Mercenary

The Hours That Remain

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After struggling for recognition and creative direction throughout the '90s, Denmark's Mercenary finally turned some heads and hit their creative stride with 2004's acclaimed 11 Dreams: a sophisticated mixture of death metal, black metal, power metal and progressive rock tendencies akin to other respected contemporaries like Nevermore, Scar Symmetry and Communic. Not surprisingly, the band strays little from this flexible and fertile formula on that album's impressive follow-up, 2006's The Hours That Remain, finding, in fact, endless new ways to explore their ample possibilities in almost-always exciting new songs, epitomized by heady opener "Redefine Me." The result is that, regardless of their often complex structures and rarely obvious chord progressions, further standout cuts like "My World Is Ending," "This Eternal Instant" and "Obscure Indiscretion" find easy purchase on the listener's brain. It doesn't all necessarily come together on each and every song ("My Secret Window" gets a little too cheesy in the chorus, and is wisely hidden towards the back), but you have to hand it to a band when even their occasional forays into epic territory (see "Lost Reality" and the apocalyptic title track) prove this immediate -- even as their alternating bursts of violent guitar thrashings with sculpted synthesizer runs; melodic vocals with blood-curdling shrieks have them splitting the difference between Dream Theater and Opeth. Finally, and as if you couldn't tell from many of its song titles, the album's lyrical outlook is anything but positive, but rather mulls repeatedly over the human race's inevitable demise, should it insist on pursuing a reckless and destructive path. Yet, if The Hours That Remain is anything to go by, at least the soundtrack to Armageddon should be a good one.

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