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BLACKGUARD: Firefight (Album Review)

By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal

Release Date: March 29th, 2011
Review Date: March 25th, 2011
Label: Victory

My rating:

    Track Listing:
  1. Tephra
  2. Firefight
  3. Farewell
  4. Wastelands
  5. Cruel Hands
  6. Iblis
  7. The Fear of All Flesh
  8. A Blinding Light
  9. The Path
  10. Sarissas

Since the last time they released an album, Canadian melodic death metallers Blackguard have undergone a massive change in line-up as they converted from a six-piece to a five-piece group, with the departure of keyboard player Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc. Without one of their prominent song writers, composing their third studio album "Firefight" must have been a new challenge for the quintet, but it's a challenge they've successfully dealt with, opening up an exciting new chapter in their career.

After the epic battle-style intro "Tephra", the title song gives the album exactly the kind of blistering start I had expected. Not only is this tune high on aggressive vocals and drum fills, but is also interspersed with some neatly crafted guitar solos and harmonies that give tremendous strength to the melody aspect of the music. This is certain to turn into an instant classic among fans. When you listen to this for the first time, take it as a sign of things to come for the next 38 minutes and rest assured that you're in for a treat.

"Farewell" is more compact and even more polished than the title song as it offers some terrific work on the guitars by Kim Gosselin and Terry Deschenes. This has all the qualities of a great live tune, and is certain to get keep the air-guitar fans happy. While these first two tracks knock you in the face, "Wastelands" begins by introducing a huge tempo shift and creates a rather epic aura in the listener's mind. The focus here is on the guitarists more than on any other track in this album, as their harmony leads beautifully into a furiously energetic crescendo that will undoubtedly excite each and every listener it reaches. This song alone is reason enough to purchase the album even though there are eight other reasons to do so.

"Cruel Hands" is yet another track that's enjoyable from start to finish. Just like Wastelands, it goes through some contrasting changes in tempo, keeping the listener interested throughout its duration. The last thing I, or any listener for that matter wants to hear is a monotonous song. In addition to the tempo changes, the guitar shreds in this particular tune sound remarkably different from anything they've done in the past, thus showcasing their development as musicians. Following this masterful composition is "Iblis", which is nothing more than a short little operatic interlude that helps in building up the anticipation for the next track, a brutally sweet tune titled "The Fear Of All Flesh". It's easily the most aggressive tune on the entire album and as I've already found out for myself, a killer live song.

Just when you'd think the band would have run out of gas and that they couldn't possibly keep up the same intensity for the remaining portion of the album, "A Blinding Light" treats you to yet more enjoyable guitar solos and everything else that's quintessential to any Blackguard tune, most notably Paul "Ablaze" Zinay's ever-aggressive vocals. When I first heard Blackguard's previous albums, I had my doubts as to whether he'd be able to do justice to those songs in a live setting. But after seeing the band multiple times, I can only say he gets better and better every time, and his progress as a vocalist is strikingly evident on this album. The album closes out with the "The Path" and "Sarissas", tunes that shouldn't disappoint anyone in the least bit.

From the first minute to the last, Blackguard's "Firefight" is an astonishingly well-written and well-executed album, one that's certain to sew the detractors' mouths firmly shut. While listening to the album I made an amusing and rather ironic observation, that some of this music is reminiscent of classic Children Of Bodom, while Bodom's latest album itself sounds nothing like their good ol' tunes. Anyway, on the whole, Blackguard have come up with an album that has exceeded my expectations, and I have no doubt that as a Blackguard fan you'll feel exactly the same way. For those of you who aren't familiar with the band, if you're into bands like Amon Amarth and classic Bodom as I just said earlier, you'll instantly fall in love with Blackguard. But even if you're not, I'd suggest you to break out of the cages of metal sub-genre and give this band a listen.

I have just one word to sum up this breathtaking piece of music: fan-fucking-tastic!!

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