The Unguided: Fragile Immortality

Surpassing expectations and comparisons to their former band, Sonic Syndicate, The Unguided's sophomore release is a strong follow up to their impressive debut.

The Unguided

Fragile Immortality

Label: Napalm
US Release Date: 2014-02-11
UK Release Date: 2014-02-03
Artist website

To the untrained eye, The Unguided are just an offshoot of Sonic Syndicate. This is an understandable comparison, since most of The Unguided's lineup was once part of Sonic Syndicate. Screaming vocalist Richard Sjunnesson founded The Unguided in 2010 after leaving Sonic Syndicate, while clean vocalist Roland Johansson and guitarist Roger Sjunnesson (also Richard's brother) departed Sonic Syndicate in 2009 and 2012, respectively. However, to those with keener eyes and ears, The Unguided is much more than just an offshoot. While Sonic Syndicate's 2010 album, We Rule the Night, was a critical and commercial failure that forced the band into a long hiatus, The Unguided's 2011 debut, Hell Frost, was a towering success that gave modern melodic death metal fans all that they wanted and more. On the follow up, Fragile Immortality, The Unguided truly show that they are not just the band that Sonic Syndicate should have become, but that they are the band that should have existed right from the start.

Much of the growth that occurs on this album comes in the area of compositional diversity. Where Hell Frost had the same level of restrained urgency in its rhythm and tonality for most of the album, Fragile Immortality breaks things up a bit. Compositions range from the tastefully ambient ("Eye of the Thylacine" and "Enforce") to the domineeringly aggressive ("Defector DCXVI" and "Blodbad"), with a lot of ground covered in between. Heavy inclusion of synth effects and the obvious skills of the band's new drummer, Richard Schill, enhance the experience and set the tone for many songs. The whole album becomes more engaging as it ebbs and flows in a constant rhythmic dance. It may not seem like much, but it's a subtle touch that accentuates different parts of the album that would not otherwise be noticeable.

Admittedly, The Unguided are not reinventing the wheel here. Modern melodic death metal was stylized very early by Sonic Syndicate and many other bands, and The Unguided are still within the boundaries of the genre. However, The Unguided have some of the best musical talent within the genre in their lineup, which is what makes them special. The twin-vocal attack of Johansson and Richard Sjunnesson -- the same one that helped make Sonic Syndicate as big as they were -- is key on Fragile Immortality, with a lot more trading off mid-verse and plenty of vocal duets that become highlights very quickly. Roger Sjunnesson provides the most reliable and evenly-timed rhythm guitar performance that can be found in the genre, while Johansson flourishes even more as the band's lead guitarist, a role that he did not have before joining The Unguided. Schill and bassist Henric Liljesand complete the sound with a monstrous rhythm core that refuses to take a back seat to the guitars. Churning bass and pounding drums are often the opening or closing tones heard on songs throughout the album, working to either set the tone for what's to come, or complete the audio picture that was just created.

Despite the comparisons that they have received and will likely continue to receive, The Unguided have surpassed their former band in every way, truly coming into their own and creating their own identity. More than just a one shot project attempting to replicate former successes, The Unguided are their own venture, without limits or restrictions. Fragile Immortality shows that the band can perform outside of their expected style, creating a foundation for The Unguided to build on in the future. If anything, the album's name is somewhat inaccurate, because The Unguided are well on their way to securing a place in metal history that will be anything but fragile.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.