I was vaguely aware of the now retired Bolt Thrower from Coventry England. Somehow I had it in mind that they were a Power Metal outfit? Well Bæst and their cover of No Guts, No Glory turned me onto this record and oh boy have I enjoyed it! Mercenary is a moderately simple yet very effective riff led expedition into a torrent of punishing mid tempo grooves. The band's sound borders Death, Thrash and Groove Metal, mostly the first. Its a melting pot of styles swaying between cruising low end melodies and surges of muscular guitar work with momentous persuasion.
The production is admittedly a hurdle to pass, requiring volume as its thick, dense guitars bleed into the consciousness. Its a tad muddy and monotone but serves its purpose as the groove and grind gets to resonate through this burly heaving sound. The drums plays a fantastic roll in illuminating the rhythm guitar, often hammering out steady grooves that pivot to alternates, making the same riff bounce with a renewed energy. Its not flashy and certainly doesn't overbear with blast beats and the like. They simply guide everything along its path with a powerful and effective chemistry.
Like an inconsequential layer of gruesome sound, Karl Willetts shouts his meaty groans and growls with a brutish demeanor. Its a rather atypical guttural performance that rarely breaks stride. It adds little to the music other than a reinforcement of variation over the looping riffs below him. I could take it or leave it. Given the discernible nature of the 90s Death Metal vocal style there was little of the war themed lyrics that came across with any solidity. Some of the easier understood hooks had rhyme and reason to them, especially on the aforementioned No Guts, No Glory.
The best aspect of Mercenary are the riffs, an arsenal of power chords, chugging grooves, low string grinding all spliced with darkly melodies to forge a riveting atmosphere. Its heavy on repetition with short bars being looped, the drums helping them along as the patterns often pivot to revitalize. The heavy is momentous and crushing, the melodies dark and foreboding and their pace moving together is perfect for that infectious head banging a metal head loves. Its the sort of Death Metal I enjoy most, not strictly but with a spice of other sounds. Great record, gotta check out more!