I have no idea what I’m in for when I listen to an album, but what I need to do is remember that I am reviewing a stand-alone recording from a band of a certain sub-genre. And it’s not always easy, since music is really one of, if not the most subjective forms of entertainment, and we metalheads are among the most passionate on the planet. So on that note…
Blackguard by Finland’s Denigrate is a bit of a pickle for me as I am probably more subjective than most, but I do always try to be as objective as possible. If I’m honest I would say that this sub-genre of melodic progressive metal is definitely not something I am used to, but let’s see how we go.
The opening track has such a beautiful intro that I was excited for what was to come. Sadly, six songs and 41 minutes later, I was happy the album had ended. Now objectively I have to appreciate that this is the type of music, and I do. It’s melodic, progressive, has some gothic elements to it, so if that’s what you fancy, then I’m sure you’ll appreciate this. My assessment however is this, and I will break it down into positive and negative.
Let me begin with the positives.
It is well-produced and musically proficient. I especially enjoyed some of the bass lines. Sadly though, that is it for me because there is a lot of room for improvement here I reckon.
Now the negatives…
Even though I know this is melodic progressive metal, it is just so tame. It has no edge to it. It’s not exciting at all apart from the opening track intro. The album is also absolutely saturated with wailing melodies in the background, which in my opinion made for a very repetitive six songs. I understand it’s that type of music – melodic – but the tempo of every song is almost the same, which is fine, I enjoy a lot of slower metal, but in this instance the constant wailing melodies are what make this album sound very repetitive. Musically it’s the biggest problem for me with this recording… the saturated melodic guitar. They really needed to pull it back somewhat.
Vocally I think the album is also hugely lacking. Nothing in them makes me want to revisit this album, and switching from clean to growl doesn’t solve my issue. There is so much opportunity here for this to be an incredible recording, but the vocals and saturating melodies have stifled it all. I would however go as far as to say that my previous comment on the music would be less of an issue if not for better vocals. Proficient musicians are easier to come by than good vocalists, so if you can nail that down, you are almost there. Clean singing works wonderfully, and in fact is an absolute necessity for this type of music, but… it has to be stellar! Clean vocal singing has to be absolutely spot on as there is no room for error. Sadly though the range and tone of Timo Kallio’s vocals are lacking. And again, switching from clean to growl is not solving the issue for me.
A conclusive overview for me would be this:
Great production, musically proficient but repetitive and saturating melodies along with the monotonous vocal tone and lack of vocal range are a massive let down on what could have been a great album.
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