Montreal quintet Blackguard's third full-length begins with “Tephra,” an intro track filled with explosions, breaking glass, warrior chants, and foreboding drumming. It's a fitting opening for a band that aims for an epic, cinematic presence on the rest of this debut release on Victory Records. Blackguard’s blend of symphonic power metal and melodic death metal echoes of Hate Crew Deathroll-era Children of Bodom; unfortunately, as a result, the album sometimes sounds like an unoriginal imitation.
Tracks like “Wastelands” and “Cruel Hands” use familiar, Bodom-esque power-metal structures, and the band often drags out what begin as good musical ideas for much too long. Blackguard’s extensive use of keys also sometimes gets dull—though it does work well on the album’s title track. And Blackguard demonstrate solid songwriting ability on “The Fear of All Flesh,” a track that mixes high-speed guitar harmonies, well-placed breakdowns, and tasty thrash riffs. Firefight isn’t exactly going to change the power-metal subgenre, but Blackguard do at least play some catchy tunes. DAVID McKENNA