosphere, and better choruses.
Each song on The Hours That Remain is based around a strong chorus with equally important alternating lead and riff work. The progressive influences are mainly in the longer songs, odd time signatures, and more complex arrangements. The keyboard provides a stronger and darker atmosphere to The Hours That Remain than on 11 Dreams. Each song is a part of the albums dark apocalyptic imagery and lyrical approach. The Hours That Remain production is excellent almost perfectly balanced between each instrument in the mix.
Mikkel Sandager’s vocal performance is excellent and highlights his impressive range from mid range to high falsettos. The two guitarists Jakob Molbjerg and Martin Buus Pederson trade off equally stunning leads, riffs, and beautiful melodic solos. Mikkel’s brother Morten provides excellent keyboard background and is extremely important to The Hours That Remain dark atmosphere. Mike Park Nielson is a drum machine always changing his beats, using equally devastating fills, and double kick bass. Rene Peterson bass guitar is inaudible but his harsh growls and screams provide a double to Mikkel’s excellent clean vocal choruses.
Only a few weaknesses are present on The Hours That Remain. First the album is a bit too long clocking in at just over an hour. Secondly most songs could have been shaved of a couple of minutes for momentums sake. While most songs are excellent variety is few and far between.
The Hours That Remain is easily a powerhouse of an album and deserves way more recognition that the overrated 11 Dreams. Topping this album will be a great achievement indeed. Best songs are Redefine Me, This Eternal Instant, Lost Reality, My Secret Window, and The Hours That Remain. I highly recommend this release to any fan of melo-death, progressive, and melodic metal you won’t be disappointed.
-4 points album length is too long
-2 points songs are a bit too long
-2 points variety percentage could have been increased
I find myself having a lot of trouble describing this album. There are few words I could say that would actually do it any justice. I will still give it my best shot however.
Mercenary is one of a few bands, that I feel, truly get "it". "It" being that ineffable creature that makes a band great. The primary weapon that Mercenary uses to tame this beast is melody. Now I know I have mentioned again and again that I have a weakness for melody, but this is a circumstance where I believe that everyone will be able to hear just how important melody is. The melodies on this album (is anyone sick of the word melody yet?) are unforgettable and that is why I love them so dearly. Their ability to get stuck in my head after only one listen is quite a feat.
Now of course there is more to this album than just melody. In fact, the vocals alone merit their own full review. Alas, I am much to lazy for such a thing. Fans of clean vocals take note, the singing on this album is the best I have heard in a long time. Now, to all I just scared away with that statement, let me inform you that the vocals are not the same vapid, superfluous vocals that you hear on most every power metal album. For one, this is not a power metal album. For two, there is some restraint shown here. While there are plenty of falsettos and three part vocal harmonies, they are not in excess. Also you should know that there are plenty of screams and growls and what have you.
Usually I like to indulge myself and write a fair bit about the guitar work on every album I review, so why should I disappoint my fans? Top-notch, I feel, would be an apt word to describe said guitar work. There are what is known as "riffs-a-plenty" on this album. From "ripping" solos to "crushing" breakdowns and such, this album has it all. Now I know I may have scared yet more people off with that mention of breakdowns but believe me, there is nothing "core" about this album.
I am at a loss for words at the moment so let us sit and enjoy some of this album. Oh, you aren't listening to it? Hm perhaps you should run out and purchase it right now. Yes that's right, I said purchase. This album is going to be one of three albums that I will buy this year. Give or take one. Now that is saying something. Then again, saying anything is really saying something, if you catch my drift. Try to keep up.
Already I am going to go out on a limb and call this the album of the year. Perhaps I should be a bit more specific about what I mean. What I meant to say was that this is the BEST album of the year. Okay, now we're being less vague. By we I mean me. I. Very good.
Oh and for you genre idiots, this is melodic metal with thrashy death influence and a dash of power metal. Don't like that? Well I don't like genres you retard.
Get this fucking album right now.
Before I start, I'll admit that I'm pretty much an enemy to the Prog/Power styles of metal, I really can't stomach the over indulgence and flamboyancy of it all, but there's something about this album, I'm completely mind blown with it. For the record, Mercenary and Dragonland are the two exclusive bands I enjoy with Power touches.
The Hours That Remain is a total mamoth of an album. Firstly, the production; One of the finest sounding albums I've ever heard of the thousands of albums/bands I've heard in my time. It sounds so full, heavy and EPIC. It's like a wall of sound is coming out of the speakers, it's nearly perfect. I was listening to it non-stop for a few days before I decided to write this.
Another point which makes this album so enjoyable is how dynamic it is. This band is throwing metal styles at you left and right without losing structure and most importantly, WITHOUT relying on instrumental showboating. Melodic leads, open chorded chugging, palm muting, wonderful soloing, rhythmic snapping double kick, extremely audible, and loud bass. (referring to the sound, not the instrument). The keyboarding is also varied, everything from airy ambience to neo-prog. Although I would perfer more usage of harsh vocals, the singing is excellent and catchy enough for me to look the other way. (I greatly dislike the Power style of singing in metal, but this guy is just incredible.)
This album also is full of great, memorable hooks. The problem I had with 11 Dreams (amongst other dislikes) was there was nothing really catchy about it, it was TOO prog for my tastes. Such as the flying chorus to 'Soul Decision' or 'Redefine Me', really good stuff and really shows the band has greatly improved their songwriting craft over the years. Alot of bands are one-trick ponies. They either have really good riffs, with shitty vocals and hooks or vice versa. Bands like Mercenary on the other hand, who can totally pull off all the aspects are really special and welcome in an age where a plethora of metal bands have trouble finding identity.
