Mercenary - Soundtrack For The End Times review
|Album:||Soundtrack For The End Times|
|Release date:||September 2023|
01. Burning In Reverse
02. Heart Of The Numb [feat. Matt Heafy]
03. Where Darkened Souls Belong
04. Through This Blackened Hatred
05. Anthem For The Anxious
06. A Darker Path
07. Become The Flame
08. From The Ashes Of The Fallen
09. Black Heart, Dead Tissue
10. Black Blood Soil
11. Beyond The Waves
Mercenary make a long-awaited return to the scene after a decade of absence, only to present us with their Soundtrack For The End Times.
The Danish heavy metal/melodeath band Mercenary are perhaps most well-known for helping shape and develop the Gothenburg metal sound. Now, they're back with their eighth full-length release since their establishment thirty-two years ago back in 1991, marking their return after a lengthy, ten-year absence. With a line-up consisting of their longest serving band member Jakob Mølbjerg (guitars), Martin Buus (guitars/keyboards), René Pedersen (bass/vocals), Martin Nielsen (drums), and Matt Heafy of Trivium as guest vocalist on "Heart Of The Numb", one can only wonder: is Soundtrack For The End Times a worthy comeback?
We have seen an interesting style develop throughout Mercenary's discography, with the fusion of Gothenburg-styled melodeath, thrash, and heavy/alternative metal—a particular style that's like no other. Perhaps their most remembered time period was from 2002-2008, during which they released several very impressive albums such as The Hours That Remain (2006), Architect Of Lies (2008), and perhaps the band's most well known and critically acclaimed 11 Dreams (2004). So, onto this latest offering. We've all heard stories about the end times, haven't we? Some scenarios are, of course, more exaggerated than others, and the apocalyptic theme has very often been used in metal (particularly at the extreme end of metal, these days). Well, the album title obviously suggests to me that Mercenary opt to take such a theme into their own hands here. On the other hand, perhaps it could also mark the end times for the band themselves? Well, let's hope that's not the case.
With the opening track "Burn In Reverse", the album begins in true Gothenburg fashion: through heavy melodeath riffs, accompanied by light melodic keyboard/synth-work, heavy rhythmic drumming, and that signature combination of clean vocal choruses, aggressive vocal verses, and minor death growls (which are present especially towards the end). This track is certainly catchy, with a memorable chorus and a short but sweet solo at the mid-way point that stands out in particular. However, while the opening song is, in general, well constructed and certainly produced excellently, there's neither anything out of the ordinary, nor do I find anything particularly mind-blowing about the songwriting. However, this is only the start, and, as opening tracks go, this still isn't a bad start, by any means. After all, you still have another ten tracks ahead, which don't necessarily drop too much in quality along the way (this is excellent news if you like what you hear from this opener).
If there's one thing I can say about Soundtrack For The End Times, it's that this is one of the band's most impressively produced releases to date. The sound quality is excellent, with the mixing between the synths, guitars, and bass being expertly executed. Still, the songwriting (which is not bad by any means) has a lot that's left to be desired; sometimes it feels as though there's a little too much going on at once, and I personally think the album would have benefited from slightly holding back with the structural complexity. Despite of this, there are several elements which I find stand out, the first being the many impressive solos which are heard throughout such as on the track "Where Darkened Souls Belong" (although, to be fair, most tracks contain a memorable solo—often being the main highlight of the track, in fact). One thing you'll be glad to know is that not every track here sounds the same. The style, rhythm, and overall approach does vary from time to time. For instance, take "Through This Blackened Hatred", which, although anything but blackened, is clearly one of the more aggressive tracks that the album offers, taking a more direct thrash route as opposed to alternative or melodeath. Then you have "Anthem For The Anxious", which is easily one of the more accessible tracks with its catchy songwriting, memorable melodic riffs, and striking chorus. Another prominent feature on this track for me is the Dark Tranquillity-esque synth-work (which is equally noticeable on "Black Heart Dead Tissue"), with which the sound and style have a striking resemblance to the album Fiction.
Yet, the main stand-out track on the entire album for me is "From The Ashes Of The Fallen". This is a song that features some of the most impressive riffing on the album as well as the most diverse range in vocal styles, from hardcore shouts to growls to aggressive and soft cleans. Plus, there's some immense instrumental layering, which, again, is masterfully produced. However, not every track is of equal quality, and, for me, the album as a whole ultimately lacks in consistency, leaving room for improvement in the overall songwriting department. This is far from what I would describe as a bad album, yet is far from the quality of 11 Dreams. Still, it may appeal to the vast majority of traditional Gothenburg metal fans. It has its memorable moments for sure and certainly has an excellent sound quality. But, for me, it lacks in areas that made their previous releases great.
||Written on 30.09.2023 by Feel free to share your views.|
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