Sound — 8
Although Blackguard has been active for ten years, it has been difficult for them to get onto the national scene. Originally named Profugus Mortis, they were founded in 2001 in Montreal, Quebec as a black metal band, and they weathered multiple lineup changes before even getting a demo recorded. A shift in style (from straightforward black metal to Scandinavian-influenced melodic death metal) and relentless touring behind their major-label debut Profugus Mortis (named after the band's original moniker) in support of bands such as Kamelot, Nevermore, and Epica has gotten their name out there in the metal world, and it is to an ever-growing audience that Firefight is presented. The album is a hard-hitting melodic death metal album with some power, folk, and black metal influences. Sounding like a cross between Hatebreeder-era Children of Bodom and Ensiferum, this Canadian band takes heavy influence from the Scandinavian metal scene. The compositions are strong and melodic. Lead guitarist Kim Gosselin, a relatively new member of the band, composed and arranged much of the music on this record, and delivers impressive solos as well.
Lyrics — 7
Vocalist Paul Ablaze, whose arrival in 2004 was the catalyst for the band's stylistic shift, delivers an impressive performance with his high-pitched screams, which are somewhat reminiscent of Alexi Laiho on older Children of Bodom albums. Although his lyrics are at times indecipherable, his in-your-face vocals are exactly what the music needs. Ablaze is also the primary lyricist of the band, and he provides harsh lyrics that are generally fantasy-themed, but tinged with gritty reality. Although Ablaze is obviously not the next Rob Halford, he provides an energetic, fiery performance that carries the album.
Overall Impression — 8
The album cover has dark tones, depicting a burning castle set in a desolate landscape with pieces of flaming debris flying in the air (a stark contrast to its predecessor Profugus Mortis, which featured a chariot full of drunken men flying past the moon.) The art inside the CD booklet gives a grim mood as well, with images of hellish furnaces and crashed airplanes This all seems to be representative of Firefight's considerably darker tone than that of its predecessor, Profugus Mortis (the cover of which depicted a chariot flying past the moon), both musically and lyrically. Despite the darker mood, however, the music still feels triumphant and victorious, truly worthy of the band's chosen descriptor, Epic Metal. This is due in part to strategically applied keyboards, always present but never diminishing the power and heaviness of the music. Do not think for a second that you're getting some dainty piece of power metal. The death metal part of melodic death metal is very prominent as well, with chugging guitars, double bass drums, and harsh screams and growls the backbone of the compositions. An interesting point on the album is eerie two-minute interlude Iblis, which precedes The Fear of All Flesh, possibly the heaviest song on the album. Other standout tracks include Farewell, Wastelands, and the title track (probably the one you should look up if you are new to the band and want to get a feel for their sound), but all are strong, the album contains no filler. Firefight is a fitting name for this high-energy, explosive piece of Scandinavian-style metal. Chances are, if you attend metal concerts regularly, you will catch this band live as an opener, because of their prolific touring schedule. Check this album out, you will not regret it.