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When you drink too much - 23%

Aurora Rider, August 14th, 2018

Blackguard's first album has mostly received bad reviews. Why, you are wondering? The truth is once looking at the cover artwork of "Profugus Mortis", one will probably think of some adventurous folk metal songs, heroic symphonies and a bunch of drunk fellows singing about fantastic worlds of might and life. Well, the third one is what we have here, but apparently the guys got so drunk they weren't able to even record a medIocre album.

First things first, this band has a good keyboardist. He is actually so good, that he manages to play throughout the whole album non stop. Yes, almost every single second of this record has a crazy keyboard melody playing in the background, only to keep you unaware of how uninteresting the rest of the music really is. It's almost like a mosquito that doesn't let you sleep at night because it constantly buzzes next to your ear. That means completely unnecessary and annoying.

Besides the frenetic keyboards, there is little to appreciate in the rest of the album as well. From the boring drumming to the tiring guitar rifts and repetitions, the vocals are the worst part of "Profugus Mortis". An endless yelling voice which is absolutely too loud and from minute to minute will drive you dizzy. The most typicall example is "I Demon", where I would even catch myself wishing for the track to end from the very first second. The only thing I could consider good about this album is mixing and recording quality, since this full-lenghth is characterised by a clear crystallic sound.

That being said, high quality is not enough to make a good album. I can't say Blackguard have no skills. They seem to know how to play and maybe the songs of "Profugus Mortis" can eventually come to life at a live show. However, this record as a whole is rather disappointing, due to its lack of variety but mainly because of the lack of depth and essence. Please dear Blackguard, less drinking and more thinking next time.

And fade into oblivion. - 35%

Diamhea, February 24th, 2018

During the waning days of Myspace's reign, Blackguard, then known as Profugus Mortis, were getting quite a bit of attention - and for good reason. They had an accessible and tangibly epic sound, without coming off as particularly trite. The inclusion of a corporeal violinist in the skilled Émilie Livernois was another plus - but she departed, the band was picked up by a major label and presumably forced to change name to something more "marketable." So on Profugus Mortis, the band honoured their old moniker and proceeded to flatline their sound, sterilize it and shit out nine cornball odes to generic "folk" melodic death like Turisas and such. It's a slog, for sure.

The only true saving grace here are Lefrancois-Leduc's keyboards, which while overused in spots, still show that he has great potential. Dude is one of the most underrated keyboardists and has moved on to more behind-the-scenes roles nowadays, but he had a good grasp of the style attempted herein. The issue is that this attempt feels so forced and hamfisted. I couldn't help but feel that some sort of core influence was seeping during this period. Ablaze's vocals are for sure a contributor here, sometimes delivered in a deathcore sort of style. But then tracks like "This Round's on Me" sound tailor made for churning a mosh pit with fairly effective keyboard melodies. It's a bizarre mashup and I do like this particular track, but they executed it much better on "Firefight."

Sadly, the album totally falls off the map past "This Round's on Me." Tracks like "Allegiance" have some nifty keyboard runs amid calamitous, chunky backing riffs, but very little actually sticks. The distorted subtext is supposed to provide contrast to the glinting sheen of the synths, but the production is too antiseptic and sterile sounding. Blackguard ebb and flow between orchestrated bombast and choppy genre posturing courtesy of the feigned melodeath constituent. Tracks like "I Demon" contribute nothing but needless dissonance in an album that needs to cling onto major key synth runs to truly function at full power.

Man, this was just a total waste of time. It became pretty obvious that Blackguard were forced by circumstance to compile an album's worth of material in a short timeframe, and it shows. The full-length they released under the original moniker (So It Begins) suffered from incoherence as well. It's like they only had those two awesome tracks they streamed on Myspace way back then, and save for "This Round's on Me" and "Firefight" (the eponymous track), they never contributed anything else that even came close. Wasted potential.

