Review Summary: Blackguard releases their best work yet while still sounding as epic as ever. Also, they have a hot drummer.
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