Blackguard vocalist Paul Ablaze. Awesome energy
At the last minute, local opener Not-Liable was announced. They were pretty energetic and catchy, with fast, heavy songs, and surprisingly loud for a three person band. Most of their songs had a very punk rock sound, with racing guitars and shouted vocals. They did have some slow and heavy metal interludes, and their last song featured some more complicated guitar work. They were interesting to listen to, though punk rock isn't my favorite style of music (I like riffs and guitar solos). The frontman (vocalist/guitarist) had a very interesting outfit, with shiny shorts, a scarf hanging from his belt, and hat.
After Not-Liable's set, Blackguard came out to hang out at the merch table and bar, possibly waiting to see if more people would turn up (it was still early, maybe around 9pm). Around 9:20 they decided to get things rolling and got on stage. They sounded amazing, full of energy and with a great dynamic, probably the best I've ever heard them. They definitely gave it their all even for a crowd of about 20 people. They started with some songs from Firefight ("The Path" and "Firefight") and then gave us a few of their old folk metal songs from Profugus Mortis ("Cinder," "The Sword" and "Allegiance") before going back to songs from Firefight. Paul invited the guitarist from local band Cab Ride Home, who once filled in for Paul when he had to mysteriously disappear from a show, on stage to sing some vocals for "Allegiance." At this show, I finally started to see connections between the band's older and newer work. The songs from Firefight are more melodic in the vein of Amon Amarth rather than folk metal, but the fierce vocals and epic energy are the same. At the very end of the set, after numerous disclaimers that they might completely bomb it, they played a brand new song, "In Dreams," which they had apparently composed that very same day. It sounded good - it started off with a folk melody, and then transformed into the thunderingly heavy sound they used on Firefight. If that was their draft, the final version is sure to be amazing. The set seemed short - they played for about an hour, but there was a lot of talk too - but then again they were just playing for 20 people after all. S. mentioned that they may not be used to playing so long since they don't usually headline. I thought perhaps their new guitarist didn't know enough songs yet.
I spent the whole set jumping around and headbanging like mad; I figured if the band is giving their all for this tiny crowd, then the crowd had damn better give the energy right back. S, J and I shoved each other around a bit but couldn't really get a pit started. For one song, Paul called for a "passive aggressive wall of death" where everyone would calmly walk back to their places, and threatened to stop the show if there was any violence. (They didn't stop playing when I started shoving S and J though XD) Most of the crowd seemed content to lean on the rail and headbang.
Hanging out at the merch table before the show, we met their new guitarist, Louis Jacques. He mentioned that he comes from a power metal background, and said that the next Blackguard album will be like a mix of Profugus Mortis and Firefight, incorporating some of their earlier folk metal sound, and also with more orchestration. During the set, he sounded good, but I think he needs to work on his stage presence - to smile and interact more with the audience, like the other band members did. But then again, he may have had to focus more on playing since he'd be less familiar with the songs.
Blackguard guitarists Terry Roadcase and Louis Jacques
Blackguard is doing a few more headline shows and then 6 dates with Epica, and then they head to Europe to support Kamelot! I'm so excited for them. I've been following this band for a while and to see them go across the pond to tour with such a top level band makes me very happy for them. These guys work their butts off, touring like mad, and it's great to see it paying off. I hope all goes well and they have a great time in Europe.
And before then I get to see them one more time, because our next show is...
Epica, Alestorm, INSOMNIUM, System Divide, Blackguard on 10/23
(That is, unless a miracle happens and I do get to see my two favorite local bands A Sound of Thunder and My Enemy Complete on Monday at 98Rock's Noise in the Basement...)
Photos by Steve Wass