The Unguided – And the Battle Royale (Napalm)Wednesday, 8th November 2017
It seemed as if history was repeating itself last year with The Unguided, with clean vocalist/guitarist Roland Johansson leaving the act (just as with Sonic Syndicate back in the day). So it was with some caution that this scribe approached And the Battle Royale. Johansson has a truly unique voice, and where Sonic Syndicate wasn’t ever able to recover from said departure (though admittedly due to a number of reasons), it seems that The Unguided are set to move into new territory while maintaining their strengths with new vocalist Jonathan Thorpenberg.
Thorpenberg brings some new elements to The Unguided, yet below the surface, The Unguided’s musical template remains intact. The sonic expansions to the band are all positives, and there’s an ease and comfortability in what the rest of the band continues to bring to the table. The Unguided have always been all about bringing heavy, melodeath riffing with some completely saccharine choruses with big synths and that component hasn’t changed at all. In listening to the already released cuts “Legendary” and “The Heartbleed Bug,” it should already be evident to fans. Those tracks have some insidiously catchy choruses and it’s clear that their galloping modern melodic death style hasn’t been affected by member changes. What you will notice is Thorpenberg’s flashy leadwork and vocal approach. He isn’t trying to be Johansson and nor needs to. Instead his singing has a clearer feel to it, almost more power metal (in a modern way). It’s a good match with Richard Sjunnesson’s shouts, and songs like “Dark Metamorphosis” and “Manipulate Fear” only provide additional evidence of their strong dynamic.
In terms of dynamic, the band continues to improve while understanding their core sound. Opener “Death’s Sting” quickly reassures the listener that everything will be okay, and channels their quintessence – a pure, smile-inducing romp of catchy modern metal. Bouncy closer “King’s Fall” should find some appeal for those wanting some upfront synth (that manages to not get in the way of the rest of the band), while “Force of Nature” brings some heavier grooves to the forefront.
Instead of buckling under the new vocalist/guitarist pressure, The Unguided rise to the occasion and deliver an effort on par with last year’s excellent Lust and Loathing. The band continues their reign as one of modern metal’s go-to acts, not only in sheer consistency but with a willingness to move forward in steps that seem natural to the band’s core sound. A catchy, driving, and fun release that fans and newcomers will gravitate towards.