Because some of our readers may, in fact, be so full of vitriol that the combination of Justin Timberlake and Paxil just isn’t doin’ it for them anymore, we bring you our bimonthly metal column, “Angry Music for Angry People,” written by MetalSucks‘ Axl Rosenberg, a.k.a. Matthew Goldenberg. In this installment, he looks at the Danish power-metal band Mercenary:
Sub-genre(s): Power metal, melodic death metal
Best known for: Being underappreciated
For people who like: Melodrama, thinking of Hamlet as a rock opera waiting to happen, weeping during episodes of Lost, Iron Maiden
Most interesting member: Lead guitarist Martin Buus. Born in 1983, he was only 17–a good decade younger than most of his bandmates–when the group met him while he was working in a guitar store.
Fun fact: This Mercenary is not the hip-hop group that performs “Gone Sleep N***a,” no matter what iTunes tells you.
Overview: Mercenary might not be “angry music” so much as “anguished music.” The band shares a penchant for philosophical ruminations and emotional proclamations with a certain Shakespearean hero who also hails from its home country of Denmark (from the song “Lost Reality:” “Nothingness reality/ Still my desperate hunger/ End the questions/ But to be this innerline/ I drown myself to free my mind.”) Mercenary started as a pretty straightforward thrash band in the vein of old-school heavyweights like Metallica, but the band now mostly sticks to cleanly sung, highly melodious power metal–a symphonic style of hard rock that has its roots in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Like most power metal singers, vocalist Mikkel Sandager obviously feels most at home in the upper registers, and his operatic voice soars over the fast, technical, groove-based rock of the band. And, as mentioned before, his lyrics generally seem preoccupied with the haughty and semi-ethereal: Mercenary songs include “Into the Sea of Dark Desires,” “Lost Reality,” “Soul Decision” and the cry of drama/metal queens everywhere, “My World is Ending.” Tonally speaking, keyboardist Morten Sandager’s instrument sounds a lot like the highly stylized synths that dominated most ’80s pop, but his melodies are always melancholic, adding a sense of longing to music that might otherwise be straightforward.
Not that these guys don’t know how to get their mosh on. Bassist René Pedersen adds the occasional ghoulish shriek to the proceedings–it’s the only thing that really slots Mercenary in the “melodic death metal” category–and the band can execute a pummeling, trotting riff as well as anyone. If you’re in the mood for blood with no quarter asked nor given, Mercenary probably won’t provide very much satisfaction. On the other hand, if you’ve ever thought that scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker watches two suns set would be way cooler if you swapped out John Williams’ score for some metal, well, Mercenary should be right up your alley.