The folk metal outfit Blackguard offer really nothing new to the genre, it is epic and heavy folk metal in the same vein as the bands I have listed as similar artists above, but what makes them stand out is a good sense for melodies. Canada is a country we don't hear much about when it comes to this style of metal, but I guess the increasing popularity worldwide including North America has helped spawning new talents.
Blackguard is completely new to me but they manage to impress me with a very solid material which is a perfect blend of what I like with the best band's in this genre. I would not call this folk metal myself, since the focus is simply on melodic and fast metal, in a sort of Children Of Bodom kind of way, and the folk elements are merely subtly there in the background, occasionally taking over for a moment or two. There is a high pace but they maintain a great and smooth flow from the first to the last second and the material has variation enough to feel fresh and interesting the whole time.
The only downside I can point at is that the album would benefit from at least one song that takes the tempo down a tiny bit, since it is more or less the same bpm the whole way. Musically I have really nothing more to wish for, since these guys know the importance of the presence of nice guitar leads and solid riffs.
Vocalist Paul Ablaze has a "typical" voice for this genre but a very good one, I might add, and is a vital piece of this puzzle. The production is very clean, warm and good and at the same time they also manage to capture the epic and cold atmosphere that pagan bands in general strive for. If someone would have told me that Blackguard was from Finland, Sweden or Germany I would not for one second question it.
Blackguard is looking at a hectic summer and fall playing at Paganfest US and Paganfest Europe, as well as participating in The Summer Slaughter Tour. Be sure to check them out if you have the opportunity. It will be highly interesting to follow their career and see if they can develop this even further.