Blackguard: Firefight

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Blackguard: Firefight
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Blackguard: Firefight
Folk Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Power Metal
Victory Records
March 29th, 2011
Release length: 43:36
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After meeting with some very dismal reviews, the renamed Profugus Mortis act Blackguard came out of nowhere in the pirate wars of Metal. It was hard for the group to stand up against acts like Swashbuckle and Alestorm given the group’s heavy Children of Bodom-style of music on their debut release, Profugus Mortis. However, after switching out from Nuclear Blast Records to Victory Records, the group finds a stronger new life and sound that still finds the band taking from the Children of Bodom school of performance, but at the same time finds the group expanding past the more generic compositions and adding a slightly more unique flare to the recording. This is…well…still idolworship, but it’s at least idolworship at it’s best.

Firefight finds Blackguard expanding on the blueprints laid out on their previous release, and really finds the band trying to create a unique interpretation of a sound that has become highly popular in the Metal world. And in many ways, the band has met this challenge well. The music here feels a lot more stylish compared to their earlier offerings, and the generic combination of Melodic death Metal and Power Metal. The title track, “Firefight”, is proof enough of this with it’s sleek and energetic musical performance. That sleek atmosphere really adds a more unique sound to the track, and it sticks throughout the entire recording, finding the band at a stronger, more mature presence with some more technical riffs then before that become one of the driving elements to the album. While the keyboards still play an intricate role in the band’s sound, like with many acts of this style, for the most part it’s not necessarily driven by that one specific instrument. “Firefight” does have an added melodic element from it, and you also have “Wastelands” that is completely driven by the keyboards, which are fantastic and again come off very sleek and stylish, giving the song a very epic atmosphere that does sound reminiscent of Children of Bodom, but in fact surpassing the group in ways that you would not expect at all, creating a very dark track which utilizes the music to paint a very vivid image to go along with the dismal-sounding material, giving it more of a Symphonic Black Metal vibe that bands like Dimmu Borgir and Abigail Williams would surely sit back and appreciate the atmosphere of.

But, even with all the fury and impressive material on Firefight, there is no denying that the atmosphere is quite possibly the most important aspect of the release. Right from the start with the introduction “Tephra”, the listener will start to feel as if this were some kind of musical score to a stylish Matrix-like action film. That brief thirty four seconds sets up the tone of the album perfectly, and the songs typically feel as if they are connected to one another in a more science-fiction conceptual manner that really takes the band’s music into a whole other level. The entire album feels fluid, and even for some of the minor additions to the music, such as the more operatic vocals added to “Cruel Hands” to the intense guitar solos on “Farewell”, it all seems to be connected. “Iblis” does stand out on it’s own though, not necessarily feeling literally connected to the song before it thanks to it’s slower paced acoustic guitars, operatic vocals, and overal dismal, depressive atmosphere, acting more as an interlude then anything to the madness.

The music to Firefight is a lot faster then one might expect too. Of course, this leads to another element of the music coming off as a whole other band’s influence as well. “Farewell” hammers away at the listener with great speed and firey vocals that match the overall intensity of the song. The keyboards sound great here too, but thankfully aren’t the driving force behind the song. The drums hammer away at the listener with the more technical guitars flying through chords at an insane pace. However, there are times on this song that the pace and technicality, as well as with the guitar solo entirely, takes on a Dragonforce influence. This is far from bad, and not quite as fast paced and intricate to the point where it can’t be played by a human in the first place, but it’s still rather impressive and feels more like a natural element of the song and not tacked on. Though, while these faster elements are great, there’s nothing like a slightly more toned down musical approach. “Firefight” itself feels a little more held back, and “The Path” joins the song in that sense as well, though both retain the same amount of energy as the faster tracks. These songs have a little less technicality to them as well, but the tracks are far more catchy in the long run, and really stand out thanks to all the other non-speed-related positive aspects of this release.

There really isn’t anything bad to say other then a few nit-picking things. “Iblis” makes a good interlude track, but it would have been nice to have a few seconds of silence before it started. The song, like all the others, seem to just hammer right into one another, and while it works with practically every song, this track just comes off as a song that should have purposely been isolated slightly. Atop that you also have “The Path” sharing a good amount of elements of “Firefight” to it, though not exactly being a carbon copy of the song. The album also closes with “Sarissas”, which is a good track to end on, but the band didn’t really focus on bringing the song to a conclusion that would work to both end the song properly, as well as the album, leaving the listener to feel like the experience is a little incomplete, especially given how the tracks flow between each other and give off an almost conceptual vibe to the effort. This is the most depressing of the problems with the release, and would be the one factor you wouldn’t really call nit picky.

If it weren’t for that sleek atmosphere and songs like “Wastelands” and “A Blinding Light” really building up a strong, epic vibe to the album, chances are good Firefight wouldn’t sound as strong or unique as it does. Blackguard come out of nowhere with an album that is surprisingly intense and head turning. There’s plenty of elements working in the album’s favor, and there isn’t a single song on here that doesn’t feel unique in some way or another, all showing off a more mature band overall. Despite what you thought about the band’s debut album, this is where the band’s evolution clearly begins, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Filled with driving, technical music seething with atmosphere and energy, Firefight declares war within their own Melodic Death Metal/Power Metal subgenre, and with what the band presents here, it may very well be a battle they will win.

01. Tephra – 0:34
02. Firefight – 5:04
03. Farewell – 4:08
04. Wastelands – 6:20
05. Cruel Hands – 4:44
06. Iblis – 2;54
07. The Fear of All Flesh – 4:53
08. A Blinding Light – 5:15
09. The Path – 5:00
10. Sarissas – 4:44
Overall Score: 9.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Victory Records.