Blackguard - Profugus Mortis
Nuclear Blast
Folk / Melodic Death Metal
9 songs (40:23)
Release year: 2009
Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Kyle
Surprise of the month

Now this is a breath of fresh air! In a genre whose newcomers to the scene as of late have typically been little more than emulations of the genre greats, folk metal band Blackguard arrives with a bang, delivering a very impressive debut. With Profugus Mortis, this young Canadian band traverses the flying canoe featured on the album’s cover through multiple territories of the folk and death metal genres, creating an experience that feels entirely familiar yet, simultaneously, like something new all together. Confused? Then venture your eyes onwards and downwards, dear reader.

Formerly known as Profugus Mortis (Guess we know where the band got the album name from, eh?), this melodeath / folk hybrid changed its name to Blackguard when the band won Nuclear Blast’s 2008 Myspace Band Contest. Apparently, not only did they change their name, but they also changed their sound; though I haven’t heard material from before the name / label change, Profugus Mortis was reportedly a folk / black metal band. But the history of Blackguard is not important at this point in time; let’s move on to the album itself. As soon as I first heard the opening symphonic interlude of album starter Scarlet To Snow, the first thought that came to me was: Equilibrium. Yes, Blackguard does seem to have a bit in common with their fellow German folk metallers, from the synthesizer sound to the riff structure, but by no means is this a clone of that band. I’d venture to say that Blackguard leans far more towards the melodeath end of their signature hybrid, especially in the drumming, rhythm, and vocals department; lots of double-time snare hits, simple palm-muted tremolo lines, and Skyfire-esque vocals await you here.

The ever-prominent synths, however, make up the entirety of the band’s folk sound, and the different styles they convey come from many recognizable folk metal influences and in a variety of different effects. An often-used sound of shimmering, trumpeting bombast can be heard along with multiple effects emulating traditional folk instruments in songs like Allegiance, a very fast and energetic Equilibrium-like song that’s easily one of the best on the album. Other times, an accordion effect is used, giving the songs it’s featured on (Like This Round’s On Me) a Finntroll / Alestorm feel, minus the pirate gimmick. Another neat effect that will occasionally come into play on songs like Vain is a soft, Nintendo-style sound, creating melodies underneath the meat of the song that reminds me of a more reasonable variation of Machinae Supremacy’s videogame influenced electronics. There are no true folk instruments utilized in Blackguard (Something I’d like to see changed on a future album), but there is some obvious talent at work here by the keyboardist; he adds more to the table than most key players do for their respective bands, as the guitars don’t do much to add to the band’s folk sound, leaving the synths to shamelessly steal the spotlight.

A couple more highlights before I part ways with this review. Although most songs tread the path of the combined folk and melodeath sound, I Demon is a complete stand-out from anything else on Profugus Mortis. There isn’t much of anything folk happening on this song; rather, we’re treated to what is best described as pure death metal with a touch of technicality and a dash of symphonic black metal. This three minute song is really a joy to listen to, especially since it offers a break from the other thirty seven minutes of folk metal, though the album is by no means tiring. Cinder is also a very diverse song, ranging from straightforward melodic death metal to Bal-Sagoth style symphonic metal to even NWOBHM / speed metal in the mid-section, with a kick-ass thrash solo to boot. The guitarists are, in general, very talented, especially when it comes to grand, sweeping solos; they even provide some nice leads whenever the synths aren't stealing the show.

There are a couple of lackluster tracks here that don’t meet the standards of most of the songs, but for the most part, Blackguard has created a very effective and memorable debut album. For a follow up (or two or more, I hope!), I’d like to see more varied rhythm guitar work, and perhaps some clean vocals added in on a few songs; the harsh singing here is by no means bad, but with music this melodic it would’ve been nice to have some actual singing. I'd also like to see just a few production tweaks, making the keys louder in the mix and lending the music a punchier sound overall. But although it has its flaws and won’t be appeasing to all folk metal fans, you really can’t go wrong in giving Profugus Mortis a go. The individual components of Blackguard may not be original by themselves, but the sum of the band's parts is quite unlike anything I've ever heard before. It takes a bit to sink in, but if you pay attention to all the little things going on in the synth department combined with the aggressive melodeath influence, you’re in for one helluva entertaining release.

Killing Songs :
This Round's On Me, Allegiance, I Demon, Cinder, Vain, The Last We Wage
Kyle quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Blackguard that we have reviewed:
Blackguard - Firefight reviewed by Chris and quoted 94 / 100
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