Mercenary is a six-piece
metal band from Denmark that combines both power metal and melodic death
metal genres, and in their earlier work thrash metal; however, they are
simply "tagged" as a melodic death metal band by many. Mercenary was
formed in Aalborg, Denmark, in 1991. After the release of two demos,
Domicile (1993) and Gummizild (1994), they were able to sign with Black
Day Records, and released a four-song EP, ‘Supremacy’ (1996). In 1997,
they were signed to the Danish label Serious Entertainment, and a year
later they released their full-length debut, ‘First Breath’.
In 2002, the band decided to expand their sound with the
addition of vocalist Mikkel Sandager, as well as his brother Morten, who
introduced keyboards into their songs. This new line-up added new
dimensions to their sound, blending more melody into their more
aggressive heaviness. Mercenary's fame increased that year with their
slot on the ProgPower music festival in the United States, as well as
with the release of their second album, ‘Everblack’. It was after this
that the band fired drummer Rasmus Jacobsen, during this time, guitarist
Signar Petersen also left the band. Two old friends of Kral’s (drummer
Mike Park Nielson and Martin Buus Pedersen, fill in the two spots, and
with this new lineup, Mercenary were signed to Century Media Records.
In 2004, Mercenary released their third full-length, ‘11
Dreams. This proved to be their most commercially successful album,
earning much international attention from fans and critics alike. tours.
That year, Mercenary toured as a supporting act for Evergrey, and then
later with Brainstorm who were on their first headlining tour in Europe.
They also played on the 16th Wacken Open Air in 2005, and supported
Nevermore on a European tour later that year.
It was at the end of March of 2006 that the band
announced that Kral left the band. The band went about writing and
recording their fourth full-length as a five-piece, with Mikkel Sandager
performing all vocals, and the album’s producer Jacob Hansen handling
bass duties. On April 7, 2006 the band finished the recording at Jacob
Hansens Studios. Shortly after this, the band managed to snag
bassist/vocalist René Pedersen to fill in the void left by Kral.’ Their
new album, ‘The Hours That Remain’, was released in 2006. Mercenary’s
first headlining tour through Europe soon followed and the band played
several festivals in throughout the summer of 2007.
On October 21, 2007 they announced a follow up album to
‘The Hours that Remain’ was being recorded and produced. Mercenary’s
latest effort ‘Architect Of Lies’ came out on March 21, 2008 and to
promote the new release the band recently toured Europe together with
headliner Death Angel, so plenty questions for guitarist Jacob Molbjerg
First of all, how are you?
I’m great thanks, sitting in our tourbus in Budapest a
week into our tour with Death Angel and have finally managed to shake my
hangover from yesterday.
Your latest album ‘Architect Of Lies’ is due to be
released in a couple of weeks, so of course we’d like to ask you a
couple of questions about it!
Let’s go back in history for a bit. Just before you
entered the studio for ‘The Hours That Remain’ which came out in 2006,
bassist Krall left the band. Soon after you recorded that album you
found René Pedersen to step in. How do you feel about this situation now,
if you look back at the last two years with René, for instance do you
think the band has gotten stronger?
Yes, of course. We always wanted to return to having the
dynamics of two singers again, and René has given our sound the
aggression and edge we needed to get back.
What were the goals you had in mind when you started
to record ‘Architect Of Lies’, any elements you definitely wanted to
have on the album?
We wanted to do a more spontaneous album that was more
modern and direct and which had more of the raw energy from a live
situation, but still with our sound.
Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?
Yeah, we went into the studio with a certain vision for
the sound – it should be more organic and direct at the same time, and
this suited the material well I think.
In song writing, what is the important ingredient for
a song according to Mercenary?
We simply lay down our meanest riffs and get Mike to add
his best beats, and it all gets rolling from there. Our songwriting
always begins with the riff.
What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you
sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do
you wait until you get an idea and who responsible for the songs and the
lyrics on the new album?
Mikkel and Rene both write lyrics and melodies for this
album, and I think Morten also arranged some vocals. I guess they work
on both elements at once.
What do you think are the main differences between
your last album ‘The Hours That Remain’ and ‘Architect Of Lies’?
Obviously, that we’re back into shape with two singers,
and also we have managed to write shorter and more direct songs, which
are more to the point.
How did the recording process proceed and how much
time did you spend in the studio?
As always when working with Jacob Hansen, things went
smoothly. We spent about four weeks recording and mixing, I think.
You have already toured a lot with René Pedersen, how
important was his role in the writing process for ‘Architect Of Lies’?
He contributed a lot with vocal melodies, also some of
the ones that Mikkel sings and also lyrics for a couple of songs, like
The Endless Fall and Bloodsong.
How do you feel about this album – are you satisfied
with the outcome or would you have liked to have changed anything in
Well, we think somethings would have been better in
another way, we use that as an inspiration for the next album rather
than regretting something that can’t be changed.
Is there any typical way that a Mercenary song comes
All songs were written in such a way that me, Martin and
Mike write the guitar parts and create the song structures, and then the
other guys work on keyboard and vocal ideas.
Could you please describe the implications of the
title ‘Architect Of Lies’, what does it stand for and is there a special
meaning behind it?
I think the title fits the album well, because it’s
catchy, direct and has a good ring to it. It should make people reflect
on how we all construct lies in our lives on different levels.
What would you say are the main themes in your lyrics,
can you explain and tell something more about them?
Since it’s Mikkel who wrote most of them, I can’t really
elaborate too much. But there’s a lot of inspiration on this album from
interviews with the serial killer Iceman.
Is the music written independently of the lyrics or do
you try to reflect lyrical ideas through the music?