Turisas, now with 100% more stupidity - 25%

Empyreal, February 5th, 2010

God bless Nuclear Blast. They’ve given us so many class acts, like Nightwish! Who…released an awful abomination of an album soon after they got there. Or Dimmu Borgir! Who…are almost completely unlistenable. Or Arsis! Who…went from technical, melodic and complex Death Metal to worthless, trendy Tech Death nothingness within three albums. Okay, so they don’t exactly have the best record, but that’s just because they need to make money, like any corporation. So they put out music that continually disappoints, even reducing good bands like Rage to mediocrity at times. It’s practically a cause for rioting. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that one of their newest corporate sell-out whores is Blackguard, who were formerly known as Profugus Mortis, and who debuted last year on this label with their first album, Profugus Mortis. Stunning originality, I know.

This is just music that makes me feel dumber as I listen to it. Nothing about this is in any way compelling or thought-provoking; it’s all very simple and basic. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing in some cases, but in this kind of speed-freak, technical jamboree of metal and folk influences, I’d expect some degree of thought to be put into something about it. Even their new name makes no sense; what kind of a name is Blackguard? It’s the kind of generic label that I’d expect to find on any kind of corporate logo. It could be an energy drink. A condom advertisement. A new brand of deodorant. What’s the connection to Heavy Metal?

The actual music is nothing short of uninteresting and annoying, the equivalent of a bunch of kids banging on pots and pans while the only one with a sore throat screams his lungs out…well, that’s probably how a lot of these kinds of bands got started, but I digress. There just isn’t much to say about this kind of stuff. It’s like Bal Sagoth without any songwriting talent. Sometimes they conjure up some vaguely good sounding melody or a riff that isn’t half bad, but that’s like one-in-five times. This band’s problem is that they have no subtlety. The keyboards are turned way up, the guitars bash out third-rate versions of already third-rate Korpiklaani riffs and the singer yowls like a banshee with its head cut off. Nothing is done in a way that entices the listener to hear more. Why would you want to? They sell themselves so goddamned short with the very first song that there isn’t a point in listening to the rest.

Indeed, “Scarlet to Snow,” the first track, is…okay, I’m about to embarrass myself here, because it really isn’t bad. The riffs are kind of fun and the band’s energy is endearing for all of three minutes, and that orchestral intro is pretty decent. So, like any third-rate act with no creativity or talent, what do they do? Repeat the same damn thing over and over again, drilling it into your consciousness until you are subdued into a mindless glaze. Or until you bang your head against the fucking wall because you can’t fucking take it anymore.

Every time they introduce some good idea, it is immediately flushed down the drain like Nuclear Blast was looking over their shoulders telling them not to write anything cool. Melodies and themes are repeated ad nauseam, with no regard for the listener’s peace of mind. It’s seriously like the band could have ended each of these songs a minute or even two minutes earlier, but they had to pad them out to make this a full length album, so they just repeated the same shit for an extra minute and a half. It’s excruciating. The silly, jingly keys are laid over this like butter on a cheap whore, and the whole thing just keeps annoying you over, and over, and over, and over…

I mean, goddamn! What the fuck is this, happy hour at the Finntroll clone bar? How is this entertainment? Blackguard may be trilling happily away at their pre-processed folksy instruments, but I’m sure not in any happy place tonight. I am just about sick of this happy-clappy, superficial electronic-folk-metal-lite bullshit, and I’m putting my foot down right here. Blackguard, you suck. Nuclear Blast, blow me. If this album is presented to you, just run; run far and run fast. I can’t stand even one more lick of this crap, so for me, this is over now. What a load of swill!

