Mercenary - 13/04/2008

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 to answer.


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 retrospective?

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 into being?

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 That Remain’.

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 we’ll see.



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 the band?

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


Albums :
Supremacy  EP (1996)
First Breath (1998)

Everblack (2002)

11 Dreams (2004)

The Hours That Remain (2006)

Architect Of Lies (2008)