March 17, 2011
In late 2009, Mercenary's lineup was sliced in half with the departure of vocalist Mikkel Sandager, keyboardist Morten Sandager, and drummer Mike Park. With the exodus of so many members, most bands would have just called it quits. But Mercenary soldiered on, reducing their lineup to a four-piece group and expanding their roles to cover all instruments. Many fans remained skeptical, though, doubting that the band could reach even a shadow of their former excellence without the Sandager brothers or Park in the band anymore. In particular, the impending absence of Mikkel's soaring power metal vocals caused a great deal of apprehension among longtime fans, as his vocal style helped to shape the band's best material. Surprisingly, though, Mercenary's first outing with their new roster, the aptly-titled Metamorphosis, is a good album with a lot of positive aspects to compensate for the missing pieces.
When a band is the most prolific in the world to play a particular type of music, the temptation often exists to rest on one's laurels, release sub-standard material, and generally show disregard for previous success in favor of basking in the sunshine of success. This usually leads to the swift downward spiral and implosion of that band. The only way to avoid that is to do what Swedish titans Amon Amarth have done: never release anything that is less than excellent, always try to be better than your previous material, and never stop to admire past successes. For the better part of two decades, Amon Amarth has been the biggest producer of self-styled "Viking metal" in the world, eclipsing many veteran bands playing a similar style and simultaneously outshining every newcomer that has entered their genre. Their latest opus, Surtur Rising, further cements Amon Amarth in their status as the greatest Viking metal group of all time.
March 13, 2011
No metal band has a more divided fan base than Children of Bodom. Over the course of a career spanning close to 15 years, the Finnish group has repeatedly churned out albums that only exacerbate the fragmentation of their listeners. This is not due to a lack of skill, as the talent of frontman and lead guitarist Alexi Laiho has never been in question. Rather, genre consistency has always been an impossibility for the group, as each album modifies the sound from its predecessor in some way, shape, or form. Starting out as a death metal group with thrash and black metal influences, transitioning into a death-thrash hybrid, and even showing subtle metalcore influences on their last two albums, Children of Bodom just couldn't seem to decide how they should sound. However, the band's newest full-length album, Relentless Reckless Forever, actually takes a few steps back and finds a consistent tone that should please most Bodom fans.