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Into the Groove with Merciless Cold Indifference - 77%

bayern, June 25th, 2017

Mercyless remained in the shadow of the Big Four (Massacra, No Return, Agressor, Loudblast) of French thrash/death metal as the main probable reason for this seeming injustice is that they appeared relatively late on the scene, when the other four outfits had already established themselves as forces to be reckoned with. Embracing the still relevant at the time thrash/death metal hybrid, the band embarked on a journey to catch up with their compatriots, and by the time of their sophomore they had managed to carve a small niche for themselves, siding with other similar practitioners from the Old Continent like Protector, Messiah, Merciless, Baphomet, and Assorted Heap. Alas, their chosen stance was wearing out under the pressure exercised by the impertinent aggro/groovy/post-thrashy vogues until it became the familiar “adapt or die” situation that befell many old school defenders…

The guys had models to follow from their own peers when it came to transitional efforts: Massacra already had two released under the groovy “yoke” (“Sick” and “Humanize Human”), and No Return had also fallen under the post-thrashy “guillotine” with “Seasons of Soul”. As the decision had already been taken, it just remained to be seen how our “mercyless” friends would be able to pull it off…

As the majority of the fanbase’s criterion scales had all been seriously adjusted by the mid-90’s, I guess there mustn’t have been too many detractors once this “cold” offering had hit the stores. And, there’s absolutely nothing wrong, let alone “abortive”, with the opening “Abortive Attempt” which is a pretty acceptable modernized thrasher/post-thrasher with jumpy technical riffs and a cool semi-balladic break. “If They Live in Ecstasy” doesn’t spoil the impression too much although it’s just a moody atmospheric post-thrashy piece with cleaner vocal attempts made as opposed to the angry shouty main ones. “Fluids” is all about doom and deeper atmospherics the cleaner vocals more fully epitomized; and “Dorian” is a stylish more technical shredder with a wider array of rhythmic patterns including several pure progressive escapades; clean singing and more atmosphere again. “Neutral” is a soulful bluesy ballad, the first actual indication that the guys may as well mess it up towards the end; but “A Nice Day to Survive” brings things back to normal with more dynamic, bouncy guitars only for the latter to be drowned in groovy melancholic semi-balladisms on “Ap4pN”. “Personality in Relief” follows a similar pattern with even some keyboards sneaking in turning the whole fest towards progressive metal territories. “Servant” tries to preserve the post-thrashy vibe from the beginning, but there’s simply too much atmospheric serenity and beautiful melodic lead sections for this task to be successfully fulfilled, especially when the final “Still Life” enhances the beauty and tranquillity being another poignant ballad.

It was kind of good that the band tried to adapt to the new fashions through their own weird perspective rather than trying to reproduce The Black Album more or less faithfully, or jumping on the aggro wagon head-over-heels together with the myriads of Pantera and Machine Head clones. They made a fairly decent modern progressive metal recording which was not as closely related to their roots as No Return’s mentioned opus, neither was it such a drastic departure from anything that was created before like Massacra’s “Humanize Human”. It’s a kind of a pity that they abandoned the more aggressive thrashy histrionics which could have served them well, and may have placed them next to notable 90’s thrash practitioners like their compatriots Aleister, the Americans Aftermath, and the Spanish Ktulu. Instead, they chose the road down to a complete fiasco which was the next instalment “Sure to Be Pure”, a bland numetal non-sense released right when the old school sound was getting ready for another spell with the music industry; “an abortive attempt” on all counts, a not very dignified conclusion of their career…

Which was revitalized in the new millennium as the band returned to the fore with a direct look back at their early days. The two albums released so far are fairly good retro death metal slabs without any deviations from the norm, and the way it seems groovy, post-thrashy aberrations haven’t been listed as “helping hands”. No more “cold” experiments, the guys will make sure everything stays pure… and merciless.

