Profugus Mortis, incidentally Blackguard's former name, as a release has so much going for it and so much going against it. It can't be denied: this album is full of energy and enthusiasm, the band plays like a well-rehearsed machine and plays well.
But the band suffers a genre misidentification. This is not black/folk as it is often touted, symphonic death/metalcore perhaps would do them justice. When listened to expecting black/folk the album just doesn't cut it. Often they are playing folk motions with no folk feeling. It seems the folk element is an afterthought, it's not played like it is integral part of the music. Perhaps after ex-violinist Emille Livernois left the band they are only going through the motions because it's expected for continuity; but one can't help the feeling that if you took the folkish bits out of this release no-one would miss them.
First track, Scarlet to Snow, grabs your attention straight away. You know you are listening to a band that works very well together and is capable of some sharp writing. First shock - the vocals. The sound of it and the intonation is often found in abundance in metalcore and deathcore. WTF? Surely you wouldn't soil this genre with it? But I guess it widens their appeal to the less choosey.
This Rounds On Me contains a killer riff very reminiscent of Lunatic God,s but sadly I doubt the accordian is real. The pace takes you along and it shits in the face of those who say 'chicks can't drum'.
Purists would give a nod of approval at the emergence of a blast beat within Allegiance, nodding again at a nice symphonic break three quarters of the way through. These same purists would likely gnash their teeth at the choice of vocal style used for such a chorus driven song. Admittedly, a differing voice would make a welcome contrast. The same could be said for The Sword, a song in desperate need of propping up in the lower end (this may have been fixed since, as the promo was not the final master). With such prowess musically it is sad the the release lacks a feel of the epic and ambient.
Did Blackguard make a mistake in ousting Emille and signing on Kim Gosselin of Gotherfall fame? His guitar work certainly beefs up the band's sound; but is it a good trade off? It makes for less confusion solo-wise on stage, admittedly, but what about their studio product? You be the judge.
It would be pointless, as well as time-consuming, to list the probable influences one can glean in Blackguard's music, as well as all the sweet-arse support slots they've enjoyed - so I shall refrain. Witness the tribute to the older school in I Demon, in case someone says they don't know how to play the genre's roots. A mystery with this album I would love solved regards Cinder, in which one of the cheesiest keyboard solos I've heard for about a decade is contained. Who chose that keyboard voice? Or is it a keyboard guitar? If so you gotta give 'em points for having the balls to include it, and even more points if Jonathon performed it live!
By the time the album reaches Vain it appears they've run out of ideas and the song fades out - what else is there to do with it?
With an injection of ambience, sincerity and more varied (or especially, completely different) vocals I could grow to like this release.
Blackguard's Profugus Mortis is out now on Nuclear Blast/Riot.