Blackguard - Firefight (Victory)

The Victory debut from Canada's Blackguard is a strangely compelling, but somewhat lacking, proposition

Blackguard have, in one form or another, been around for a decade and since their first recording with Nuclear Blast in 2007, have toured with some major names in metal including Nevermore, Ensiferum and Deicide. With Firefight, the influence of their expansive tour buddies is obvious. There's clearly a cap doffed to traditional black metal, which is where the quintet began, but major similarities to more commercially successful/accessible bands such as Children of Bodom and Korpiklaani will do little for the Gorgoroth fans of this world.

Opening track A Blinding Light is possibly the weakest song on the album, with five minutes of monotony underpinned by some violin work. It's not a great start but before you can say "oh joy, more contrived orchestral nonsense" second song Cruel Hands kicks in it all gets a bit moe interesting. The pace is picked up and Justine 'Juice' Ethier mashes the double kick with some serious authority. I'm pretty sure there's some bongos in there at some point too. The quality continues as Farewell ticks the 'blistering riff' box courtesy of axe men Terry 'Roadcase' Deschenes and Kim Gosselin. Held firm by bassist Etienne Mailloux and laughably bad nicknames aside, Blackguard are talented musicians.

There is, of course, the oh-so-atmospheric mid-point interlude in the shape of Iblis, which is a couple of minutes of acoustic guitar with some mysterious siren warbling away. It would be nice for a band of this folk/melodic death ilk to omit this from their repertoire as whislt it can prove to be a pleasent inclusion, the fact that so many bands are doing it now makes it little more than a bloody annoyance.

Musically, The Fear of All Flesh strays dangerously close to Bullet For My Valentine, as does The Path, but before you go and set fire to a church in a fit of metallic rage rest assured that vocally, Paul 'Ablaze' Zinnay prevents any real comparrison to the ultra-popular Welsh poster boys. Plus, Ethier is a much better drummer than that Moose chap.

In all honesty, fans of the more brutal end of metal will absolutely hate Firefight. They'll find it tame, inoffensive and in the main, fundamentally boring. But to give Blackguard their dues this is a decent slab of symphonic death metal. It's musically tight but despite having enough depth to keep you listening, is unlikely to be in anyone's top five of the year.  

Firefight is out now on Victory