MERCENARY - Learning To Kral
by Martin Popoff

Danish veterans Mercenary slayed the metal world with previous record 11 Dreams. Just look at the list at the band's website, and you'll see no shortage of superlatives (and perfect grades, my 10/10 included) for the band's dark progressive sound, one that has steadily evolved through four full-lengths from death to something in the Evermore/Evergrey vein of trudging, note-dense melodics.

But on the band's new album, Mercenary have been forced to carry on without their founder, guitarist and "engine," Kral, leaving vocalist Mikkel Sandager and his quite large contingent to plot the future force of the band, post-divorce.

Some surprises ensue, notes Sandager. "The main thing with this new record is that everybody in the band participated in writing the songs. Everything was done as a unit, for the first time, actually, ever. Also, we just started writing the songs three months before we went into the studio, which is pretty unusual for Mercenary, because we used to take a long time writing. And of course, one of the main things is that Kral was missing from the songwriting process, and when he left us, we had to sort of walk new territory, so to speak.

Charting Kral's departure, Mikkel explains that, "about a week or something into the Nevermore tour, October/November of last year, he grew tired of touring. This had been going on for pretty much the whole of last year, and we toured pretty heavily last year, and he was exhausted from touring, and became sort of disillusioned in some ways. He had been pushing this band for like 15 years, and I think he just grew tired of the fighting. The touring life was not for him. Family life pulled him back, mostly."

And the tenor and tone of Mercenary began to change... "Yes, well, the record is a bit more aggressive, more up-tempo that 11 Dreams," notes Sandager. "There are more clean vocals in it, due to the fact that I did all the songwriting of the vocal parts. And that being my strongest side, I made that the dominant thing. Apart from that, the keyboards are... this time around, we worked with them a little bit more (Morten Sandager is Mikkel's brother). We wanted to experiment a little more. The music became a bit more progressive than it used to be. We're not a death metal band anymore. Those days are over."

MERCENARY - Learning To Kral Page 2