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For a long time, I viewed Canada as a musical wasteland. This viewpoint was given to me by the various pop artists that come from there (none of which will be mentioned in this review). Well, Blackguard has thoroughly shattered that impression with the release of "Firefight".
This melodic 'epic metal' Canadian ensemble focuses on two things with this record: composition and execution. Their music takes immense skill to put on paper and flawless execution to do it justice. Another large piece of Blackguard's puzzle is atmosphere. I know I've mentioned a lot about the atmospheric conditions of other albums, but holy crap; here's a record that uses a well-crafted atmosphere extensively without it being tiring on the ears. I'm thoroughly convinced that if any band in the same genre as Blackguard tried to include as much atmosphere, it'd have much less positive effects on the music. It's one thing for tracks to sound similar enough to be placed on the same album; Blackguard's latest record debuts with an introductory instrumental track that leads right into the title track. It's an accompanying instrumental in the best form; it's not required to thoroughly enjoy the main song, but listening to it beforehand is another experience. This makes it enjoyable to take in all of the album, not all of the album minus the instrumentals.
Speaking of instrumentals, the forth track on the album, "Wastelands", is an instrumental for a good minute or so. It's a really nice instrumental, though, and while it's uncharacteristically slow, it's easily one of the best tracks on the album. In my opinion, it's second only to the title track, which features excellent riffing and pounding drums, as per Blackguard's usual. The vocals are enjoyable in general, but I particularly enjoyed them in "Fear of All Flesh", which comes right after instrumental "Iblis". This instrumental is more somber and slow, but serves to provide additional atmosphere rather than distancing itself from the rest of the album.
My only real gripe with the album is that, in many cases, you wouldn't know which song you were listening to. Oh, that slow one? That's "Wastelands". The fast one? With, uh, shrieking guitars? That's "Firefight". Or maybe it's "Cruel Hands"... I dunno. While all tracks are quite enjoyable, you can easily get lost in the album. Throw on your earbuds and go to sleep after the title track. If you wake up after "Wastelands", you'll wonder why the title track lasted thirty minutes.
All in all though, I can't complain. My live experience with Blackguard was epic, and this album was just as much, if not more. In the future, I'd hope to expect more individualism in their tracks, but other than that, no complaints. Whether you're a fan of Behemoth's drumming, GWAR's epic riffing, or just plain old epic metal in general, Blackguard is for you.
Finally, I'd like to quote the highest rated comment on the "Firefight" music video; I'd like to drum the drummer.
4.) "The Fear of All Flesh"
5.) "The Path"
I was one of the few who believed “Profugus Mortis” was a good album. Was it a perfect release? Of course not. But I felt it was a great effort from a band who I still believe is an up and coming folk/melodic death metal band. Now onto this album…
I say “a much needed improvement” because I feel they had something to prove to critics. After giving this album a listen, it seems to me like they read previous negative critiques, then went out and did something about it. Everything about “Firefight” has improved from the first album…both structurally and musically.
The first noticeable change is the use of keyboards. They don’t rely on the keys like they did in “Profugus Mortis.” The use of opera-style chanting keyboards, used in melodic black and viking/folk albums (ex: Thronar’s “Unleash the Fire”) can be a bit annoying after five minutes but overall it gives off a nice dark folksy tune. Guitar work here is exceptional. Each track is accompanied by at least one nice solo or catchy riff. Paul’s vocals are pretty much the same, but I find him more believable this time around.
Blackguard is going to be one of those bands who improve with each release. I’m quite sure Nuclear Blast signed this band because they could see the potential as well. I wouldn’t say I was blown away by “Firefight” but I am excited to see progress by a band I want to see succeed in the long run.