MERCENARY – Metamorphosis
One of this year’s personally highly anticipated releases, few albums will mark such a historically unfortunate turning point for a band as much as Mercenary’s ‘Metamorphosis’. It’s plunge in musical quality can be compared to that of Metallica’s ‘Load’. A drastic line-up change has turned an erstwhile sextet of innovators into a quartet of comfort zone victims.
The album begins with a beautiful twinkling keyboard echo, the beginning of ‘Through the Eyes of the Devil’. Immediately, the over-distorted guitar mirror of the tune completely sucks the abstraction out of the song and plunges you into a series of over-produced chugs. While they do sound good, they sound like something you hear from every new Scar Symmetry impersonator out there. That’s where Mercenary’s songwriting has now gone. The breakdowns are a staple, the keyboard-guitar integration is non-existent, the drum beats are by-the-book and the vocals sound like Chester Bennington is singing. However, there are attempts (sparsely successful though) at using the Mercenary aesthetic. There are a few sections where the heavy riffs are not just blatant metalcore reproductions but meaningful structures. There are songs like ‘The Follower’ and ‘In a River of Madness’ where the mood shows through the riffs. It does so more heavily on ‘Velvet Lies’, which actually retains quite a good melancholy mood.
Alas, such moments of heavy melancholy brilliance are rare throughout the album. The entire album sounds like a pale shadow of what Mercenary sounded like on ’11 Dreams’ and ‘The Hours that Remain’. Even the previous album, ‘Architect of Lies’, an album that was a bit more removed from the powerful sound on previous albums, sounds like a masterpiece compared to ‘Metamorphosis’. There is not a single epic on this album, not one song that could stand out and become a concert staple. The band has ‘metamorphosed’ into a regular alternative-rock driven melodic death metal band, a very regular sound that does not inspire anything. The greatest line-up that this band ever had was the one on 11 Dreams, after which the really heavy harsh vocals had to be compromised yet the songwriting did not. Now, after firing 3 key members, there is no expansive vocal spectrum, they keys are not innovative symphonies nor are they electronic arpeggio masterpieces anymore and the drumming is less than spectacular. If you are new to the band and this is the first album you hear by them, expect a pleasant surprise when you hear the back catalogue. If you like the new Children of Bodom, In Flames and Soilwork albums, jump right into this one.