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One crammed album, this... - 70%

Lane, July 28th, 2011

This third full length album from Danish band Mercenary is often praised as a masterpiece in melodic death metal genre. However, the genre this belongs to isn't melodic death metal, but something like a mixture of it and power metal. Yeah, it is melodic, but no, it's not rough.

The overtly dramatic gothic intro leads to 'World Hate Center'. This song includes big orchestrations under 1990's In Flames style guitar work, so the gothic atmosphere continues. And the song's chorus is very, very close to Ozzy Osbourne's hit 'Perry Mason'! Annoyingly triggered drums are mixed very loud, and when the keyboard-generated orchestrations are happening, the sound gets clogged fast. It gets painful to listen to the album, simply because it sounds like it is too filled with artificial sounding instruments; the plagues of modern metal music production. A little saving element comes in form of vocalist Mikkel Sandager (nowadays no more in the band), whose clean voice is very powerful and unique, too. He doesn't remind me of any other metal music vocalist, but Nevermore's Warrel Dane and his contorting voice is the closest example I can think of. There are also "demonically" schreeched growling heard here and there around the album, plus beautiful, mewing voice of Monika Pedersen (Sinphonia, ex-Sirenia). The lyrics are almost totally ignorable.

The title track is one of the few highlights of the album. It is much more characteristic when compared to the opener, mostly because Mr. Sandager gets more space on it. Gothic meets pop music, performed by a metal band. It's not quite poppy as, say, To/Die/For. The clean vocals continue to reign in 'reDestructDead', and therefore the song ends up being another characteristic song, but more upbeat. 'Firesoul' is an Evergrey style Gothenburg goth/power metal song, and with its 7 and a half minutes of duration, is just too long, even though there is a lot of variety towards its end. 'Sharpen the Edges' must be a tribute to King Diamond, although it doesn't reach similar eerie atmospheres, not even close. In 'Supremacy v2.0' clash prog metal, Machine Head style groovy stuff, and Gothenburg metal, in a functioning way, so the album gets back on a better track. This time around, over 8-minute duration doesn't feel too long at all.

But what happens next? 'Music Non Stop' happens. Does that ring any bells? Maybe not, but it's a pop band Kent's original... This is one stupid thing to do: Inserting a cover song somewhere between own songs on an album. Okay, I've heard much, much worse covers, and I've always liked how metal bands take a song from some other musical style and make it harder. 'Falling' fixes that downswing fast, as its post-thrash and Mikkel Sandager's vocals simply work, again lifting up those characteristics of the band. 'Times without Changes' is a shortish piano-cum-vocals piece, feeling out of content. 'Loneliness' is, fortunately, another song in which the Mercenary's characteristics are in dominant demonstration.

'11 Dreams' provides some fine moments, if you like melodic yet heavy metal like In Flames meet Evergrey meet several other modern things... Metal music should be heavy, yes, but the crammed production of '11 Dreams' cause me headache, at least spiritually. Too much is too much, simple as that! The song arrangements do not always work out well, so there are several skippable moments. This album has been on and off my trade list, but when I decided to listen to it again, and then review it, it still has a place in my music collection. '11 Dreams' is a good one, but it could have been so much more.

The Brutal Beauty of Mercenary - 97%

kimiwind, March 16th, 2010

The third studio album by mercenary is nothing new regarding the alluring quality they have produced in their first two full lengths. After some great feedback from the heavy metal music community, and achieving a mass number of fans, this album came up the way everyone was expecting it; very melodic, catchy and progressive. Though, it was the bend point where mercenary started to turn their style into more power melodic death. There is progressive elements here as well that enriched the release and made it stand out among the typical melodic death metal releases. The production here is very good. 11 Dreams has been recorded at Lund and Hansen studios, and managed by the mastermind Jacob Hansen, which did a remarkable job. The instruments are well heard and the sound is so clean, that leaves amply focus on the music.

Instrumentally, this is very unique for several reasons; one of those reasons is definitely the vocals. They could only be described as one of the best performances so far in band’s record. You might wonder why? Actually, because this is like you’re having the bands Pyramaze and Withering Surface at once. Mikkel and Kral can do this job perfectly. Mikkel’s powerful straightforward singing leaves you amazed, combined with Kral’s deep and aggressive growls will smash you off, creating great back to back job throughout the album. The songs Firesoul, Redestructdead and 11 Dreams are some unique examples. Also worth mentioning the additional sweet female vocals, particularly in the track Firesoul performed by Monica Pedersen the former vocalist of “Sirenia”.

The other instruments are fairly competent here. The guitars are very melodic and catchy, highlighted by great solos. I suppose everyone has a big hunger to enjoy powerful solos, right? Then this release is definitely the best place to feed you up. The guitar solos here are great and majestic and added significant touch in every track. The top best that come off my head are the ones on Loneliness, Supremecy v2.0, Redestructdead, and crowns them all the one on world hate center from 04.11 minutes to 04.43 minutes. The bass is a very good contender here as well; Kral is as his brutal voice as his brutal bass lines, makes this album very enjoyable for extreme music fans. Park Nielsen is one of my favorite drummers, and he is doing a significant role here, double bass drumming and an awesome percussion throughout the album. The keyboards are beautifully added without encroaching in the music, left in background supporting the other instruments. Morten provides us great piano melodies, to cite some examples: Firesoul, 11 Dreams and Times without changes.