Predictably poor - 55%

Noktorn, May 3rd, 2009

While this isn't quite the worst case of a death metal band 'experimenting' in the mid-'90s, it's still nothing that you would likely want to listen to for its own sake. 'Cold' is a very archetypal example of the mid-'90s DM collapse: a band coming off the heels of a great album making a bid for more mainstream success and consequently failing miserably. In defense of Mercyless, their failure isn't a tenth as egregious as, say, Morbid Angel's was, and 'Cold' does have some interesting elements and a level of songwriting quality which would ALMOST make me think that this was a legitimate album, but in the end, it's still nowhere near 'Coloured Funeral', and as such can be ignored by those who aren't listening to this for historical perspective.

Many of the usual suspects are here: the music is generally based on a somewhat technical, experimental variety of post-thrash metal featuring sporadic clean vocals and some rather awkwardly placed keyboards. To the band's credit, the narrative and winding style of songwriting found on 'Coloured Funeral' is mostly preserved without really wandering into trite verse-chorus territory, but the content itself isn't very well laid out. The songs generally attempt to draw an overly large amount of attention to the experimental elements, which end up leading the compositions most of the time despite the fact that in most cases they're the least interesting thing going on. Hints of industrial and electronic influence pop up here and there ala mid-era Godflesh, and they're just as clumsily implemented as you would imagine; this isn't an album like Gorefest's 'False', but just another case of unadvised experimentation from an established band.

Occasionally some pretty cool moments will pop up: 'Fluids', cheesy as it is, is one of the better examples of this particular style and era of metal, and 'Neutral' is a genuinely good song with its rather relaxed, grey style of delivery. The majority of the material feels like filler, though, to the surprise of none. While the average quality of the music on 'Cold' might be better than the majority of releases in this same vein, it's still not particularly good; the experimental influences stick out, and not in a good way, the riffs are generally unmemorable and have little bite, and the music in general has a clumsy and awkward feel about it, as though even the band themselves was completely aware of how unnatural it sounded.

The only real reason to pick this up is for historical perspective; you probably won't really like the music. All this does is give a good overview of what was happening in death metal in the mid-'90s: awkward, stilted, kind of dumb, and with flickers of cleverness popping up here and there. I certainly don't recommend this on musical terms, but it's a good a look at the time period as any, and with a little less odium to go with it.

Mostly poor - 40%

natrix, January 17th, 2004

Wow, they really changed from their previous two albums. Gone are the occult lyrics (with bad grammar), the death metal vocals, and the twisted riffs. On here we have a band trying to reinvent itself to make something truely unique...and it is unique, but not in a good way. The addition of keyboards works sometimes, but on "Servant" it sounds like their playing the Wheel of Fortune theme songs. Bad!
My main problem is the vocal. They sound kind of like Jacob Hansen from Invocator, but with a heavy French accent. Not a good sign. If they had preferred to continue writing occult lyrics, that would have been better, because trying to get a strong point across about normal things is not good when you suck at English grammar. Take the lyrics to "Abortive Attempt," for example. "Society's not done with you!" Yeah, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?! Then there's "A Nice Day to Survive," "Personality on Relief," and my absolute favorite, "AP4NP." Those sound like lyrics written by someone who is in 6th grade, and trying to talk about politics or the struggle of power.
There is one gem on here. The song "Fluids" is excellent, because it combines their previous death metal approach with the atmospheric keyboard work. I don't even mind the vocals on here. A few other parts of songs, like the melodic part on "Abortive Attempt" are really good. "Still Life" seems to be more of an outro, but it has an excellent pensive mood and some good keyboards floating around.
A few good and interesting ideas, but mostly a lot of sub-par pseudo-thrash stuff. It's a shame because "Fluids" is such an excellent song.
. Abortive Attempt
2. If They Live in Ecstasy
3. Fluids
4. Dorian
5. Neutral
6. A Nice Day to Survive
7. AP4PN
8. Personality on Relief
9. Servant
10. Still Life