Looking for a fusion of diverse metal and mellow music all rolled into one album? Look no further. The Unguided’s Father Shadow is that and more. With a heavy and menacing beginning, to mellow ballads, then back to heavy, and everything in between. You should expect some double bass drums, amazing guitar solos, and vocal shifts from powerful screams to lively cleans. It is an album that has something for everyone.
The Unguided began in 2010 out of Falkenberg, Sweden with some of the musicians of the melodic death metal band Sonic Syndicate; Richard Sjunnesson (screams), Roger Sjunnesson (guitars and synths), Roland Johansson (cleans and screams), and John Bengtsson (drums). Keeping their weapons/instruments of choice and starting a new project, The Unguided decided to take the direction of their music to a different level. Along the way, Johansson and Bengtsson were replaced with Richard Schill on drums and Jonathan Thorpenberg as the clean vocalist. Recently bassist Henric Liljesand also announced his departure, but The Unguided remains strong and ready to rock!
Metal Nation had a visit with vocalist Richard Sjunnesson about the upcoming release.
Father Shadow is coming out October 9th, this Friday! How are you feeling about the release?
“Well we have been sitting on it for so long that it feels a bit unreal. It is tough not being able to support it with a tour, but I guess that will come later when the world is ready. We are super excited. We live all across Sweden from each other, so we won’t be able to get together for the release, there won’t be a release party or anything like we usually have, so it is a bit different but it is good it is coming out. I am appreciative of that because we need something for comfort in these times as well.”
I couldn’t agree more. I’m so glad music is being released this year because it is obviously something that helps all of us get through hard times. Being able to have good music during these times is amazing.
“Yeah, I agree, and that is how we felt as well, having the release planned with the label. There was some discussion if we were going to delay the release but in the end, it has been meaningful to release it now. It can help with something, like if someone is happy with it and it contributes to their life, and that is a lot and a big win for us.”
You guys should do a Skype with everyone getting together on release date.
“Yeah for sure, that is a really good idea. We did talk about having some live streams going, so we will see if we can figure that out. Have some guests on and just do something during these times. I live in Stockholm area and the rest of the guys are on the west coast of Sweden so it is about a six hour drive.”
Yeah that is a bit of a drive. So, you have pre-released four songs from this album, which are all freaking incredible songs. The album itself is extremely diverse from one song to the next, which I always appreciate when bands can do that. It keeps you guessing.
“Yeah, thank you very much. It is nice to hear that. As you said, we showed a bit of our half here with the four songs out already. We always try to release two songs before the album release just to emit cycle and release something for the fans. So we do an EP before we start to work with the album a bit more serious. Also we play around with the structure of how we are going to record it. We will try out a new studio, we will try out a new producer, you pick up new experiences from every person you work with that way. I think that’s pretty resourceful for music. Also we can show the label what we are up to going into the next album. So that is why there is already four songs out. Two of them were released in 2019 during the Spring. Those two tracks are bonus tracks on the album and, ‘Crown Prince Syndrome’ and ‘Never Yield’ are more like the main singles in the actual album.”
How has the response been so far?
“Really good actually. You mentioned the dynamic on the album, I think that is because this was more of a group effort in a lot of ways. We used one song writer prior, my brother used to create most of the music, and progressively over time we introduced more song writers. Now Jonathan, Roger, and Richard (drummer), is doing a lot of the music on Father Shadow. They both have a different background when it comes to music styles. All of them get equal airtime on this album so I think that is the dynamic you mention because of the three main songwriters. It is a bit of a rollercoaster ride in that sense.”
Yet it still flows really well. I especially dig the breakdowns.
“Yeah there are some really heavy parts on this album. There is more grit and edge and heaviness to the music. I think that was also a huge win with the producer we picked Buster Odeholm from Impact Studios, because he is doing a lot of heavy fucking music. *laughs* I also think the song writing got a bit heavier as well. Like the opening track, ‘Childhood’s End’, is probably the heaviest track we have ever released. I think we just wanted to take it up a notch, but then we have the more slow mellow stuff. We have been thinking a lot about the song structures and the different tempos and trying to place them so it is sort of like a roller coaster ride throughout the album.”
In the “Seth” video, is that all your significant others?
“*laughs* This is actually pretty funny because it was. *laughs*”
Ah yeah, life happens.
“Yeah, life happens. Jonathan and I actually broke up with our exes on the same day, which was a little bit strange to see that video after. It was really weird because Jonathan called me and said, ‘I have something to say’, and I said, ‘well I have something to tell you too’. *laughs* The exact same day, but it’s all good. It is a good video and they contributed a lot to the band and supported us a lot during many albums, so it is well deserved still. Note to self, don’t put exes into videos.”
Well that leads into my next question magically, The Unguided is about going through life “unguided”, not having a specific direction that way it is easier to shift directions. Almost a journey, if something isn’t making you happy anymore, you can change it.