These guys have really showed what they are capable of. They are skilled and have great lineup to reach the highest levels of professionalism. Unfortunately, 11 Dreams was the last effort of Kral with the mercenaries; indeed it’s very big lost to the band and to the fans that have enjoyed his unique vocals throughout his career. This release is essential for every metalhead. Give it a chance and buy this masterpiece as soon as possible, and if you don’t, then you are punished by nature, because this is more than just a melodic death metal band you hear every day.

Written for Encyclopaedia Metallum 16-03-2010
© Kimiwind

Overated and disappointing - 68%

Metalwontdie, July 9th, 2009

Mercenary’s 11 Dreams was a huge disappointment upon first listen and didn’t get any better on later listens. My first Mercenary release was The Hours That Remain and it was an excellent melo-death/power metal release, so I decided to buy 11 Dreams because of its high ratings. Unfortunately 11 Dreams fails at everything The Hours That Remain succeeded at weaker riffs, much less entertaining or emotional choruses, more simplistic and slower songs and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Mercenary’ style is quite unique on this release as well as on The Hours That Remain combining melodic death metal with power, progressive, and even some thrash metal tendencies. Unfortunately 11 Dreams doesn’t entertain nearly as much as it’s follow up and is boring on most of the songs. Each song is much more melodic and more mid- tempo besides the excellent album opener World Hate Center with its thrashy riff work.
Most songs are too long and repeat the same riffs too many times boring me out of my mind (if they were solid songs it would not be a problem). Keyboard usage is present though it only provides atmosphere and background notes.

The band’s performance lacks the passion and intensity of The Hours That Remain. Mikkel Sandager’s vocal performance is top notch he sounds like a mix between power and classic metal’s high pitch vocals with a lot of mid-range usage. Unfortunately Mikkel doesn’t use nearly as good choruses or his awesome screams/growls like on The Hours That Remain. The two guitarist’s play mainly uninspired lead work with much more of their attention focused on their equally boring mid-tempo riffs (the solos are good especially when they go semi melodic/shred happy). The bass guitar is somewhat audible only providing rhythm and not risking doing anything out of the norm (the bassist does provide background vocals though they are average). The drumming is great really showing what he would do on later releases, he uses lots of double kick bass and great fills throughout 11 Dreams. The keyboard just provides atmosphere and background effect.

Overall 11 Dreams is a highly disappointing release that could have been much better if, Mercenary focused more on the actual songwriting instead of writing something that is unique but of poor quality. Best songs are World Hate Center, 11 Dreams, Redestructdead, and Loneliness. I only recommend this disappointing release to big fans of Mercenary who just want to complete their collections.

-10points most songs are boring and are hard to listen to
-10 points uninspired songs with much more attention to uniqueness than quality
-10 points choruses and intensity is much weaker on 11 Dreams
-2 points 11 Dreams is much slower and lighter in terms of heaviness than on The Hours That Remain

A band that will change music for the better - 100%

SirMichaelJ, January 6th, 2007

This is of coarse a personal opinion. But I found this to, out any metal release, my favorite album I’ve let my ears hear.

Why is this album getting such an outlandish comment?

Mainly because Mercenary can combine old school and new school metal. It’s evident right after the intro track. With an old thrash riff, the insane drumming that sounds as if there's 3 drummers, a tri vocal attack. Of the vocals a harsh scream, a brutal growl, and what's that? One of the best clean vocalists on cd's and live. Not only this but Mercenary does something 95% of metal doesn’t. YOU CAN HEAR THE BASS! In fact, the bass is what gives Mercenary its drive, the absolute feeling of the world caving in around you while the pounding double bass and crushing heavy/thrash riffs attack you head on. The solo really grabs you and makes you want to finish off the cd. The solo is mesmerizing and very original, to say that for a solo is very uncommon. Simply put, the song is near flawless. What makes you want to hear the song again? The keys. That's right, the keys. They are mixed in with a choir of epic proportion. A beautiful background combined with a crushing foreground of music scenery? It's no lie, Mercenary pulls it off.

All this after just first track. It doesn’t end there. The next track, which is the title track, uses very little harsh vocals, but still leaves your brain in a state of paradox dealing with the heaviness, combined with the subtle beauty. Actually there's one lyric in the song which can best describe Mercenary’s music. "Through this paradigm". That's what the song/Mercenary in general feels like, a constant shift of complete opposites. This track in specific has the most convictional lyrics; both in terms of depth and talent they are sung.

This review could go on for every track, but I would be repeating myself. Because all of the songs have this sort of shift between beauty and a factor of brutality. Words cant do this album justice, every song sounds different, no two sound alike, and they even managed to throw a cover song in there (I’m sure you can tell which one, it really is a no brainer).

