Mercenary The Hours that Remain

With their fourth studio album, Mercenary prove that bands like Sweden’s Opeth and Finland’s Stratovarius don’t have a monopoly on near-symphonic Scandinavian metal grandeur. This Danish sextet have gone through some radical line-up changes in their 15-year history, and actually lost founding bassist Henrik "Kral” Andersen back in March due to touring burn-out. Yet while some might have expected Mercenary to stumble in their follow-up to the highly acclaimed 11 Dreams, what we get instead is an impressive refinement of the progressive melodic thrash sound. Lead vocalist Mikkel Sandager channels the power of Dream Theater’s James LaBrie and Queensryche’s Geoff Tate on the epic opening track, "Redefine Me.” He’s just as compelling when screaming his guts out In Flames-style on "The Year of the Plague.” The atmospheric keyboards of Sandager’s brother Morten enjoy a prominence equal to the twin-guitar attack of Martin Buus and Jakob Mølbjerg. There’s something for metal fans of every shade here: three-quarters of the way through "Simplicity Demands,” for instance, the band kick into a razor-edged, chugging riff that could fit on a HammerFall record, but then veers off into more complex, layered progressive territory. The clean yet heavy production of Jacob Hansen, who’s also worked with the likes of Communic and Anubis Gate, showcases the skill of the musicians. The Hours that Remain should go down as a landmark in Danish metal history. (Century Media)