Release DetailsLABEL Century Media
RELEASED ON 8/22/2006
The Hours That Remain
posted on 8/2006 By:
For those of you hoping Mercenary would release 11 Dreams Pt.2 with their greatly anticipated followup, The Hours That Remain, you probably won’t be getting what you’re looking for. Just accept this right off the bat, for it’s not only an entirely different animal than its groundbreaking predecessor, it’s a much easier album to take overall for the unaccustomed. I’d compare the progression Mercenary makes between the two albums as paralleling the forward motion Sanctuary took between Refuge Denied, and Into The Mirror Black. The Hours That Remain is a more focused, direct, and sustainable album, which shows the band concentrating more on abundantly memorable songwriting, resulting in a rather conservative, linear listening experience. But to be honest, by the same token, this scaled-back approach sometimes lacks the elusive, unpredictable bite that made Mercenary so compelling in the first place.
While certain edgier elements might have been stripped down and condensed a bit into something less robust, taken on its own without comparing past achievements, The Hours That Remain contains one of the more cohesive, substantial collections of metal songs to be found on any album released this year. If you’re worrying they’ve become too accessible, fear not, for the music here is not only respectably enduring, there’s just enough gnawing Fear Factory-esque crunch & rhythm to keep things from sounding too light. Nevertheless, Mercenary go for a smooth traditional metal sound this time around, full of understated melodies and sparse harmonies rather than indulging in histrionic excesses, sacrificing bare Swedish death elements and mind-melting layered falsetto for something more wide-reaching, and in the process, a little less remarkable overall than what I personally enjoy, but none of it sucks.
Soilwork’s Bjorn “Speed” Strid, and Marcus Bischoff of Heaven Shall Burn make guest appearances on vocals, and aside from their contributions, the singing is actually quite palatable overall. There is still a wide variety of commanding vocalizations utilized here, from blackened snarling to a more throat-racking growl, but the majority of the singing is melodic mid-ranged rapture as featured on the statuesque “Lost Reality”, and the exquisite arrangement of “Soul Decision”, both of which rival the greatest moments of the excellent Pharaoh & Communic releases from this year.
While the music is still dynamic and adventurous, there are points throughout The Hours The Remain that sound less thought-out than previous efforts, and almost too catchy. None of it is poppy or commercial, but there’s very little here that really jumps out and grabs your attention as being something significant. The riffs are carried along almost nonchalantly at some points, perhaps inattentive of the loss of overall volume and girth caused by the reduced usage of synthesized keys. It seems as though Mercenary wanted to present a more natural, mature, no-frills side of the band, and in many regards they greatly succeeded, but the amphibious grit of their previous material is less prevalent, and missed.
Mercenary certainly have nothing to defend or be ashamed of with The Hours That Remain, for their musicianship is impeccable if not somewhat played down, they have a clear and precise direction, and have crafted an album packed with some of the finest note-for-note, pure metal compositions you’ll find. I just think the band is capable of doing more, and this certainly isn’t a ‘write-off’ disc by any stretch, but hopefully they’ll put a little more firepower behind their next release. Still, I can’t help but to strongly recommend this if you have a little extra cash in your metal budget to spend, and this is a no-brainer purchase for fans of the band already. Good stuff, I just wanted a little more.
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