The Unguided – Father Shadow (Napalm)

Friday, 2nd October 2020
Rating: 8.5/10

Having successfully weathered bringing in a new clean singer for And the Battle Royale, it does seem as if nothing will bring down The Unguided. While you might know exactly what you are going to be getting with a new slab of material, it doesn’t hurt anybody in the end. After all, The Unguided have always had an extraordinary knack for delivering some addictive hooks and gleamingly bright melodies.

Those who dug And the Battle Royale will find Father Shadow to be a rather pleasant experience. Jonathan Thorpenberg makes his vocal presence shine a bit more and gels nicely with growler Richard Sjunnesson, and the rest of The Unguided never fails to execute some fantastic musicianship all around them. “Seth” provides an exquisite example of what The Unguided always excels at (yes, it was previously on last year’s Royalgatory EP as well). Uptempo and energetic melodeath riffing with a triumphant feel to it, aided by Sjunnesson’s quickly identifiable roars and a masterful transition into an ‘instantly stuck in your head’ chorus that takes flight without feeling too saccharine. The combination of melodeath aggression with incredibly catchy choruses never really fails to hit the mark over the course of the album, and it sits pretty consistently from beginning to end. For other standouts, “Never Yield” stands out for it’s particularly enjoyable guitar melodies and soloing, “Stand Alone Complex” flexes some great grooves that carry some extra heft to them, and the quiet and electronically-enhanced opening to “Where Love Comes to Die” lets Thorpenberg really take centerstage in the vocal front. There’s an added treat for those who have followed all the way from Sonic Syndicate’s origins with three bonus tracks covering a song from the band’s first three releases with “Jailbreak,” “Denied,” and “Jack of Diamonds” getting a fresh coat of paint. All three sound excellent in this 2020 rendition, complete with Thorpenberg’s clean vocals to give it a slightly different twist.

Father Shadow is yet another excellent trip into The Unguided’s sweet spot in modern metal. Rousing melodic death metal with soaring choruses that are instantly addictive and fun. May The Unguided long continue to fire on all cylinders like they do here.

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