The Unguided
Father Shadow

One of the greatest pleasures of growing older is the opportunity to get further and further away from the younger idiot you once were. Notice I say “opportunity” – this is by no means a given. The world is (VERY OBVIOUSLY!) filled with an overwhelming amount of assholes with absolutely no interest in taking a hard look at themselves and finding where they can improve, where they can change not just to be less of a shitty person, but also more-than-likely bring more joy to their own lives.

As for me – oh, there’s still plenty to work on… But I like to think I’m going in the right direction! For example, when I was a kid, I liked to tell myself I wasn’t a judgmental person… but of fucking course I was! This was especially true when it came to the world of metal. If a band had the wrong look, followed the wrong trend, I wrote them off almost immediately, giving them absolutely no chance to provide any kind of joy in my life. It’s one thing to have personal preferences – that’s normal and fair – it’s another thing entirely to just write them off as having no merit as musicians. That’s shitty and dumb!

I bring this up because Sweden’s The Unguided are a pretty good example of a band that, for too long, I completely disregarded for idiotic and superficial reasons. Featuring former members of Sonic Syndicate, with their stupid hair and mascara and Monster-Energy-everything, there was no way my UBER METAL SELF could ever find joy in such lame ridiculousness. FUCKING POSERS! 

Ugh.

If you are a better person than I and have avoided such personal and trivial trappings, good job! You’ve then likely had more time to embrace and enjoy what is genuinely a fun, upbeat band creating a highly accessible and catchy-as-all-fuck blend of modern Melodeth and Metalcore that, if you’ll allow it, will put a grin on your face and easily get your head banging. I’m glad I finally did.

To those of you already familiar with the act – rest assured you’ll certainly be pleased with this one. Though I was late to embracing them, a look at their back catalogue shows the band hasn’t really strayed far from the formula over their near-decade: A good dose of Scar Symmetry or Engel, with some more modern In Flames and Rise to Fall thrown in the mix, and some good ‘ol American Metalcore ala’ Still Remains or even As I Lay Dying adding some more heft as well. We’re not talking a super original sound here, but it’s delivered with the confidence of musicians who’ve been doing this thing for quite a while now. The band is still employing a healthy dose of synth orchestration as well to give the whole package an epic, grandiose feel that certainly has a lot of impact. “Childhood’s End” gets the album started with a full helping of what the band has going for them: a nice mix of speedy and chunky riffs, infectious and melodic choruses, and a nice little buildup to a simple but effective lead before launching into a sweet breakdown. Nothing earth-shattering here, but fun! It actually gives me a little bit of a Blackguard vibe, which I’m more than happy to indulge in.

The band has certainly continued to embrace their electronic leanings as well, letting the synths shine through on the very Christian Alvestam-inspired “Never Yield” and “War of Oceans.”  After an almost anime theme-like open to “Fate’s Hand,” guitarists Jonathan Thorpenberg and Roger Sjunnesson break out one of the record’s more hadbang-y, heavy riffs, before a super-catchy, soaring melody breaks in and leads the way to a sing-along chorus that’d been lodged in my brain since first listen. After another nice breakdown sees that song out, follow-up “Stand Alone Complex” keeps the heft going – chuggy riffs, layered with some cool synth overlays – it’s a recipe for a good time. The song is one of the album’s best, complete with a huge anthem of a chorus.

And of course, this band is still more than happy to slow things down and break out the ballads. “Where Love Comes To Die” wears it’s bleeding heart on it’s sleeve, and while it understandably might not by every metalhead’s cup of tea, does serve nicely to break up the proceedings. “Lance of Longinus” on the other hand, strikes a much more balanced approach of emotion and strength, providing one of the albums more epic tracks and surprising me by being one of it’s strongest.

The bottom line is this – The Unguided know what they’re here to do, and on Father Shadow they’ve, once again, done it very well. My ridiculous refusal to give this band the light of day is now a thing of the past. There’s a whole lot to like here, and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it without any shame. Chances are I’m not changing anyone’s opinion of these guys – but if you’re like me and haven’t allowed yourself to even give them a chance… just do it. It’s 2020 and we’ll all be dead soon anyway, so what can it hurt?

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
October 28th, 2020

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