IN CONVERSATION ABOUT THE UNGUIDED
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
Described as a melodic death Metal outfit, The Unguided burst in to life releasing their debut album 'Hell Frost' in November 2011.
The quintet are Swedish and were created after some disharmony disrupted within the ranks of the increasingly successful juggernaut Sonic Syndicate. With this information stored in my memory banks, I was handed an opportunity to chat with the aggressively vocal-busting Richard Sjunnesson about The Unguided and whatever else we fancied talking about.
I was contemplating a challenge of growling and furious roaring with the good man, but I must confess that my vocals are better suited to being in a lower register like Andrew Eldritch from the band Sisters of Mercy, so he would win such a competition without breaking sweat.
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Sjunnesson has already, via a Twitter post, amusingly identified a remark that appeared in my review for their latest album 'Fragile Immortality' which went; "...music resembled some sort of sweet tasting milkshake that was being mixed with mashed-up burgers!" With this in mind, I think it is a good idea that I behave myself and share with you the content of our conversation. Incidentally, he was a great guy, but don't tell him I said that. We'll keep that to ourselves.
"The whole deal with Sonic Syndicate was it was getting out of hand coming to the band tying themselves up in a lot of complex contracts; a lot of external organisations working with the band. There was a bit of divide within the band as well where some of us wanted to play the metal music which we founded the band to do basically. What Sonic Syndicate was, was a Metal band originally, like a hobby kind of band by me and my brother."
Speaking with a serious tone accompanying his Swedish accent, Sjunnesson continued to inform me of the catalyst which prompted him to form The Unguided. "Eventually it got really successful, and the more successful it got the more organisations and greedy people got their claws in to it. With us in the band not being really on the same line either, it started to get a lot of friction inside of the band so it was kind of imploding in a way.
"A management we couldn't really work really well with because the only thing he saw was money, while we saw the Metal soul in the whole of the band. It was a bit of a battle the last couple of years, and it was like constant, not fighting, but decisions being made over our heads."
He winds up his explanation by saying how he and his brother never made a band to be motivated in such a way, and that naturally things had to change. Sjunnesson is also willing to put himself in the shoes of the management by adding in fairness how they would be presented with several different answers to any question they posed, and how this might have impacted on the decision making process within their ranks.
Regarding his passion and commitment to Metal music, I had to enquire about his influences or favourite artists: "I guess my three favourite bands are Blind Guardian, The Crown and Manowar." He lets out a chuckle after announcing his third favourite band. "Despite people often reacting in such a way with their amusement of Manowar, listen to the outstanding performances on 'The Triumph Of Steel' and be amazed with the quality of musicianship on show. Maybe signing contracts with their own blood, or walking around in loin cloths is taking things to a whole new level, but their music in places really does the business!"
As we're talking about these bands and their influence over The Unguided, Sjunnesson points out that despite the music not evidently sounding the same as these formative examples, there are certainly points taken thematically within the lyrical department. Jumping on this specific moment in the conversation, I asked him what the theme of The Unguided was? "Originally when we started to write the first Sonic Syndicate album it was really fictional lyrics, and we really enjoyed doing it like that. It's always really personal lyrics but I like to write it a bit more fictional to make them have a bit more to them."
Sjunnesson continues his thoughts as he takes me on to the next step of his former band. "On the second album we did some ballads and stuff, and those fictional lyrics didn't really work out there, so I wrote some really personal, private lyrics to them, and it's a couple of years now, but it was more about like teenage love and things like that." He sounds like he's trying to walk a fine line without giving too much away, but I'm gripped by his lingering explanation.
"Of course, these are the songs that became fan favourites! So, when we came to recording the new albums that's what was expected from me. I had to stick to writing those lyrics 'cos that was the theme of Sonic Syndicate at that time. That's what I did, but I didn't really enjoy it the same way as the whole fictional stuff going on during the first record and partly on the second. So I went back to that in The Unguided."
Sjunnesson has a sincere tone at this junction of our flowing conversation, and continues to elaborate on where The Unguided has picked up. "It's always a bit of a diary for me writing lyrics, because it's hard to write something that you're not connected to but I try to have a fictional shell on the lyrics. For The Unguided there's a concept story which will range over three albums. This is really the second album ('Fragile Immortality') of the trilogy, so before we started the band I had the whole story clear for me; got that down in text and that's what I lean on when I write my lyrics and that's what all the artwork and that whole concept is from really."
When Sjunnesson stops to take a satisfied break from his comprehensive insight in to the theme behind The Unguided, I let out a gasp and confess that I hadn't realised the music was so involved and made up a trilogy. This revelation explains why he tackled the subject matter with carefully thought out words, trying not to give too much away as the content was so very personal to him. He'd feel vulnerable perhaps or naked in a sense to the many fans who try to deduce the hidden meanings from the lyrics.
The fourth studio album by Sonic Syndicate called 'We Rule The Night' to my ears had a cohesion and a comfortable vibe with a great production. I shared this thought and mentioned how I thought the band had been evolving, but Sjunnesson felt the opposite. Thankfully he didn't unleash any roar or disapproval at my inaccurate observations, but politely laughed in order to comfort my blushes.
The conversation inevitably focussed on the album 'Fragile Immortality' which Sjunnesson was keen to explain felt like a different album to him. The intention was to make it a different experience for the listener in comparison to the debut album 'Hell Frost'.
Elements he felt that had played a significant part in 'Fragile Immortality' included a completely different mixing studio and more song-writers contributing to the material. Also adding to the ingredients of the creative process for 'Fragile Immortality' was the inclusion of a new drummer and the fact the band produced the album and not an outsider.
If you're partial to some modern sounding melodic death Metal, or want to wrap your ears around The Unguided then feel free and check out their official music video for 'Inception' right here.
After digesting the 11 tracks on 'Fragile Immortality' and getting acquainted with the possible themes and concepts that weave themselves through the lyrics and music on the album, and the previous release called 'Hell Frost', all I can say is prepare for their third album in the trilogy!
With the artwork and the titles already set in stone for the new material, the band are in complete control and the fans are going to enjoy the journey and the challenge of breaking down the fictional shell in order to get to the core of the lyrical meanings.
I hope nobody said that music was boring, because with The Unguided in full flow, it's some hard hitting music mixing up melodies and hooks with brutal aggression, and under-pinning this sincere exhibition of Death Metal are some themes to explore and decrypt. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.