Some of us are old enough to have been there at the start of the death metal movement of the late 80’s/early 90’s and a lot of us, including myself, yearn for those days and the classic albums that defined the death metal genre. You had two major fronts of the death metal sound that you were craving, namely the Scandinavians and those from Florida. After those scenes had defined the sound of death metal, bands from Europe surfaced from the underground like Vader, Pestilence and in this very case, Century Media picked up French deathsters Mercyless after releasing an underground classic Abject Offerings.
Mercyless went back into the studio with the then relatively unknown producer Colin Richardson and released a more mature offering in Coloured Funeral. Finding this album, though, was like finding a needle in a haystack and only now has Xenocorp teamed up with Century Media to re-release this underground classic album and, for the first time, on vinyl.
Coloured Funeral was not an easy album to get into and required multiple listens before you fully grasped the idea of what was going on. This is not a criticism of the music, it’s highlighting that there is so much going on in each song due to the technical proficiency of each member of the band. There were far more technical bands like Suffocation and Nocturnus and there are certainly elements of their sound on this album, but Mercyless had created intricate and precise song writing that made this an essential listen back in the day.
“Spiral of Flowers” opens things up and its fast intense riffage and drums blast through the speakers. There are no blast beats, just fast intense speed and the sound of the guitar ripping your speakers to shreds. Vocals from Max sound a bit like David Vincent’s and are delivered in a similar fashion too. The drums from Gerald were huge in creating this sound, especially when there were drums and vocals playing at the same time where they took the unusual step of enhancing the drums when the vocals were playing and lowering the guitars in the mix.
“Mirrors of Melancholy” is another highlight due to the complexity of the song structures. This whole CD may require a couple of listens before you really get it and understand it, but when you do, it’s so rewarding. This song just oozes class and the musicianship on show here is superb. This band really did deserve better things. If only they had stuck to this style.
“Travel Through a Strange Emotion” again highlights the strength of the riff that Mercyless possess and the irony is that Mercyless have portrayed the song title and displayed a variety of emotions when playing this song. There are the softer, lighter touches as if they are writing a death metal style love song to aggressive fast pace riffs. It’s like Mercyless are toying with the listener. It’s been a pleasure listening to this album again after all these years and it stands the test of time to still be a classic death metal record.
“Forgotten Fragments” is where Mercyless pick up the pace but still manage to pull the song off with perfect intricate leads that are influenced by Death, Gorguts and Asphyx. The sound of this album is simply superb and everything can be heard clearly, especially when the guitar leads are prevalent through each song. Class.
The next song that catches my attention is “Serenades (Into Your Limbs)” which has so many time changes in it at one stage I even thought I heard a Megadeth riff in there mixed with Kerry King- influenced guitar leads. Again, this song is perfectly constructed and keeps the listener captivated, making sure that repeat button is immediately pressed.
“Naked Forms” is by far the fastest song on the album with blast beats from Gerald which would have been stunning to watch the pit go mental to. This is brutality of the highest order but played in such a way that you have to appreciate the talent on show here. The riffs fly by you at a rate of knots but its so well put together and with multiple time changes. It’s as if Mercyless got into the studio and said “let’s write the fastest song that we can”. It is to this day a brilliant song.
“Beyond God” is the final song on this album and it starts off with a tapping riff from Stephane. Guitar leads are prevalent throughout the song, much in the vein as to what Nocturnus were doing at the time – far less technical, but much more striking. This is a fitting song to end the album and was one of my many favourites from the album. I think the song showcases best the time changes and again may require more than the first listen to fully comprehend.
There we have Coloured Funeral, an overall masterpiece of an album that was criminally hard to get a hold of until now. Be sure to collect the version of your choice as you will not be disappointed. We all know that Mercyless went in completely the wrong direction as did a lot of death metal bands in the mid 90’s (Massacre and Entombed come to mind) but now that Mercyless are regularly releasing music again and playing death metal, I urge each and every one of you to remind yourself of why death metal was so good in the first place. Buy!
Coloured Funeral is out now