The Unguided_Fragile ImmortalityLovers of modern metal and Amaranthe groupies, take heed! Rising from the ashes of Sonic Syndicate, The Unguided is the newish project by ex-Syndicate members Richard Sjunnesson and Roland Johansson which strives to answer the immortal question “just how cheesy, poppy and crappy can you make melodic death metal sound?” For fans of the Sonic Syndicate material, album number two, Fragile Immortality will be like homecoming weekend, as this is more of that super-ultra-mega melodic modern metal they made so infamous. I refuse to attach the term “death” to this stuff since it’s as far from it as you can get and still dubiously lump yourself into the genre, and in this case, doing so borders on outright fraud and a crime against nature. This is the musical equivalent of a cotton candy blob with a frowny face drawn on it. It wouldn’t scare small children and it’s all fluff and toothaches inside. A shiny platter full of overly polished, semi-heavy riffs buried under oodles and kaboodles of keyboards, the same tired, screamy vocals we’ve heard a million times and desperately poppy, radio-friendly choruses may have an audience, but I’m sure not a part of it.

This is one of those reviews where a song by song breakdown does no good. Suffice to say you get eleven tracks of cookie-cutter, focus-tested corporate metal composed by a committee  which studied trending popularity charts that were hopelessly out of date. Every song plies you with slightly djenty riffs, super melodic and overbearing keyboard fills and faux angry, screamy vocals that seque into cleans for the “big reveal” come chorus time. Mass produced music has rarely sounded more bland and processed than it does here.

The Unguided_2014Pick a tune and it’s exactly the same formula. The best of the bunch include “Enforce,” which reminds me ever so vaguely of Omnium Gatherum (though that might be my wishful thinking after several spins of this thing), and “Oblivion,” which feels a bit more sincere, sports a bigger gothic metal influence and the best chorus on the album. In a pinch, I could add “Granted” since it sounds like third-rate Scar Symmetry minus the talent.

Dishonorable mention goes to “Defector DCXVI” for a chorus I can almost imagine Asia or Toto toying with back in 1983 before wisely dumping it on the studio floor. Runner up goes to “Eye of the Thyla” for sounding so emo and weepy, but possessing as much real emotion as a Coke Zero® commercial. I find it amusing that as hard as they try to make the choruses sticky and memorable, they don’t even do as good a job as Christian Alvestam did on his Solution .45 project, which was in turn a far cry from the average Scar Symmetry output.

The Unguided_2014aAs much as I hate this stuff, I don’t dislike Roland Johansson’s singing. He could step into any goth rock band and be completely solid. His lead guitar work also has some legitimate merit. Bascially, he’s the only reason to stick around. Richard Sjunnesson’s screams are about as harsh as a game of Candyland and this style of vocals should have gone into extinction ten years ago. He adds nothing of value to the music and his attempts at death growls sound completely forced and weak.

The production is as glossy as modern metal gets and often sounds like rave music with a thumping and artificial bass/drum sound sure to fire up the plastic glowstick crowd. On the plus side, maybe if you play this loud enough, Paul Baloff will awake from his deathly slumber just when the world needs his poser killing prowess most.

Fragile Immortality is as extreme as a day at the petting zoo with your local kindergarten class, but at least there you can secretly hope for an outbreak of llama spitting, goat ramming or some other animal hijinks. Here, not so much. Utterly commercialized and soulless, avoid if you hope to keep your metal card in good standing.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
Label: Napalm Records
Websites:  |
Release Dates: EU: 2014.31.01  |  NA: 02.14.2014

  • Daniel Maimer

    I’m surprised that in none of the promo photos are any of the bandmembers wearing Monster Energy memorabilia.

    I need a music video of a CGI Destruction Derby with corporate logos adorning all the green-screen destruction. That’s bro-metal, my friend.,

    • replica

      There is. Dude in the back has a monster shirt.

      Myth busted.

      • Daniel Maimer

        Holy shit. Eagle Eye here.

  • replica

    Listening to a bit of this on the intertubes, Betrayer of the Code, I assume is about a man that refuses to use the Contra code, is pretty funny. The first scream into the song had me blushing in embarrassment on the singer’s behalf. The angry parakeet tone is quite amusing.

  • T.J. Barber

    I’ve often heard that out of 5 the worst score you can really give is a 3. This review is just a funny example for me. Let me explain, I typically read this site everyday during my downtime at work, now for the last week you’e had a run of 3’s and I haven’t even taken the time to listen a single track or sample of any of them. Today you just tear into this and I’m thinking “oh yeah I’m going to have to give this train wreck a listen!”