Songs like Sharpen the Edges, really bring this black, grim and gives one no hope of any sort of solace, yet it is not black metal. Loneliness is more upbeat, but still carries that slow, almost depressing mood. The vocals on all tracks will have you singing along by the third listen of the cd, the guitars will have you air guttering, the drums air drumming, the bass (For a first might I add!) air bassing.

Very cd leaves a listener with a feeling of completeness. A Yin to the music listeners Yang so to speak. 11 Dreams is the yin to my yang, and I’m sure this will apply to many others. Listen and really immerse yourself in a very well composed and written cd.

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.

Nearly perfect - 90%

Tongues11, June 1st, 2005

Mercenary apparently released what seems to be masterpiece. “11 Dreams” is simply unbelievable. When I bought it, I stayed in my CD player for about a week an a half because I couldn’t stop listening to it again and again. The Danish band delivers kickass performances from start to end and fuck, the album has not a single song which could be called inferior or not as good as the rest.

“Now do you feel respectable on the cross?” speak of an in-your-face-religion way to start a song! After the little movie-like keyboard intro, “World Hate Center” truly the angriest, heaviest, most hate-filled song of the album explodes in your head and stays there for the next week. The main riff is simply great and the overall growling of Kral and Mikkel is so angry that you HAVE to headbang. It’s one of those “can’t resist moshing” song.

After comes “11 Dreams” which is very different from the first song but still great. The song delivers one thing that stands on top of its overall greatness, a very good solo (3:19).

After a few more-than-good songs comes the memorable “Sharpen The Edges”. Now that’s one creepy little song. A melodramatic piano intro accompanied with lyrics that carry a message similar to the timeless classic “Die, Die my Darling”. Now the song is slow-paced but the riff, although static from start to end (yeah, there’s no real musical evolution in this piece) is so heavy, you can definitely sense some sort of sick and twisted hate all the way to the end.

Following this bizarre-yet-memorable track is “Supremacy v2.0” now that’s just a lesson to all Melodic Death Metal newcomers about how to write a kickass song. The main riff is somewhat slow-paced (again) but very effective and yet again the two singers are just great. The ensemble is so well constructed; you can’t get tired of listening to the song over and over.

Right after that is the cover of “Music Non Stop” originally performed by the indiepop band, Kent. Now when I first heard the song my natural reaction was : what the hell?? But, after re-listening to it I realised that, damn, Mercenary took a loser pop song and they actually gave it a reasonable metal sound. I consider that an accomplishment.

Finally, the last song from the album “Loneliness” is simply going to blow you away. After one listening it was already my personal favourite. Now the guitars are simply exceptional all the way, from the main riff to the solo. The drums are not unbelievable but Mike Park Nielsen is definitely not falling behind, and the singing is once again, dangerously close to perfection. There’s one thing I gotta say, I’m an amateur singer (well growler actually if you want me to be precise) and this means that I’m real picky on the singing and the lyrics in a song, and “Loneliness” has some of the best lyrics I ever read. I’m not going to explain them so if you really want to know, get the CD and see for yourself.

In conclusion, although the album is clearly from the Melodic Death Metal genre, many songs have somewhat of a Power Metal feel, mainly because of the echo-like sound in Mikkel’s clear vocals and the keyboard, which often reminded me of Stratovarius. Still, it’s almost impossible for a Melodic Death fan to dislike this album. My advice to all of you out there is GO BUY “11 DREAMS”!!!!

Danish?? NOT Swedish??? Im confused - 90%

SoulSeekJay, September 17th, 2004

you mean this isn’t early IN FLAMES??!?

These Danish guys already released their second album "Everblack" with Hammerheart Records, through this great album they caught more attention and the result is their third album on Century Media Records!!

And after two years they return with a great album that perfectly mixes aggression and melody! They are introduced by a short Instrumental that features a lot of keyboard sounds and has an epic touch. It flows into the second track

"World Hate Center" that opens with straight up melodic death metal which has a dark touch throughout, and decent keyboards in the background. At the beginning of this track I really like the combination of melodic leads and double-bass driven drumming while the singer screams his lungs. Their sound gets another special touch when their singer Mikkel Sandager switches from high-pitched screams to clean singing. That's just wonderful, the passionate and evil screams on one hand and even symphonic clean singing on the other! I'm really satisfied by "World Hate Center" but the follower isn't my cup of tea 'cause it reminds me more of laid-back power metal instead of the fast brutal pieces they've had within the first track. The forth track is a mixture of both sounds, they add a few brutal parts but they often play symphonic mid-tempo metal, one highlight is a fast guitar solo at the middle of the song. Mercenary combine power metal alike vocals with part-wise rough screams and melodic death metal tunes and from my point of view they should play a few more of the thrashing death metal pieces so that their album would be more furious. But if you are into diversified metal that draws influences from death metal to rocking power metal or symphonically metal give them a try!