The Unguided – A Pathway of Modern MetalFriday, 18th March 2016
After the exodus from Sonic Syndicate, The Unguided has become a pretty stable rock in the melodic death/modern metal community. They’ve got consistent artwork, a continual lyrical approach, and they continue to refine their modern approach to melodic death metal. If Hell Frost showed the direction they wanted to move into, of which their latest album, Lust and Loathing, continues to forge ahead in with some pleasant tweaks to the formula.
With their identity firmly established at this point, it’s all about bettering and bettering the formula. Lust and Loathing has some of the band’s strongest material to date, with “Phobos Grip,” “Enraged,” and “Boneyard” really encompassing everything the band has to offer in 2016. We were able to send some questions to the brothers Roger and Richard Sjunnesson, guitars and vocals respectively, to see how the new album fits in with their previous work, the lyrical and art concepts, as well as if we will ever see the band on North American shores.
Dead Rhetoric: With three albums now complete, what do you feel defines The Unguided as a band?
Roger Sjunnesson: I think people define us as a modern Swedish metal band trying to spread our unguided music and message around the globe. We´re running this band as “hobby project” besides our normal daily lives, (but still in a very professional way of course) and our main goal is to play and write the music that we like, do some shows and festivals here and there, hang out with people that we love and just try to have a lot of fun together. Because that´s what music and this band is all about. These are the things I feel and hope people define us for.
Dead Rhetoric: Having kept the same line-up for the last four years, has it allowed you to hone in on your songwriting?
Roger: For our debut album, Hell Frost, I wrote the majority of the music myself (or let´s say all of it) with help from Richard and Roland. The material was a mix of old demo songs that I made during the Fallen Angels and Sonic Syndicate-era blended with some fresh written stuff. On our latest release, Lust and Loathing, also RickSick (drums) and Henric (bass) contributed with a lot of material, which gave the album a complete new dimension than before. They take a lot of influences from metalcore, hardcore, and gothic in their style of songwriting, which was a very welcome element for The Unguided. If I had written the album alone it would probably sound more similar to our older stuff. So it was cool to have them adding some fresh blood to the track list.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel makes Lust and Loathing different compared to your last two albums?
Roger: With Lust and Loathing we have taken both songwriting and production to a whole new level. There are more songwriters involved and the production is signed Jacob Hansen (Amaranthe, Volbeat, Mustache, Nightrage, etc.). Jacob is a true genius when it comes to modern metal and a very professional and easy guy to work with. The biggest difference from our previous albums is in my opinion the vocal production. Previously we always wrote and recorded the vocals on the fly directly in the studio. This time we put a lot more energy to come up with strong melodies, and find the right dynamic before we nailed it on the album. The result was a much more dynamic and interesting album, with extremely strong choruses that could get caught in any doping control at any time.
Dead Rhetoric: Have tensions cooled between The Unguided and Sonic Syndicate or has the band just decided to leave the past in the past at this point?
Roger: Regarding Sonic Syndicate there are no longer any hard feelings neither between the band members or the fans. Both parties have moved on and are writing music in their own direction now. The split was hard both for the involved and the fans. When you look back to it, it was probably the best choice for everyone. I can’t say I´m updated what stuff they are up for today, but since we both are part of the same metal scene, share a lot of friends, live close to each other etc. we get our ways crossed sometimes, and no one has a problem with that. It would be cool to do a show together sometime. Who knows what could happen.
Dead Rhetoric: There is always a certain level of lyrical continuity from album to album (like the inclusion of an “Eyed” song). Is this something that forms part of The Unguided’s identity?
Richard Sjunnesson: I’m going to help out my brother here. Since I’ve written all the lyrics for the three first Sonic Syndicate albums and all The Unguided ones, I’d like to see it as one of the same organism in a way. When we left to form The Unguided it was not a new start, it was a continuation of what we’ve been doing in Sonic Syndicate all along and for me it’s really important to connect the dots. I have this common thread going through whatever I do, and I spend a lot of time to think it through and make it sort of like a universe of my own in a way. With The Unguided we’ve took it some steps further with connecting all the artworks, having a concept for the albums, to form this trilogy that ended with Lust and Loathing. All the lyrics I write is a sort of a diary in a way, even if they are written in heavy metaphors. But it’s definitely a big part of The Unguided’s identity and will remain so.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you go into some of the lyrical concepts in Lust and Loathing? Is it semi-conceptual like Fragile Immortality?
Richard: Well, if you are interested in the story, it’s all written out in the booklet of the album. But to answer your question, this is once again a semi-concept album, including seven songs that’s tied to the concept. The story is really a very metaphoric version of what went on in my life during the beginning of the 21st century and a decade into it, underlining especially the episode with Sonic Syndicate, how it came to be, how it progressed and utterly how it ended.
Dead Rhetoric: It was noted that Lust and Loathing is the last part in a trilogy. Do you expect to move into different lyrical directions with your future work?
Richard: Most likely not haha. I’ve grown fond of handling it this way, writing those stories and implementing it in my lyrics. It’s almost like it’s one of the key inspirations for me to be in a band now. I’ve left a lot of open doors in the story, and I’d like to explore them with our coming albums.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s been a strong connection between The Unguided and Kaung Hong’s artwork. Is he considered a part of the band at this point?
Richard: Hell yeah! We’ve already started to cook a little something together. We’ll see what happens.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked with Hansi Kursch on a bonus track for Fragile Immortality. Are there any other big names you’d like to work along with for The Unguided?
Roger: We brought the question to the table a couple of times if we should have some guests this time. But it ended up that we decided not to use any. On the other side we had help from Pontus Hjelm (Dead by April) to produce the keyboard work, Jonas Kjellgren (Raubtier) to re-amp the solos and I´m pretty sure Jacob Hansen (Pyramaze) nailed down some guitar ideas on the album. So there are some guest performances done after all.
Dead Rhetoric: With The Unguided being a bit more established at this point, is there a shot you might be able to get over to North America?
Roger: We did some touring in North America during our time in Sonic Syndicate in 2007 and 2008. I have only but great memories from this and I would love to get over again someday with The Unguided. However since this band isn´t very active touring, I think the chances are small to none that you will see this band on US soil in the near future. But if we get the opportunity someday, we will do our best to make it happen. It would be super cool to play the ”70000 tons of metal festival” and Knotfest *hint hint*.
Dead Rhetoric: Does The Unguided have any goals that they would like to reach as a band?
Roger: To freeze hell and archive world domination lol! No seriously, as I mention before our main priority in this band is to write and perform the music that we love, and have fun together. When me, Rich and Roland started this band six years ago, our first plan were just to write, record and release some songs together, just the three of us. But today, a couple of years later, we´re a full band, have archived more than 60 shows and have just released our third album on a big major label. If someone would have told me that, a couple years ago, I would probably punch him in the face and laugh my ass off.
The next step for this band is probably to bring this machine on a big world tour with let´s say: Metallica, Slayer, Slipknot, In Flames, Sabaton, Nightwish etc. It would also be cool to share stage with something completely different, like Lady Gaga, Beyonce or Justin Bieber. We´ll see what happens.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you expect The Unguided to be up to for the rest of 2016?
Roger: We will continue to support the release of our latest album and try to do as many shows as possible. We won´t do any big tours and being away for 6-8 weeks in a row like we did in our previous bands. That would never work for us since we all have families and full time jobs beside this. But we´re looking into doing some weeks and weekend shows/festivals here and there, both in and outside of Sweden. We´ll see what happens!