    I can’t explain it, but there I am adding a number to their youtube plays. It’s like watching your friend take a bite out of a sandwich and nearly spit it out… you just need to find out just how bad it is.

    • We often give scores below 3.0, but we’ve had a run of good, but not very good albums. And I totally agree, the worse a review is, the more it makes me curious to hear it. It’s like a car wreck, you had that you want to peek, but you can’t resist.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yep I just lost about 3 minutes of my life watching that video

      • If you watch it twice you get a free Monster Energy shirt.

    • It’s a shame. Three _should_ be a good record. But it seems like 3 = 3.5, and 3.5 = 4. It makes it hard to judge. I try to give records I enjoy threes to stop people from doing that.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Yes this band definitely need a solid goat ramming session…
    Sad thing is a lot of people will hear stuff like this and think its indicative of what ‘Metal’ is grrrrr

    • Goat Ramming Session is a helluva band name.

  • Slammin Rushdie

    Sup, unrepentant Unguided fan here.
    This review helped me realize something about this type of easily digestable, lowest common denominator pop metal. I actually *liked* most of their first album (sue me), but I can’t even be bothered to give this one a full listen on Spotify, even though there’ll probably be a few more songs I’ll like. It’s just empty calories.
    Writing cheap music not only makes people sick of your first album faster (duh), but makes them less likely to care about your next few albums too.
    And no, Richard can’t scream worth shit.

  • Kalsten

    I am checking the band in Spotify. It is not really my thing, but this review made me curious about the band :P

    However, I really like the album cover. When I saw it a few days ago, I expected something a bit more “serious”, you know? But a book cannot be judge by its cover.

  • Zadion

    Yeah, not surprised. Real shame, too, because the first three Sonic Syndicate albums were honestly good. Soon, though, everything went to crap.

    On another note, I thought that Solution .45 album was excellent, and easily on par with the average SS album! What does Mr. Druhm think of Scar Symmetry?

    • I like most of the SS stuff. Solution .45 wasn’t awful but wasn’t as good as SS.

    • Leroy

      Yeah, I’m with you I don’t understand why noone rates S.45; ‘For Aeons Past’ was a great album, consistent from start to finish.

  • RagE

    Funny review, shit album. I actualy paused Tribulations “Formulas of Death” to listen to the track linked in the text. The difference was quite staggering :P

  • A brilliant review. Worthy of my Amaranthe bashings for sure. Thanks for carrying the torch of true metal here, Mr. Druhm.

  • Cheesy, Poppy and Crappy will be the names of my next pets. Be it parakeets or dwarves.

  • Grymm

    That screamer… good. lord.

    *hiding my face inside my top-hat*

    Also: Amaranthe has groupies? Nuh-uh.

    • Just check the comments on the amaranthe reviews here and you will find a lot of enraged ones. No, seriously, check it, it’s hilarious.

      • Grymm

        Oh, I think I’ve not only contributed to at least 30 hits on that page alone, but I’ve also shown friends that review, and they’ve shown THEIR friends that review as well.

        It’s the new Blue Waffle.

  • MeatWolf

    This is an excellent album and I think it’s the best thing Roger/Richard/Roland released ever since they launched Sonic Syndicate. They finally made things work with help of Pontus who provided his as always infectiously hooking keyboards and Roland with his tasty leads I so welcome. All else is pretty much familiar to any Sonic Syndicate fan. Save for that Enforce track, everything here scales from good to great.

    And these guys, they never pretended to be revelations or any other kind of true miracle, they just love to play their music. They dropped NB to start everything from scratch and run their thing like they want to. I honestly don’t know what anything of these has to do with trends or commerce. They’re just having fun.

  • Excentric_1307

    A rule of thumb I’ve discovered: never trust any “metal” band where only one member has long hair. (ex: Whitechapel)

  • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

    I came for their awesome music. I left because of their singing…

  • Sh0ck-wave

    The keyboards that start ‘every song’ do my head in with this album. Blood Stained Child does that sort of sound right (even if they also sound batshit crazy). But yeah, this album is as confronting as a walk in the park on a warm summers day, and it’s monotonous and boring after a handful of songs .. any of them, they’re all pretty much the same.

  • Philip Cook

    It’s funny or idosyncratic of the reviewer that lampoons a original band such as Sonic Syndicate splinter group. Always it seems a reviewer compares say for example a In Flames review to as a wanna be Marilyn Manson or a 2nd rate Korn. Which neither are as original as them they would say. My point being I’ll take The Unguided over Scar Symmetry and In Flames over Korn but they are very different bands. Why so many hairbrained comparisons who knows. Let’s compare to DT to Darkane why don’t you!