Sometimes when I listen to an album I really have no idea how to start the review. I can either just tell you what I hear, which will probably end up being a very dry sum of influences and elements, or I can try to grasp the feel of the album. Usually I prefer the latter but here that's a very tough thing to do. This is indeed a highly surprising album, blending nineties alternative rock with, and here we go, progressive metal, dark ambient, heavy metal, black metal, death metal and gothic rock.
The sheer number of bands that Mercy Brown reminds me of is as impressive as this debut is. Tool, Arch Enemy, Machine Head, Within Temptation, Sepultura, Otep, Opeth, Slipknot, Morbid Angel, Sick Of It All, Deftones, Fear Factory... The list goes on and on. However, somehow Mercy Brown succeeded in bringing all of these influences together and turn them into a very distinct sound.
The band was born in 2010 in Spokane, Washington (USA). Since then they shared the stage with a number of completely different sounding bands. Basically there's three highly talented and experienced musicians and one of the most versatile vocalists I've ever heard. Sera's voice ranges from brutal death growls and blackened screams to vigorous raspy punk and vivid 'female fronted metal' voices and she alternates them without losing a note. Combine this wide range of vocals with equally versatile musicians and you get something stunning.
The album opens with 'From The Sky', which is actually an intro and borrows heavily from the noise and dark ambient scene. 'Birds' immediately shows what this band is capable of by blasting out of my speakers with a crushing intensity. Although most of the songs are quite slow (why not add 'doom' to the list of influences as well), the sheer brutality of the death metal riffs and rolling bass are simply crushing. Here Sera comes up with some blackened crust vocals (sure, another genre reference...).
This constant pounding on our eardrums continues throughout the entire album, reaching a highlight in 'Hidden In Plain Sight'. It's here that I'm also becoming aware of the immense technical quality of Mercy Brown, indeed hidden in plain sight somewhere beneath the wall of sound created by stunning riffs and blasting drums. On 'In The Dark' the entire post-rock/metal scene comes knocking on my door, asking why the hell I forgot to mention them in this review. Like the noise/ambient scene earlier this one only has a small role in this play but it's there, nonetheless. It's mainly present in the alternation between calm, clean passages and fierce blasts of distortion.
Another highlight is 'One (the Edge of)', which was also a single earlier this year. I can understand why they selected this song as a single. One one side it's a bit calmer, call it 'radiofriendly' if you like while, on the other hand, still showing the techical abilities and the versatility of the band. For categorising-nerds this is also the easiest one to classify: 'Alternative Metal'.
And there you have it, beyond the immense variety of genres mentioned in this review, I think it's safe to classify Mercy Brown as one of the most interesting bands in the modern day alternative metal scene. I can only hope that one day they will come over to Europe and show their abilities to a hungry audience. I will be somewhere in the middle, or maybe in the back, yelling at people about how 'fucking awesome this is'.