No, it’s always the other way around – we use lyrics as a
conceptual sidedish to the music, so to speak. They add colour and
flavour to people`s experience of the music.
Do you have any favorites on ‘Architect Of Lies’,
songs that you think are somehow above the others?
My personal fave is ‘This Black and Endless Never’
because it’s dark, epic and really ripps. Execution Style is also fun to
play live because it is a lot faster than most of our songs.
The production was done by Jacob Hansen. What made him
the perfect producer for ‘Architect Of Lies’?
That he has an ability to make every detail and
instrument sharp and distinct, while giving the broader sound a full,
rich and extremely heavy sound.
In which things/songs of the new album can one clearly
hear his vision and ideas?
All of them, actually. He creates a framework within
which our music lets itself come to life.
How important is producer Jacob Hansen for Mercenary?
You have been working with him for a long time now, have you ever
thought of working with someone else? Or do you guys feel more like 'never
change a winning team'?
He’s almost the seventh member. And this time we wrote
the album in only about two months, so we needed a producer we trusted
absolutely to give all the raw ideas a coherent sound. We obviously like
working with him but we’re also not a dogmatic band in any way. Who
knows what the future will bring.
Have you taken into account your old-school fans? Some
of them were not too happy with the more melodic sound on ‘The Hours
Honestly, we just write the music that we like to play.
No matter if our sound progresses or remains the same, somebody will
always be dissatisfied, so why bother.
Finally, where do you see Mercenary going in the
coming years, or do you not think to the future too much?
Truth be told, we always plan ahead to make the best of
our options. We’ll do some festivals, a Danish tour and then head on a
European tour again, maybe a headliner tour or a supporttour. After that
Ok, now some questions to enable our readers to get to
know you a little better:
How did you get involved in the music business?
Simply by starting to play guitar in a local band, and
luckily getting a chance to play in Mercenary back in ’95. Since then
it’s been one day at a time.
What songs and bands do you listen to these days?
On this tour I’ve mostly been listening to Tom Waits,
Tool, Ulver, the new Tiamat, Morcheeba and the new album by Warrel Dane,
which turns out to be a great album.
Is there anything you like to do besides your job in
Who said I even like being in the band? Nah, just kidding.
When I’m not doing my freelance day job or trying to keep the band from
splitting up, I’m just an incredibly ordinary guy who likes to chill
out with my Xbox 360, sci-fi literature, movies, keeping myself in shape,
eating good food and enjoying life with my family, friends and my
girlfriend. And then I have also spent nearly a decade attaining a
degree in philosophy at University, which isn’t getting me a fat flying
fuck right now.
With all the touring and six albums under your belt,
how far has Mercenary surpassed your original dreams and what would you
say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?
Well, being on stage with Megadeth doing backingvocals
for ‘Peace Sells’ with the rest of the guys after supporting them last
month really blew my mind and is way beyond anything I’d expected to do
with this band. But in general the most rewarding thing is to shape new
dreams like recording, touring, playing festivals, and actually seeing
such dreams being realized. Being moderately well liked and respected
by fans and the press ain’t the worst thing on top.
Do you regard Mercenary as a progressive band -
musically and/or performance-wise?
I think we have progressive elements, but are not a
progressive band as such. We toy around with different time measures and
inspirations, but only to the extent that it makes the songs better,
it’s never a goal in itself.
So tell us a little about yourself personally and the
kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your
lyrics. What are you into?
Well, as a guitarplayer my first and everlasting love has
always been for the big powerful, rhythmic and edgy riffs as well as the
dark, heartcrushing melancholic stuff. The attempts to write a few
myself have always given me a thrill which keeps inspiring me to write
new stuff. I don’t write any lyrics, but I come up with many song titles
for the album, like Bloodsong, Public Failure Number One and Execution
Style on this album, and I basically always try to find new ones which I
think fit our aesthetics.
How do you see the future of Mercenary, do you think,
for instance that the band will still exist ten years from now?
Right now we’re in the middle of a very creative and
rewarding period, where we constantly achieve new aims and expand. If
this continues, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be here in 666 years even.
What is your opinion on the death /thrash / power
metal scene these days, is there anything missing?
First of all I don’t listen to any powermetal whatsoever,
and only a few new thrash- and deathmetal bands. I think there’s a lot
of loyalty among many bands to the expectations within certain ‘scenes’
which makes many bands conservative and stale in my opinion. I like when
bands stand out with a sound of their own and combine unusual elements
and make them their own. Gojira is a good example from the deathmetal
scene, I absolutely love them.
Which album has been your biggest musical influence,
one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?
Probably Heartwork by Carcass.
Okay, if you could choose three bands to get on stage
with, who would they be?
Of bands we haven’t played with yet, Metallica, Carcass
and Arch Enemy. But I definitely wouldn’t mind sharing the stage once
more with bands like Megadeth and Nevermore.
Is there anything left unmentioned? Any last statement
or anything you'd like to add...
Yeah, we have a new video out for the track ‘Isolation’
on youtube, check that out, and come to our shows – I promise you all,
the new songs absolutely ripp live.
Okay, thanks for the interview!
Current members :
Mikkel Sandager - Vocals
Martin Buus - Lead guitar
Jakob Mølbjerg - Guitar
René Pedersen - Bass, Vocals
Mike Park Nielsen - Drums
Morten Sandager - Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Former members :
Henrik "Kral" Andersen - Bass, Vocals
Rasmus Jacobsen - Drums
Signar Petersen - Guitars
Nikolaj Brinkman - Guitars
Jakob Johnsen - Drums
Supremacy EP (1996)
First Breath (1998)
11 Dreams (2004)
The Hours That Remain (2006)
Architect Of Lies (2008)