posted on 4/2011 By:
Formerly known as Profugus Mortis, Canada’s Blackguard has the distinctions of being one of the few bands playing epic folk metal from the Great White North, one of the few bands with a female drummer who's actually worth a shit AND one of the few bands signed to Victory Records that I can actually tolerate.
Yeah, epic folk metal on Victory Records -- I know, right? I should mention I loathed to review a Victory release after the Taproot debacle, but this at least falls into realms of metal we cover here, no questions asked. I can’t believe Napalm Records hasn’t come sniffing around yet though.
In a nutshell, Blackguard continues the very enjoyably Finnish-inspired tones from their 2009 Sumerian Records debut, Profugus Mortis: galloping, synth drenched, melodic power-cum-black metal with more than a passing nod to the likes of Ensiferum, Turisas and early Children of Bodom. So if that sort of bouncy, upbeat and cheesily self-aware metal is liable to upset you, save yourself some time from lashing about how this band sucks or Victory sucks, go read a Devourment review and bury your head in a bucket of Unique Leader CDs.
Not much has changed from the debut. Keyboardist Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc (Ex Deo) has amicably departed, but the synths are still abundant and appropriately epic as Firefight essentially continues where Profugus Mortis left off. with happily cantering power metal and thrash riffs and lots of shredding and Paul Zinay’s blackened -- but admittedly at times, grating -- rasps. It’s not quite ready to compete with their Finnish peers, but there’s plenty of cheesy rousing metal to satiate most folk metal fans.
Where the debut had a couple of highlights to start the album (“The Sword”, “This Round’s On Me”) then some fun but slightly samey material to flesh out the rest of the album, Firefight sees a few more quality tracks scattered throughout. The title track and the steady, somber march of “Wastelands” highlight the album's first half. While “A Blinding Light” and standout closer “Sarissas” -- which could actually go toe to toe with Ensiferum -- highlight the album's second half with more restraint and rousing keys. But the likes of “Farewell”, “Cruel Hands” and “The Path” seems to replicate their proceeding tracks. (“Cruel Hands” even uses the exact same chorus line as “Wastelands”.)
Ultimately though, Blackguard isn’t quite there yet. There’s energy; there’s passion, and there’s a few songs here; and there’s polish that all comes together for something enjoyable yet disposable. Personally, I’m more enjoying the debut CD from fellow, unsigned Canadians Bolero for my fix of epic Canuck folk metal.
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