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As well as drawing attention to France's curious propensity for producing metal bands with slightly misspelled English monikers like Agressor, Massacra, and Carcariass (!?), Mercyless were one of a handful of French death metal bands to gain recognition outside their own borders during the genre's worldwide heyday during the early '90s. Founded as far back as 1987 in France's eastern Alsace region, Mercyless began recording home demo tapes by the very next year, and soon established a reputation for lyrics steeped in graphic horror and anti-Christian sentiments, perhaps best exemplified by their 1990 demo EP, Nauseating Vomit. Come 1992, the quartet of vocalist/guitarist Max Otero, guitarist Stephane Viard, bassist Rade Radojcic, and drummer Gerald Guenzi had been signed by the Vinyl Solutions label and unleashed its debut long-player, Abject Offerings, which drew decent reviews and many comparisons to contemporary albums by Holland's Pestilence (pre-prog-death wackiness) and Germany's Morgoth. The following year's Coloured Funeral was released by Century Media and fared even better by greatly improving upon this selfsame formula with better musicianship and increasingly varied songwriting tricks, but Mercyless were coming to a creative crossroads that would sideline them for several years to come as they tinkered further with their sound.
By the time the group finally returned with third album Cold in 1996, after replacing their original rhythm section with bassist Pierre Lopez, drummer David Kempf, and a keyboardist (who may or may not have been a machine) named Tom Smith, Mercyless' sound had lost most of its familiar death metal hallmarks and taken a concerted aesthetic turn toward the progressive. Clearly, the musicians in Mercyless had had their minds blown by the speedy stylistic progression undertaken by of the aforementioned Pestilence, as well as off-the-wall American acts like Cynic and Atheist, and attempted to evolve their music as well, whatever the cost, but the mixed results and outright rejection by 99 percent of their fan base nipped those lofty ideals right in the bud. Mercyless would persevere despite the bad reception, and released a fourth and final album, 2000's Sure to be Pure, after another extended hiatus and the replacement of drummer Kempf with one Tintin (who may or may not be a young Belgian reporter/drum machine). But this too proved to be too much of a sonic aberration (melding the same progressive failings of its predecessor with unconvincing post-thrash and nu-metal and embarrassingly bad lyrics) for their original fans to bear, and Mercyless finally realized it was time to pack it in. At least most of those original fans had already abandoned the group long before and weren't needlessly exposed to its final fall from grace. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
- Eastern Alsace, France
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