Review Summary: Merciless release their most melodic, progressive album to date
Merciless are no strangers to the thrash and death metal genres, with a career spanning from the late 80’s to early 90’s Merciless grew up with thrash and molded alongside death metal. Throughout their career Merciless experimented with various levels of speed, brutality and songcraft but always stayed true to their somewhere-between-death-and-thrash roots. In their 1994 release ‘Unbound’ the band produced their most death metal album to date.
Merciless upon their past releases play a style of death metal focused on being fast and hard hitting, with some of the crisp, cut edge of death metal tone to add for backbone. Rather than focusing on skull crushing, the band has generally been more inclined to focus on melody and ‘Unbound’ stands as their most melodic release to date. Here there is a shift; no longer is there a focus on the greatest output or beat per minute, but rather on tight songwriting around technical riffs. Setting their sights on much larger structures and movements the album boasts the longest songs featured in Merciless’ discography.
The songwriting found on this album is rather progressive and interesting featuring many tempo changes, variations and styles. The frequent changes in tempo are fluid and make the album much more gripping, as the band plays very well both when heavy and when playing softer. It is usually during softer sections that the band takes out more opportunity to experiment with progressive drawn out passages, interplaying with the bass and moods. The transitions are especially smooth due to the very impressive drum work which takes full control of any style handed to it, making songs thick and heavy, fast and blistering, heck- even just the general fills take the album up a level. There is always something new being offered around every corner, but consistently the band manages to stay tight throughout.
While there is a lot of diversity and genre influences the exact identity and feel of it being belonged to Merciless is not always there. The riffs and transitions are purposefully agile, leaving some ideas unrealized while some forgettable in the grand scheme of the album as in comparison to particular highlights. The vocals are also often too high in the mix, taking away from what ultimately is an album all about the melodic and progressive prowess. While the delivery is strong it may not be necessarily suited at all times for this style of playing.
Unbound is an excellent album featuring a diverse display of talent and progression. Merciless being early pioneers in the death metal game were all about pushing the envelope and changing. Featuring their tightest songwriting yet, Merciless prove that death metal has much more to offer than blistering riffs alone.