More points are added, as the band has two guests spots from two of my favorite vocalists to ever grace the microphone. (Speed Strid and Marcus Bischoff.) Though I find myself wondering what the point was when their guest spots are so low in the mix you'd miss their parts if you weren't listening for them.
In the end, this album has a little something for everyone. (though most would pass it off based on the vocals alone...). What you have here is an incredibly well written and dynamic album which refreshes as it impresses. Highly recommended.
Recommended Listening: Redefine Me, Lost Reality, Soul Decision
To begin with, how about a short recap of the band’s history thus far? I must admit I haven’t heard their debut First Breath but am told that it is a thrash metal album and doesn’t sound too much like their later work. In 2002 they released Everblack which featured a much more melodic death metal approach to the music. Two years later Mercenary offered what most call their finest work. 11 Dreams took the melodeth genre to new limits with the amazing duel vocalists Mikkel Sandager and Kral. The music also began to show progressive and power metal influences. After this release Kral quit the band and they seemed to go on a short hiatus. In 2006 they returned to the recording studio to put together another record, and I just couldn’t be more grateful.
There was a lot of fuss amongst fans when Kral left and many people say that The Hours That Remain doesn’t sound nearly as good because of his absence. Personally I don’t notice much difference at all. Sure the music doesn’t sound exactly the same but that isn’t because of Kral not being a part of it. In general it isn’t as heavy and the progressive influences are much more present. The first time I heard this record, it didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard before and now months later, I can still appreciate it as much as ever. From the catchy choruses of Redefine Me to the amazing ballad Secret Window to the epic final title track there is really no room to rest on this album as it just gets better and better with time. Sure, there aren’t as many guttural growls that we loved listening to on earlier Mercenary releases but when Sandager does bring out the harsh vocals he doesn’t disappoint fans of Kral.
What really brings The Hours That Remain together is the perfect combination of stunning melody and the trademark crunch and heaviness that these guys have become known for. It’s hard for me to point out the best thing about this album but instinctively I would say the vocals. Sandager really shines here as he hogs the spotlight now that he is the only vocalist. A part of me dares to say that it should have always been like this. I realize it’s very hard not to compare The Hours That Remain with 11 Dreams but when it comes down to it, they are both different albums and they both sound different and you might enjoy both of them more if you appreciate them on their own.
Earlier today I read on the band’s official website that they have begun recording a “darker” album than their last. Truthfully, I’m crapping myself with anticipation.
This album is such a goddamn mixed bag. Most of the songs are good - However, some of them absolutely fucking SLAY, and a few others fall under the heading of "trainwreck".
My first few listens to The Hours That Remain had me pretty pleased. I was hooked on the disc's first track for weeks, but still I couldn't help but not fully enjoy the rest of the CD. It's an album that leans away from their melodic death metal roots (perhaps the departure of Kral was a factor), with lots of clean high-pitched singing.
Not to say it's all bad, though. Far from it, in fact. It's plenty heavy, but... Not enough by Mercenary's standards. A lot of the songs (Lost Reality, Obscure Indiscretion) have absolutely AMAZING intros, but I find myself turning the music off halfway through. If the band could keep that standard for an entire track more often... Then we'd have 11 Dreams, wouldn't we?
As for absolutely stellar moments, we have Redefine Me, My World Is Ending and My Secret Window. Redefine Me's chorus will lay eggs in your brain and breed, My World Is Ending's instrumentation won't leave your ears anytime soon, and My Secret Window is unrelentingly great in every way.
It's just not enough to redeem the rest of the album. Here's hoping for their next offering.
For any Mercenary fan, it was a truly sad day when Kral left the band. The creator and long time bassist and inspiration behind 90% of the lyrics for reasons not given left.
And how did the rest of the metallers in Mercenary respond?
With an album that is above what anyone could have expected after their 11 Dreams release. The Hours That Remain is brilliant. There was much to be expected from this band, and they wont disappoint. This album really requires 5 or six listens before you really get addicted and start to sing its praises.
The music is really multi-layered so at first you don’t notice all the subtle additions to the music. You can be listening to Year of the Plague and notice a slight keyboard in the back that really does add to the really aggressive tone of the song that you didn’t notice before.
One of the main themes I got coming from the album was a more traditional style of song writing mixed with a blend of personal vision on going about that writing. The song structures tend to follow the two choruses, two verse, one solo format. But the way Mercenary goes about it, they will add maybe a bridge, or another chorus, and at that completely randomize the order of the structure.
This album also brings such a heavy crunch to it, and yet its so melodic and peaceful that you get a contrasting feeling leaving me to wonder how does one mosh to something that is so beautifully heavy? Mercenary has mastered their sound of such a harsh aggressiveness edged with a soothing and peaceful demeanor.
Being a metal fan it’s hard for myself to say the best part of the album is the vocal performance. But credit must be given when it is due. Mikkel Sandager has the best clean vocals in metal, that’s saying a lot with Hansi Kursh, Tobias Sammet, and so on with all the power metal vocalist. Mikkel Sandager has his own unique set of vocal pipes that lets him stand out, he can hit nearly every range you could want, and at that excelling at either high, mid, or low range and never faltering.
The must listen to songs on this album are tacks 1- 10. This is not a joke. All tracks are essential and will put this cd in high contention for cd of the year. But if I had to pick just a few songs to a person whose never heard Mercenary it would have to be Redefine Me for its perfection of an opening track. Lost Reality because it really reminds me of the title track to 11 Dreams. And My Secret Window because its the harshness beauty that I described earlier.
The Hours That Remain is must listen to for 06 releases, a must listen to for metal, a must listen for music’s sake in general. For a fan of Mercenary this release does not disappoint in the least bit.