Booo! - 9%

MaDTransilvanian, January 23rd, 2010

One of the many wonderful things about the metal world is the frequency and importance of live concerts: they allow fans to witness their favourite bands live and, from time to time, discover new talents among previously unknown opening bands. Unfortunately concerts also have a much darker side to them, that of presenting talentless bands who never go beyond the opening band circuit, and with good reason. Even there, the vast majority of them don’t really offend too much because one will usually be forced to see them once, perhaps twice if particularly unlucky, and then it’ll all be over. Not with Blackguard, Nuclear Blast’s latest folk/melodic death metal gutterspawn band from Montréal, Québec. This band, which I’ve had the highly dubious honour of first witnessing in their slightly better early incarnation known as Profugus Mortis back in 2007, have now taken to constant touring throughout North America ever since obtaining their new name and their position on Nuclear Blast’s increasingly shitty band roster. At first it was annoying, but this has truly become what can only be called concert spamming: they’re actually on the verge of embarking on their sixth(!!!) tour in a little over a year. Six tours in so little time would be surprising but pleasant if we were dealing with, you know, a good metal band. But alas, good is about as far from being the defining word of Blackguard as snow is of Nigeria.

I’ve actually taken upon myself the task of hearing Blackguard’s only album, Profugus Mortis, in order to see if the horrendous shit I’m forced to hear so many times from six idiots on stage is as bad in studio form as it is live. It most certainly is very bad, although it’s still leagues ahead of their terrible live sound. As mentioned earlier, Blackguard play a kind of melodic death metal with some folk influences, which in this case mostly mean keyboards used way too fucking often over badly-done yelling and near-metalcore instrumentals. That’s right; this is that kind of so-called melodic death metal which is just an awful hairdo and some whiny lyrics away from being metalcore. With a whole lot of bad luck for the metal world, these guys may actually be the harbingers of a horrible new plague upon music: folkcore. It’s all there: first of all, there’s the constant, pointless yelling (as opposed to real harsh vocals used correctly). This guy, Paul Zinay, is one of the most monotonous vocalists I’ve heard in the world of metal. His vocals are a kind of cheap attempt at a death metal growl which ends up being reminiscent of many metalcore vocalists. Additionally, as if that wasn’t enough, he also seems to be constantly trying to imitate Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom, another one of the most talentless vocalists to grace my ears. At least Paul here isn’t doing any Dani Filth impressions, which would really seal the deal. One last thing that should be mentioned is this guy’s utter repugnancy on stage, both on account of his lack of talent and behaviour: he jumps around like a Mexican dancing bean on acid all the while subjecting the audience to his horrid yells and, once in a while, stagediving upon some hapless, unsuspecting fan, or rather innocent bystander as I can’t imagine the band having that many actual fans.

On the instrumental side of things, we have melodic riffs which also take a cue from the lowest of power metal while having that unpleasant star-stop pattern throughout, again reminiscent of metalcore. The drumming is relatively constant but gets on one’s nerves after a while for being both irritatingly simplistic yet at the same time too damn loud, due to the bad production job. In fact, everything is too loud, starting with those keyboards. Now, some melodies might actually be nice, such as the one at the very beginning of the album (Scarlet to Snow) until you realise that the thing is repeated ad nauseam alongside the same riffs until the end of the song. Rinse and repeat for every single song on this album until the melodies which you initially thought were catchy and fun to listen to make you want to puke. This, much like Dimmu Borgir’s Spiritual Black Dimensions (but still vastly inferior to that album), is the perfect example of an album which relies far too much on keyboards to carry it forward, suffering greatly as a result. Once the candy’s been tasted and you’re starting to become sick of it, there is absolutely nothing left here. Nothing, of course, except pointless near-metalcore riffs, unremarkable and loud drumming and those disturbingly retarded yells which never seem to want to end.

