October 7, 2020 The Unguided – Father Shadow (Album Review)
Those who were engulfed in the European Extreme Metal scene of the early 2000s have some fond, vivid memories. With bands like In Flames and Children of Bodom taking off into the mainstream spotlight, the door was opened for a variety of other talented bands, and one of those was Sweden’s Sonic Syndicate. A band that combined a Nu-Metal flare into Melodic Death Metal stylings, they became relatively well-known thanks to songs like “Jack of Diamonds,” among others. Still active today, although not the same, two key components to Sonic Syndicate’s early success – Roger Sjunnesson (guitars) and Richard Sjunnesson (vocals) – have distinguished themselves separately with The Unguided.
Originally formed a decade ago by Roger and Richard, to many listeners The Unguided follow the trajectory Sonic Syndicate should have. Not a knock on the current ensemble of members in Sonic Syndicate, but this is truthfully what some think; with many even considering The Unguided’s 2011 debut album, Hell Frost, Sonic Syndicate’s unofficial fourth album. However, The Unguided are without a doubt their own entity standing on their own merits. With that in mind, they have built quite a resume with one solid record after another, but are set to outdo themselves on Friday, October 9th, 2020 with Father Shadow due out via Napalm Records.
A defining moment for The Unguided – currently led by Roger and Richard, along with Jonathan Thorpenberg (guitar/clean vocals) and Richard Schill (drums) – Father Shadow is really everything you can ask for from a modern Metal record. Polished yet not lacking edge, this collection of songs is well-composed, never dull, and intriguing all the way through. A difficult task in a time where it seems like the Extreme Metal scene has been on a steady decline over the past 10 years, listening to this album will blissfully transport you back to the early 2000s.
Perfectly mixing harshness and harmony, thanks to Richard’s growls and Thorpenbeg’s singing, with blistering guitars and drums, the true glue that really holds it all together is the keys/synth. Not something other bands have not, or are not doing already, but for some reason with this album it really shines bright. Many times with these types of hybrids it feels like the guitars and keyboards are layered on top of one another, but never actually finding a common ground. That said, on Father Shadow, they not only meet, but they create magnificent, electric color together.
This is evident on songs like “Never Yield,” “War of Oceans,” and “Crown Prince Syndrome.” All solid tracks which stimulate your senses, hands down, “Breach” is the boldest moment of this album. Featuring a melody that is impossible to deny, it is a powerful song with a message of defiance, rising up, and blazing your own path. There are other intense moments ahead, as well, with “Fate’s Hand,” “Seth,” and the final original song of the album, “Gaia,” a cut which features Erik Engstrand who has worked with In Flames.
All extremely formidable and making for a really enjoyable album, as a bonus, The Unguided decided to also re-record some recognizable Sonic Syndicate songs – “Jailbreak,” “Denied,” and yes, “Jack of Diamonds.”
Overall, this is one hell of an Extreme Metal album. If you are someone who has been a little disenchanted with the scene over the last 10 years and yearn for something that will bring you back to the days when Soilwork, Darkane, In Flames, and Scar Symmetry were all pumping out top notch material, this is it. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Father Shadow 4 out of 5 stars.