“Yeah for sure, and I think that is really powerful. Our old band Sonic Syndicate was based around third party labels, management, and bookings doing all the decision making for the band. When we took our leave from that to start The Unguided, it just became a powerful name because we are doing everything ourselves now and are in creative control. It is the same with the album cycle, we write when we feel we have something to say musically instead of having forced schedules. Napalm Records respects that about us as well. It is just how we are running this band and with them it is more of a professional helping than anything. It has been important to keep not having our hobby as a full-time job in a lot of ways because it keeps it a bit more creative and there is no need to force creativity. For me, it is a lot about the art instead of producing cd’s on a conveyer, *laughs* or a pizza delivery service. *laughs*”
It seems like Napalm Records is pretty good at letting bands stay genuine to themselves and what they are wanting to accomplish.
“Yeah it has been my impression as well. Napalm has been a great label home for us. They have been down with our plans from the beginning. We were transparent with how much we were able to tour and how much we wanted to invest in the band timewise, and they were fine with that. Of course it picks up a bit during those album release cycles or tour times, but then there comes a time when you can repair a bit and be a bit more creative with the music. Not working around the clock with the band, you can get some distance and keep it interesting and fun at all times.”
I am sure that also helps with the relationship to the other guys in the band, especially since one is your brother.
“Yeah, but I can’t get rid of him so easily. *laughs* He is super chill. I think if he was a bit more like me it wouldn’t have worked as well. *laughs* We go really well together because we are so different. We have worked together in our normal jobs, we have lived together, we toured with Sonic Syndicate 7 months a year. It is always my brother and I hanging out. I think that was our edge in a way because we have always been really honest with each other and when writing music it is about a lot of honesty. You can compromise, but sometimes you have to go with what is best for the song, and there is no hard feelings in the end.”
That is really good, because bands are almost like marriages. There is a lot of complexity to those relationships, so when you are able to be honest and not worry about hurt feelings, that works out better for the members and the music.
“Yeah it is hard if you don’t know each other enough and someone shows something creative they have done, and you don’t think it is up to the task, it can be pretty sensitive. People can feel attacked in those positions. My brother and I never have had those battles. With Jonathan, we know him so well now, we know each other’s capabilities, and strengths and weaknesses, and limits in this band, I think. It is a very democratic process. Everyone contributes with their stuff. We might have ten different chorus melodies for a song, but in the end, we have a meeting and select what the majority feels is best. It works for us, there is not a lot of prestige. Except for the lyrics, *laughs* they are all mine. There was a couple reasons I wanted to be in a band and writing lyrics and having concepts around that was one part of it.”
Along with that, you do have concepts to the albums that somewhat link together. Even though this specific album was written pre-covid, do you think they lyrical content can relate to what is going on and help people who are struggling during this time?
“Yeah definitely. I have been asked that before about ‘Never Yield’ and when I read the lyrics I can understand why. With our lyrics it is more in the readers mind, and if that is what it is about for them, I think that is important. It doesn’t matter what the original or core meaning is if someone can find meaning to fit them and their struggles. It should provoke feelings in the listener or reader. ‘Never Yield’ is about keeping on and never giving up and I think that can tie into the whole pandemic. It is actually about the four of us being left in a band, because our bassist just dropped off and the four of us have continued and have said we are going to continue. It is a bit of a tie in to the four horseman. I like to keep the references a bit biblical because a lot of people know that stuff.”
Talked books for a while. Richard is a huge Ann Rice fan.
You have a pretty wide vocal range with your screams. Is that something you had to work on for a while?
“I started vocals in 2002, I was very influenced by Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility and Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth, *laughs* and they have extremely different voices. My range came from that because I was mimicking them both. With the styles being so different, it kind of became a bit of a mashup. That was how I found my technique. On this album there is some really low stuff and also a bit of soaring highs. That’s fun that you mentioned that. When someone mentions that style of vocals it is fun to elaborate. Some people thinking screaming vocals is just noise. I think we have all had a time in life where we didn’t understand screaming vocals, but once you get into it, I think you can access different feelings and learn to appreciate it and see the differences between vocalists instead of putting them all in the same box.”
Once things open back up, are you going to be able to do a North American tour?
“I would love that, but it is a bit complicated. I think what would have been best for us, to play in America, is either a festival, or a support tour. It wouldn’t make sense for us to do a headlining tour since America is a bit too big for a band like us to do a tour. We are always on the lookout for a festival or supporting tour though. We will see, every album brings a new opportunity so I really hope we can do it.”
How can people most support you right now?
“Streams helps, of course physical sales with the digipack or album, and we have an entire merch shop on The Unguided website. It is all official and handled by the band. So if you want to support us, that is probably the best way. If you want to help with bringing The Unguided to the US, talk to festivals and promoters that you want to see us on stage. Spread the word along. Everyone can help. Say, ‘We want to see this Swedish band, do it!’ *laughs* If they hear it enough times, they will fall for it eventually. *laughs*”
I am looking forward to Father Shadow making it to the ears of listeners October 9th.
“We are super proud of the album, I think there is a little bit for everything if you like metal or all sorts of music really, *laughs* As you said it is a bit of a dynamic album and I am sure anyone can appreciate a bit of it, if not the entire album.”
Make sure you check out Father Shadow and show some support to The Unguided! Buy merch, pre-order the album, and enjoy!