If one is to look for highlights the search will be very short because the songs have a very low replay value. The catchy is quickly substituted by the painful, and the whole thing becomes a real chore to listen to. The aforementioned opener, Scarlet to Snow, is still the least bad in this sea of nothingness, but other than that nothing stuck out except the (very) random acceptable riff and the occasional catchy and partly good chorus, like the one in Allegiance. The lyrics are some of the simplest ones I’ve read in a long time, going between depression, drinking and some vague war-related stuff. In the end, this album is like the bastard child of Finntroll, Children of Bodom, with a sprinkle of metalcore to top it all off. If must be avoided at all costs, because buying this album might encourage these morons to continue their never-ending touring and they might actually write and release more albums! The very thought of more Blackguard is nauseating. Perhaps the gods will spare the collective ear of all the metalheads of North America and make this sickening band disband, as quickly as possible.

Excellent Debut - 80%

Ubiquitous_Alien, September 20th, 2009

I first heard of Blackguard after seeing them kick off Summer Slaughter in Denver. Throughout the entire show they had incredible stage presence and musicianship which led to them walking throughout the crowd and talking with people after their set was finished. I personally met them all and was convinced enough to buy their album, Profugus Mortis. As if their musicianship didn’t stick out enough at the concert, it came through in an even clearer form on the disc. With that said, let’s start the review.

As the album begins, majestic sounding horns and strings play to give off an epic, somewhat royal feel to the atmosphere. This is just a mere build up to the fast paced riffs of “Scarlet to Snow”. Filled with relentless drumming, chugging guitars, creeping synths, and arpeggio filled leads reminiscent of neo classical shred every which way you look, the opening track immediately sets the mood for the listener. As I said before, there are solos galore; both on guitar and synth. Not only are solos frequent in the opening track, but also throughout the album. There are taps, sweeps, shreds, string skipped leads, and everything in between throughout this album. Even the bass player has a moment of solo work in “Cinder” as well as some interesting rythyms to thump behind the wall of music being produced from everyone else. With all of the pounding drums, chugging guitars, pumping bass, and artificial horns provided by the keyboard player, they add much originality to the folk metal scene that has such an abused sound nowadays. From this originality, it’s no wonder Nuclear Blast picked them for the best myspace band contest winners over all other competitors, which led to their name change of Profugus Mortis, to Blackguard.

So with this epic folk shred sound going for them, who could possibly lead this group vocally? Well, the answer is quite simple. Paul Zinay is able to fit his vocals fit the music like a glove. While he isn’t the best vocalist, his vocals go well with the music. Typically staying in a higher range, Zinay is also capable of some decent low-end growls for the darker parts of the nine songs. A downside to him is his limited range, as well as how inaudible he is. He tends to stay in his comfort zone while screaming, but then again, with how much he tends to scream in the songs, it’s understandable, considering it’s a wonder he has enough air to perform the songs. The few breaks he gets come from the instrumental sections, typically in the middle of the song. Other than that, he’s screaming at an almost constant rate, keeping up with their drummer who never seems to let up on the double pedal, whether it she’s flat out peddling, or playing complex pedal patterns that weave in and out of her stick work.

So with all of the good, there must also be bad, thankfully, there aren’t too many bad things about this release. As mentioned before, the vocals stay within a limited range, which isn’t a very bad thing, but it does suck some of the possible originality out of the music that could have be attained if Zinay had been able to successfully experiment a bit. Now comes the main drawback of this release. While the leads are fantastic, and frequent, they are very over used. The triads and sweeps that appear in some songs, tend to resurface in other songs such as “Scarlet to Snow” and “The Sword” which share similar, if not, identical leads. While the leads to sound bad, they just make the album seem repetitive before it’s even over, which is disappointing considering this release had the potential to be great rather than just good.
There aren’t any bad or filler songs on this album, but there are definitely some stand out songs. Check out the lead happy “Scarlet to Snow”, the incredibly fast paced “This Round’s on Me”, the dark feel of “I Demon”, the chanting choirs during the bridge in “The Sword” (my personal favorite song), and the folksy yet battle ready “The Last We Wage.” Even if this group has released an album under a different name, their Nuclear Blast debut under the name Blackguard is worth a listen from all fans of fast, melodic metal.